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Will the Supply Chain Profession Gain a ‘New Purpose’ in 2021?

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If you are like most people, you are probably so over 2020, one of the most stressful years in memory, both in and out of the supply chain world. So, what might 2021 have in store for us?

According to the preview of a new report, the next year is likely to be dominated by supply chain “recovery and redesign.” The full “State of Supply Chain Sustainability 2020” will be released to the public on Sept. 1 by the MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics (MIT CTL) and the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP). 

It won’t be a walk in the park — the two organizations note that “even if a recovery begins toward the end of 2020, it will likely be a patchwork response as the world struggles to adapt to the global pandemic.” But, assuming there are no other major disruptions in coming months, 2021 should usher in an era of healing and rebuilding.

“In 2021, recovery may look more optimistic as companies evaluate the lessons learned and make changes in supply chain design, operations and management,” according to the report’s preview. “These changes may include in some cases a higher valuation of supply chain labor through better pay, improved working conditions and increased benefits for front-line labor, from delivery drivers to production laborers to warehouse workers.”

That’s a lot of “mays,” but we’ll take it.

The overall report looks at the adoption of sustainability practices by organizations and their supply chains. “Sustainability” in this case includes the treatment of workers as well as a concern for impacts on the environment.

Prior to this past spring, organizations’ embrace of sustainability had been been growing at a “fever pitch,” according to MIT CTL and CSCMP. Then, “facing the crisis, the clear mandate for all was to pivot all available supply chain capacities to response and mitigation to serve pandemic needs.”

Post-COVID-19, the “State of Supply Chain Sustainability 2020” predicts sustainability and supply chain management will again begin to become more closely intertwined. “This period has the potential to drive a new purpose for the supply chain profession — one that values social and environmental impacts more significantly,” the report said.

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