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We are living in an age where there is acute awareness of the social and environmental impact of our actions, both at an individual and corporate level.
This was evident at the annual SCF Forum Europe in Amsterdam held last month, with the conversations and panel discussions revolving around how all suppliers can be supported in a more sustainable way; the circular economy and using SCF as a tool to encourage more environmentally friendly behaviour.
The tone and theme of the day was set by Dutch astronaut Andre Kuipers’ opening presentation. His stark images taken from space of the negative impact humans have had on the world’s forests and natural landscapes would not be quickly forgotten and were an important reminder of the need to take wider perspective on the potentially negative impact of individual action.
Discussions throughout the day reflected that theme, as the market considered how SCF should be approached from a more holistic perspective and bring benefits to everyone in the supplier network – from the large multinational to the small business or farmer.
I hope the market will continue to move away from the idea that SCF is just another ‘solution’, a reverse factoring product offered to help large corporates push out their DPOs.
Rather it should be viewed as more of a “strategic” tool that supports all businesses throughout the supply chain. This was clearly demonstrated during a presentation from Danish shipping firm DFDS on why the company chose to implement SCF.
I see two key issues that both shaped the forum and will continue to inform discussions in the coming year:
For SCF to effectively respond to these environmental and social needs, there must be greater cooperation between those supporting the various financial, data and physical flows.
Within a corporation, the supply chain managers often have a more outward view of the wider physical supply chain and the needs of the suppliers. Their perspectives will complement the often more inward-looking view of the treasurer whose priority is to maintain the financial health of the company. We at the SCF Community will facilitate these conversations through conferences and other events and I hope to welcome more representatives from the logistical side of the supply chain at next year’s event.
In fact, collaboration between different disciplines needs to start even earlier at university level. Too often business graduates are taught in silos, where their focus is either finance, procurement or supply chain management. We need our education system to be more cross-disciplinary.
Again, the SCF Community is supporting this with the use of our simulated educational games for students such as the Blue Connection – which gives students the chance to virtually run a company with the aim of meeting circular economy-related goals while also generating a profit. There were opportunities to experiment with this game at the forum this year.
The world has become a more interconnected place and the SCF Community is here to encourage a more interconnected conversation to ensure companies no longer make decisions about their supply chain without considering the wider physical, financial and environmental implications.