Even though most supply chain executives agree that sustainability is becoming an increasingly important issue among customers and senior management, cost still trumps environmental impact as a driver of behavior, according to the results of AlixPartners’ 2013 Executive Survey on Supply Chain Sustainability. That said, the results also indicate that companies implementing cost-effective supply chain sustainability improvement strategies and marketing them to customers have a competitive advantage.

Green but Lean

Although 72% of respondents said their companies have corporate policies or sets of objectives regarding sustainability, 84% said lower costs are more important to customers than is improved environmental impact.

Some 70% indicate they could pay no more than 2% more for sustainable initiatives. European companies are more likely to emphasize sustainability, with 88% of respondents from Europe having sustainability policies in place. Similarly, 33% of European executives surveyed said green initiatives were extremely important or very important.

Yet no matter where companies are based or how important their executives said they feel sustainability to be, the majority (53%) of respondents said green initiative policies or objectives do in fact affect supply chain operations moderately or a great deal. Just 14% said green concerns affect supply chain operations very little or not at all.