The most important SDG targets for global supply chain management
The UN’s 2030 agenda does not directly refer to global supply chains but paragraph 63 affirms that “national development efforts need to be supported by an enabling international economic environment, including coherent and mutually supporting world trade, monetary and financial systems, and strengthened and enhanced global economic governance”.
The International Labour Organization states that it is possible to enhance the contribution of global supply chains to fair and inclusive growth if there is stronger coherence between economic objectives and decent work. As such, according to the ILO, several SDG targets are related to global trade and supply chains:
8.a Increase Aid for Trade support for developing countries, particularly Least Developed Countries (LDCs), including through the Enhanced Integrated Framework for LDCs.
UN SDG target 8a calls for the promotion of a trade agenda conducive to sustainable growth and the reduction of poverty through appropriate national policies and institutional frameworks in developing countries. It also specifically refers to the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) which is a multilateral partnership dedicated to assisting such countries through the use of trade as a growth engine. The EIF consists of 51 countries, 24 donors and eight partner agencies that work closely with governments, academia, civil society and development organisations.
9.3 Increase the access of small-scale industrial and other enterprises, particularly in developing countries, to financial services including affordable credit and their integration into value chains and markets.
This goal centres around small and medium-sized enterprises having improved access to economic and business opportunities that can help developing countries boost social welfare and national productivity. The number of SMEs tends to grow in tandem with an economy and this requires broader access to long-term growth capital. As a result, better financing models superseding traditional banking need to be put in place so that economic opportunities for SMEs improve. This in turn helps raise the standard of living, reduce human rights violations and helps SMEs better connect to the supply chain.
9.5 Enhance scientific research, upgrade the technological capabilities of industrial sectors in all countries, in particular developing countries, including, by 2030, encouraging innovation and substantially increasing the number of research and development workers per 1 million people and public and private research and development spending.
Empowering science, technology and innovation has become critical to making economies resilient in crises, as was demonstrated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Investing in supply chain technology can help organisations simplify the entire process, eliminate unnecessary links, boost efficiency and reduce expenditure. Data is central to the future of supply chains and it will allow optimisation across shipping times, routes, weight and weather patterns which will lead to greater transparency and reliability. Research and development within this goal covers three types of activity – basic research, applied research and experimental development. Effective R&D investment in supply chains significantly mitigates the effects of environmental and process disruption on performance.
9.b Support domestic technology development, research and innovation in developing countries including by ensuring a conducive policy environment for inter alia industrial diversification and value addition to commodities.
Helping developing countries embrace modern manufacturing techniques has become essential for their future economic development. The process of structural transformation results in more diverse and higher-value activities. While modern manufacturing does not generate as much employment as low-skilled and labour-intensive manufacturing, it does generate well-paid jobs and income in addition to being central to increasing labour productivity. It also helps limit labour abuses in the supply chain.
16.3 Promote the rule of law at the national and international levels and ensure equal access to justice for all.
While this target does not have a single definition of “access to justice”, it is broadly concerned with “the ability of people to defend and enforce their rights and obtain just resolution of justiciable problems in compliance with human rights standards; if necessary, through impartial formal or informal institutions of justice and with appropriate legal support.” Given that human rights violations are rife across today’s supply chains, access to civil rights is imperative for people seeking to redress their grievances and for the entire sustainable development agenda.
17.11 Increase significantly the exports of developing countries, in particular with a view to doubling the LDC share of global exports.
Given that trade is a proven factor in generating economic growth and reducing poverty, this target aims to significantly grow the exports of the world’s least developed countries (LDC). This effort has been given added motivation due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic which saw LDCs register their worst economic growth since the early 1980s with merchandise exports alone estimated to have dropped 6.1% in 2020. A strong export-focused economy demonstrates that a country is capital intensive, pays fair wages, prioritises infrastructure and has a reliable source of foreign currency. That all helps strengthen the supply chain, whether it concerns a reduction in levels of poverty, the income flowing into a community or heightened shipping efficiency.