Challenges of the Application of ESG Metrics in Supply Chains Operation
在氣候變化已成為無可爭議的話題的時代，企業被迫努力並改變其活動以支持更可持續的方法。人們在業務環境中往往會經常互換可持續性和 ESG 一詞，但是，了解這些術語之間的區別很重要。儘管這兩個詞都圍繞著環保和綠色等術語進行了大量旋轉，但兩者的概念完全不同。與通常具有非常模糊和廣泛含義的可持續性不同，主要與為下一代維持和支持地球有關，ESG是一組類別，投資者用來評估他們計劃投資的公司，就他們在環境、社會和治理方面的責任而言。這是一個相當狹窄的可持續性概念，具有關於企業如何開展業務的可量化和可衡量的指標。
ESG 指標目前正在被納入幾乎所有的業務要素中，供應鏈系統就是其中之一。然而，與業務的其他方面不同，企業供應鏈中的 ESG 指標是最難衡量的指標之一，因為幾乎不可能追溯公司的所有供應鏈活動。對於製造商和磚混企業來說，很難控制他們的外包材料是如何收集或加工的。而對於亞馬遜或 Shopee 等基於平台的企業來說，跟踪第三方賣家的整個供應鏈運營是無法實現的。
關於在供應鏈上使用 ESG 指標的一些主要問題通常圍繞著運營的模棱兩可和不透明的性質。供應鏈傳統上被認為與透明完全相反。它們極其不透明，公司在其直接合作夥伴之外的知名度很低，尤其是當他們的外包製造商位於海外且位於相當偏遠的地區時。儘管該公司聲稱這家“秘密製造商”可能是他們開展業務的競爭優勢，但它只是消除了 ESG 指標的目的。為了克服這個問題，研究人員建議使用區塊鍊等技術來提高供應鏈的透明度，並確保一切都得到經驗記錄。
另一個問題是關於 ESG 指標和評級機構的一致性。一些機構關注 ESG 影響，而另一些機構則關注 ESG 風險，從而在 ESG 排名中造成模糊不清。然而，也有人爭論說，供應鏈 ESG 不能用一刀切的指標來衡量，因為不同的行業在供應鏈運營中會遇到不同的問題。相反，建議每個行業建立自己的聯盟，由獨立和多元化的董事會成員組成，為其特定行業製定合適的 ESG 指標。
除了為每個行業製定合適的 ESG 措施外，可能還需要一個獨立的審計機構來控制評分過程的透明度。公司經常被發現通過只報告符合環境標準的合作夥伴而隱藏對環境不負責任的合作夥伴來綠化其 ESG 結果。同時，由於 ESG 檢查通常由 NGO 進行，獨立的審計機構更傾向於防止賄賂 NGO 的檢查人員，並從總體上消除腐敗。
ESG評級在供應鏈運營中的完整應用還有很多功課。考慮到整個系統的不透明性和復雜性，進行公平透明的 ESG 調查仍將是一個需要克服的重要障礙。同樣，它要求公司有意識地承諾並遵守整個供應鏈的整個 ESG 指標。
Introduction: ESG & Sustainability
In the era where climate changes have become an indisputable topic, businesses are forced to take efforts and change their activities to support a more sustainable approach. People tend to interchange the term sustainability and ESG a lot when they are in a business setting, however, it is important to understand the differences between those terms. Even though both words rotate heavily around terms like environmentally friendly and green, the two carry an entirely different idea. Different from sustainability which generally has a very vague and broad meaning, mainly related to sustaining and supporting the earth for the next generation, ESG is a set of categories that were used by investors to assess the companies they are planning to put their money at, in terms of how they are responsible in Environmental, Social, and Governance aspects. It was a rather narrow concept of sustainability with quantifiable and measurable metrics regarding how the business conduct their business.
Challenges of the ESG Ratings in Supply Chain Operations
ESG metrics are currently being incorporated in almost all the business elements, and the supply chain system is one of them. However, unlike other aspects of business, ESG metrics in the corporate supply chain are one of the hardest to measure as it is almost impossible to track back all the company’s supply chain activity. For manufacturers and brick mortar businesses, it would be hard to have control over how their outsourced material was collected or processed. While for platform-based businesses like Amazon or Shopee, tracking the entire supply chain operations of their third-party sellers was just unattainable.
Some of the major issues regarding the use of ESG metrics on supply chains often revolve around the ambiguous and opaque nature of the operations. Supply chains are traditionally known to be the complete opposite of transparent. They are extremely opaque and companies have low visibility beyond their immediate partners, especially when their outsourced manufacturers are located overseas and in a rather remote area. Despite the claim of the company that this ‘secret manufacturer’ could be their competitive advantage in conducting their business, it simply eradicates the purpose of ESG metrics. To overcome this problem, researchers are proposing the use of technologies such as blockchain to improve transparency within the supply chain and to make sure that everything was empirically recorded.
Another problem is regarding the consistency of ESG metrics and rating agencies. Some agencies focus on the ESG impacts and some others focus on ESG risks, creating obscurity in the ESG rankings. However, it was also debated that supply chain ESG can’t be measured in one-fits-all metrics as different industries will encounter different problems in their supply chain operations. Instead, it was recommended for each industry to establish its own consortium consisting of independent and diverse board members to develop suitable ESG metrics for their specific sectors.
Along with developing suitable ESG measures for each sector, an independent audit agency might be necessary to control the transparency of the scoring process. Companies were often found to greenwash their ESG results by reporting only partners who comply with the environmental standard while hiding environmentally irresponsible partners. At the same time, since ESG inspections are often conducted by NGOs, independent audit agencies are prefered to prevent bribery to the NGO’s inspectors as well as eliminate corruption in general.
There is still a lot of homework for the complete applications of ESG ratings in supply chain operations. Considering the opaqueness and complexity of the whole system, conducting fair and transparent ESG investigations would still be an important obstacle to overcome. On the same note, it requires the company’s consciousness to commit and comply with the whole ESG metrics to their entire supply chain.
Safane, J. (2021, December 10). What's the difference between ESG and Sustainability? What's the difference between ESG and sustainability? Retrieved December 11, 2021, from https://www.sustain.life/blog/esg-sustainability.
Dai, T., & Tang, C. S. (2021). Integrating ESG measures and Supply Chain Management: Research Opportunities in the post-pandemic ERA. SSRN Electronic Journal. https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3939968
About the Author
Xaveria Livienna is a freelance writer and researcher for the Taiwan Architecture and Building Center, currently pursuing an MBA degree in National Taiwan University of Science and Technology. Her main interests revolve around digital and content marketing, as well as CSR and sustainability.
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