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Can supply chain finance help enforce ESG?

 


Implementing the EU's Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) in January 2026 for large corporates and smaller firms in January 2027 makes it clear that supply chain sustainability will become even more critical. Recent research by HSBC and the Boston Consulting Group has shown that global supply chains are responsible for up to 80% of the world's total carbon emissions, underscoring the urgent need to make supply chains greener and more socially responsible. Could supply chain finance (SCF) play a crucial role in aligning ESG with supply chain management? Could SCF incentivize suppliers to improve their ESG performance, ultimately leading to a much-needed reduction in carbon emissions globally?

Global supply chains are responsible for up to 80% of the world's total carbon emissions.

Companies have seen various stakeholders taking the lead on ESG, from CSOs and CFOs to general counsels and company secretaries. The CEO, however, should take primary accountability and serve as the driving force behind comprehensive ESG initiatives. ESG sustainability encompasses a wide range of issues, including supply-chain management, employee relations, environmental considerations, and overall corporate governance, and as such, should be managed holistically. The CEO must ensure that ESG policies are fully integrated into business operations and decision-making processes to create long-term value for all stakeholders. Forward-thinking CEOs are taking on ESG issues not because it is the new hot topic or to reduce legal or reputational risks but as a rational and integral part of doing business responsibly and sustainably. After all, ESG is no longer an option – it is a must-have for any company seeking to thrive in a fast-changing ecosystem.

The CEO and management must proactively identify and address any unnecessary or detrimental behaviors to promote the company's well-being. This requires having the appropriate knowledge and leveraging new technologies to their advantage. In this regard, resolution hubs that provide comprehensive insights and break down silo thinking can be crucial in supporting supply chain management and addressing various issues within global supply chains.

From hidden child labor to environmental degradation such as deforestation and oil spills, the challenges involved in global supply chains are vast. Inefficient routings, spoilage, and other inefficiencies further compound these issues. It is no longer acceptable to claim ignorance as an excuse for mismanagement. The maxim "what I don't know, I can't manage" must be replaced with a proactive and responsible approach.

It is no longer acceptable to claim ignorance as an excuse for mismanagement.

I firmly believe that ESG should not be treated as a standalone subject but as an integral part of holistic business management driven by foresight. Therefore, more than supply chain finance (SCF) is needed to compel a company to prioritize ESG. However, SCF can play a crucial supporting role. The idea is to utilize SCF as a motivational tool, encouraging improved data flows and ESG compliance while striving for higher ESG standards as a collective goal. By aligning financial incentives with ESG objectives, SCF can incentivize companies to adopt more sustainable practices and achieve higher ESG standards. This way, SCF catalyzes positive change while promoting transparency and accountability throughout the supply chain ecosystem.

It is crucial to recognize that supply chain finance (SCF) is predominantly carried out by banks and institutions known for their risk aversion, and a financial framework prioritizes risk and return analysis. With clear definitions and measurement frameworks for ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) criteria, banks are likely to proactively promote ESG objectives through supply chain financing. Consequently, research reveals that less than one-third of the world's largest banks invest significantly in ecosystem development.


However, the evolving landscape showcases challengers' emergence outside traditional banking institutions. Big tech giants like Google and Amazon are leveraging their extensive technical expertise to seamlessly integrate payment and financial services capabilities into their ecosystem offerings. These non-traditional players are working to bridge the gap and reshape the supply chain financing landscape.

We can anticipate the launch of new supply chain financing products in the near future. While banks may still play a role, new market players, such as the aforementioned big tech companies or even entirely new entities built on decentralized finance (DeFi) platforms, will likely take the lead. By leveraging innovative technologies and reimagining financial ecosystems, these players have the potential to disrupt the traditional supply chain financing model and drive the integration of ESG considerations into the core of their operations.

As we witness this shift, it is essential for all stakeholders, including regulators and industry participants, to define and establish clear ESG standards collaboratively. By fostering this collaborative effort, we can empower both traditional and new market players to embrace ESG principles within their supply chain financing initiatives, ultimately driving sustainable and responsible business practices.

By breaking open the "black box" of previously intangible assets in transit, SCF can revolutionize supply chain financing with sophisticated risk management capabilities.

Emerging resolution hubs will offer unparalleled real-time data and analytics, enabling companies to calculate risk profiles that go far beyond the traditional historical risk profile approach. By breaking open the "black box" of previously intangible assets in transit, SCF can revolutionize supply chain financing with sophisticated risk management capabilities. These capabilities will enable traditional banks and new FinTechs to provide more efficient financial support for supply chains.

The advent of such groundbreaking technologies marks a pivotal moment for supply chain financing—one that will empower businesses to gain deeper insights into their supply chains and utilize resources more efficiently for the benefit of their organizations. As we move forward in this new era of SCF, ESG considerations will undoubtedly factor into the decision-making process. However, this will be driven primarily by self-interest rather than a top-down mandate.

In conclusion, new technologies, led by innovative FinTechs, will disrupt the traditional SCF landscape and usher in a new era of enhanced financial efficiency.

That said, SCF will positively impact promoting ESG practices by enabling companies to make better-informed decisions based on accurate and up-to-date data. By leveraging intelligent risk profiles and optimizing efficiency across the supply chain, SCF will provide additional financial benefits that will support ESG objectives but will not be the primary driver.

In conclusion, new technologies, led by innovative FinTechs, will disrupt the traditional SCF landscape and usher in a new era of enhanced financial efficiency. By supporting ESG initiatives through dynamic risk assessments and a data-driven approach, SCF will promote sustainable practices across the supply chain ecosystem.

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