The annual State of Supply Chain Sustainability report is a copresentation of the MIT Center for Transportation & Logistics and the Council of Supply Management Professionals. This yearlong research effort includes a globally administered survey, semistructured executive interviews, and a thorough review of the year’s news and media documents related to global sustainability. Each year, the research team has collected and collated those disparate data points into this report, which we hope offers its readers a clear snapshot of the current state of supply chain sustainability worldwide.
In 2019, the first year of data this report studied, we found widespread interest in a broad spectrum of environmental and social dimensions of sustainability among participating supply chain professionals.*
We also found that roughly half of respondents reported that they felt their firm was under pressure to improve its sustainability efforts, a finding that has been consistently replicated in subsequent installments of the State of Supply Chain Sustainability report.  In 2020—the first year where we could make year-over-year comparisons—we expected to find a lagging or decreased focus on supply chain sustainability efforts due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, to our surprise, we found that global supply chain sustainability (SCS) efforts remained as strong as ever; a whopping 82% of respondents reported that their firms’ commitment to supply chain sustainability had remained constant or increased from 2019, even in the face of the pandemic—especially for larger firms. The notable changes we did observe had to do with who was exerting this pressure on firms’ SCS efforts and how firms prioritized sustainability dimensions. From 2019 to 2020, we saw the most growth among social sustainability dimensions like employee welfare and safety; human rights protection; local community impact; and supplier diversity, equity, and inclusion. And as to who was exerting pressure on firms in these areas, the biggest increase in 2020 came from investors and governmental authorities. 
This year marks the third installment of the annual State of Supply Chain Sustainability report. We are very pleased that the report has collected data from a larger group and wider range of people each year. And this year, we were able to offer the survey in Spanish and Mandarin Chinese in addition to English, allowing for diverse, robust responses from all corners of the world. While in prior years we had collected data from respondents worldwide, these new translations allowed us to reach more people from more regions to enable us to conduct another layer of statistical analysis.
This large undertaking would not be possible without our outstanding team of sponsors, students, and contributors (listed in Appendix A). We hope that readers find our results both interesting, and useful. If you do, there is a large team to thank.
“This is an essential read for anyone in supply chain today. Supply chains worldwide are uniquely positioned to be an engine for making a positive impact on our society. The choice of who we choose to do business with, where we do business, and what and how we deliver is essentially in the supply chain’s control. Consumers and businesses alike need—and, in fact, demand—that products we source and deliver meet their environmental and social expectations. You will find in this the State of Supply Chain Sustainability 2022 report, a most important, comprehensive global study that supports your ability to benchmark your company and SCS actions.”
Mark Baxa, President, and CEO of CSCMP
The Challenge of Defining Supply Chain Sustainability
A motivating premise of this research is that the term supply chain sustainability (SCS) means a range of different things to different people. Specifically, which areas should be included in a firm’s supply chain sustainability efforts? Which opportunities should be prioritized? Should climate change mitigation be included? What about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)? From a scientific perspective, this poses a quandary: How can we ask people about a topic without first defining it? But conversely, how can we define it without unduly influencing their responses?
Since year one, we have chosen to resolve this research quandary by appealing to an especially broad definition from a globally recognized source. We base our definition of supply chain sustainability on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
As defined in previous years:
We define supply chain sustainability as the management of environmental and social impacts within and across networks consisting of suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, and customers in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. This spans every phase of the supply chain, from raw material sourcing and extraction to product use and end of product life.
This is, admittedly, a very broad definition that allows for difference of opinion. We believe that this dissensus around supply chain sustainability is important—not only academically interesting, but managerially relevant as well. Our work indicates that sustainability pressures, goals, and practices change over time and vary by geography and industry. Consider then that supply chain professionals are responsible for projects that extend across international boundaries and various industry sectors, and for overseeing timelines that span multiple years. As one North American interview subject working in healthcare logistics told us, “As we work with different suppliers and start opening up discussions on their sustainability issues, or [as we have] similar discussions with customers, what we find is that each company’s North Star, per se, is a little bit unique to what they do.” Therefore, knowing where and how supply chain sustainability is interpreted differently is crucial for firms in order to meet their goals as times and contexts change. We hope that our ongoing efforts will help supply chain management professionals to keep abreast of—and even ahead of—these changes, for the good of business, society, and the planet.
This year’s online survey was prepared in three languages: English, Spanish, and Mandarin Chinese. The survey was released worldwide on October 25, 2021, and remained open until December 27. The survey yielded more than 3,300 usable responses. Survey responses are completely anonymous; we do not collect any information that individually identifies respondents or their employers.
To assess the quality of the translations, we ran two tests: one before the survey launched and one after it closed. First, after both the Spanish and Mandarin translation teams completed their first translation, the translation teams walked through their work side by side with the MIT CTL research team. In these sessions, each translated term was discussed and described using other words to make sure the intended meaning was communicated across languages and cultures. Wherever any confusion popped up, we consulted additional native speakers to evaluate the translation and offer suggestions. Secondly, after the survey was closed, we conducted a Cronbach’s alpha test on all responses, testing for statistical reliability within and across translations, which showed acceptable results. When tested both in aggregate and broken down by language, the results passed this reliability test. (For more indepth discussion of our research approach and methodology, see Appendix B.)
We also conducted 15 executive interviews. These interviews served two purposes: First, insights from these professionals guided the analysis conducted by our research teams. Second, excerpts from those interviews are also included in this text to give practical illustrations of our findings.
When making year-over-year comparisons, we chose to compare only English-language responses from each of the three years. Our reasoning is that we observed statistically significant differences in the responses from the new language groups compared to the English language group such that it would not yield a valid one-to-one comparison. For the same reason, when we compare responses by region, only the data collected in 2021 is included. Geographically, we received enough responses to achieve a viable sample size from employeesoffirmsheadquarteredinfiveregions:NorthAmerica,Latin American & the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, and Africa. Unfortunately, we did not receive a large enough sample of employees from firms in the Middle East or Oceania to reliably analyze and compare their results to other regions. The demographics and geographic locations of our respondent group are shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1a: Respondents’ firm’s primary headquarters location (n = 1,610)
Alexis H. Bateman, Donna Palumbo-Miele, Suzanne Greene, Ashley Barrington, and Laura Allegue Lara, “State of Supply Chain Sustainability 2020” (Cambridge, Mass. and Lombard, Ill.: MIT Center for Transportation & Logistics and Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals, July 2020), https://ctl.mit.edu/sites/ctl.mit.edu/files/2020-09/State_Supply_Chain_Sustainability_MIT_CTL_CSCMP_0.pdf.
Alexis H. Bateman, Kellen Betts, Ken Cottrill, Jason Pang, and Aniruddha Suhas Deshpande, “State of Supply Chain Sustainability 2021” (Cambridge, Mass. and Lombard, Ill.: MIT Center for Transportation & Logistics and Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals, July 2021), 15, https://sscs.mit.edu/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/State-Sustainable-Supply-Chains-MIT-CSCMP.pdf.
* See Figure 8 for a full listing of these supply chain sustainability dimensions.