Defining Supply Chain Sustainability

The study of supply chain sustainability presents a quandary at the very first step: What do we mean by “sustainability”? A central tenet of this report over the last four years has been that the research team should not prescribe too tight an answer to this question. Rather, we should ask the world, “What do you mean by sustainability?” and then report back the global answers that we collect on an annual basis. With each edition of the report, we have endeavored to better understand how the meaning and practice of supply chain sustainability are evolving around the world.

For this reason, we appeal to an especially broad definition of supply chain sustainability based 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.

Research Approach


Survey Respondents




Executive Interviews

The 2023 survey was offered in four languages: English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Simplified Chinese. The survey was disseminated from January to March 2023 through the professional networks of both the MIT Center for Transportation & Logistics and the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals.

Approximately 2,300 anonymous responses were collected through this data collection effort. As in previous years, the professional and demographic profile of respondents was quite broad, including responses from all over the world and wide swaths of industries and job functions. See Figure 1.

Figure 1a: Respondents’ firm’s primary headquarters location

Figure 1b: Respondents’ age, gender, industry, and business function