In recent years, major studies have shown that having more female leaders, board members, managers and supervisors leads to better business outcomes including higher levels of productivity, safety and improved financial returns.
More specifically, research referenced in the 2009 Women in Supply Chain report demonstrated that improving the proportion of women leads to higher financial returns for logistics companies. This insight was supported by the PwC Transportation & Logistics 2030 report, which stated that companies with the most women board directors outperformed those with the least by 16 percent in return on sales, and by 26 percent in return on invested capital. These studies make a compelling business case for gender diversity and inclusion, which in previous decades has been largely ignored and under appreciated among the higher echelons of leadership.
The studies consistently indicate that women have stronger communication and negotiation skills, bring a different perspective to understanding and solving problems, and are more meticulous in their approach to work. They also tend to score higher on tests of emotional intelligence. These qualities also make women strong collaborators, and their enhanced ability to communicate and connect with others is vital in a marketplace defined by complexity, disruption and change.
Based on the growing body of evidence and the strong link to enhanced competitive advantage, a growing number of companies in South Africa and abroad are taking concrete steps to increase the number of women in key roles. This commitment to diversity and inclusion is also being undertaken as a business imperative in the wake of increasing pressure to promote an inclusive economy, whereby the benefits of economic growth accrue to all who contribute. Increasingly, young entrants in the economy are also more aware of the importance of diversity and inclusion.
The transport and logistics industry is typically described as a “non-traditional” employment pathway for women. This prevailing view, documented in the 2015 South Australian Freight Council (SAFC) report, is supported by a perception that because the majority of employees in this industry are men, most work in this industry is stereotypically “masculine”.
Moreover, in the transport and logistics industry, women are predominately employed in support functions and occupy managerial roles in the areas of finance, information technology, communications, human resources, business development, procurement, and quality and risk management. Men, on the other hand, are predominantly employed in the technical, operational and “physical” roles.
Encouragingly, several market developments are creating viable opportunities to include women in “non-traditional” roles in the industry. These include advances in technology such as automatic gearboxes and hydraulic lifting equipment, the retirement of existing workers, increasing levels of education and improved technical training among new entrants.
As it stands, the number of women in the transport and logistics industry remains low. According to the PwC Transportation & Logistics 2030 report, the number of women participating in the industry is as low as 20 percent to 30 percent. In addition, less than 10 percent of employees in management positions are women.
Another major hurdle to consider is that within road transportation, there is a dearth of skilled drivers. This shortage is amplified when it comes to female drivers, who are even harder to find due to historical biases and the often-unfavourable working conditions – including time away from family, safety issues in long-haul routes, sleeping alone in the truck at night at rest stops with no security, and sometimes having to load and offload cargo.
There are other reasons why it remains difficult for women to be employed in the industry beyond road transportation. For one, some training and accommodation facilities are not designed to accommodate women and need gender-sensitive upgrades. In addition, the safety of women (and all employees) travelling across long distances cannot be guaranteed in any circumstances, despite preventative measures that companies put in place.
Furthermore, the existing opportunities for more women to work in the industry are often thwarted by the attitudes and behaviours of most men who maintain unfair gender discrimination practices in the workplace. These practices perpetuate barriers to entry for women.
Sadly, these conditions present an unattractive image of the industry to many women seeking meaningful and rewarding employment. Also, several employment surveys indicate that most women do not know much about logistics in general. However, that is not to say that women lack an interest in transport and logistics.
According to the SAFC report, women have the desire to pursue educational qualifications in transport and logistics, and on average, achieve higher education levels than their male counterparts.
The importance of workplace culture cannot be under-emphasised – and without doubt, gender and diversity are key components of any supportive company culture. Indeed, a KPMG Women’s Leadership Study states that today’s most successful enterprises are those that bring diverse perspectives and experiences to each new challenge, and that along with being the right thing to do, diversity and inclusion lead to strategic advantage.
This is no different in the transport and logistics industry, whereby male and female employees can, through equal opportunity and a success-oriented mindset, co-design innovative solutions that enhance customer service, increase employee satisfaction and engagement, improve financial returns and enhance profitable growth.
It is, therefore, critical to foster a workplace culture whereby constructive dialogue about the importance and benefits of diversity and inclusion can take place between men and women. Changes in culture require strong leadership and a clearly articulated strategy that is supported by commitment and demonstrable action. Simply employing more women in the industry is not enough – cultural and structural barriers must be removed.
We have taken a clear and strategic approach to incorporate diversity and inclusion as among our Vision 2020 strategic focus areas, with a goal to maintain and enhance our competitiveness, credibility and legitimacy in the eyes of all stakeholders by leading in diversity and inclusion across all of our businesses. This is closely linked to the group’s people strategic focus area to attract, develop and retain the people and skills required to deliver on our strategies and create shared value.
In line with these commitments, the group has implemented several initiatives to attract, train, mentor and coach – as well as employ – women in transport and logistics. For example, we have established a professional driver learnership for 40 women within Barloworld Transport, a business unit of Barloworld Logistics.
The programme supports 45 women who are completing the National Certificate in Professional Driving. The participants come from all walks of life – most of them were unemployed, many had never driven a vehicle before.
To date, 18 participants now have a Code 14 licence, while others are able to successfully manoeuvre and reverse a truck around the yard, with some already starting on-road training.
Notably, Barloworld Transport has also been successful in recruiting and employing female crane operators.
As Barloworld Logistics continues with these pioneering initiatives, the company is aware that as an employer seeking to gradually transform the industry, it is critical to foster a fair and equitable workplace that effectively addresses male and female attitudes and needs.
Credible global research on diversity and inclusion, and particularly gender equality, has made a significant contribution to business by demonstrating that the meaningful inclusion of women at all occupational levels leads to better business outcomes. As previously noted, this includes higher levels of productivity and safety, better customer service, greater employee satisfaction and engagement, higher financial returns and more profitable growth.
These findings certainly carry over to the transport and logistics industry, and thus present a unique opportunity for the industry to embrace this potential strategic advantage in the local market. Also, developments in technology, shifting demographic patterns and customer requirements play an important role, whereby the industry can actively leverage emerging opportunities to attract and employ women.
Industries such as mining, engineering and construction have also recognised the importance and value of diversity and inclusion and are making promising progress in this regard.
To be clear, paving the road ahead for women in transport and logistics comes loaded with challenges and opportunities. Indeed, transforming the image of the industry, gender stereotypes and unfair workplace practices is not an easy task. However, with strong leadership commitment and action, it is possible to gradually remove barriers that prevent the broader participation of women in the industry.
Our vision and strategic focus areas, as well as Barloworld Transport’s professional driver learnership for women, are tangible examples of commitment – at the highest levels – to promoting gender equity in the industry.
Looking forward, the inclusion of women in the transport and logistics industry is not only a business imperative, but is increasingly part of a global push to promote inclusive and sustainable economic development.
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The unprecedented Paris climate accord is expected to bring additional focus on most or all sustainability initiatives by companies, and require additional tracking and reporting efforts, said executives at Source Intelligence (SI), a global compliance solution provider.
The Paris climate accord includes commitments from 186 of the 195 signatory countries to cut or limit the growth of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as more transparent reporting. These countries, in turn, are expected to place additional requirements on companies to reduce their overall carbon footprint, SI officials said.
“Already, just days after this historic accord, there are calls for stronger and lasting due diligence to ensure the goals and ideals of this pact will be fulfilled. This means continued and heightened focus on companies based in the European Union, in the Asia-Pacific region as well as the United States to carry out even more sustainability initiatives or increased reporting of these efforts,” said Jess Kraus, Chief Executive Officer of Source Intelligence. “The pressure for accurate and thorough reports will only increase.”
Source Intelligence, whose roots were in carbon reduction solutions, has now emerged as the global leader for supply chain transparency and reporting. Having created a scalable technology supported by a 24/7 multi-language engagement team and the world’s largest supplier data base, SI is currently providing an invaluable resource to many of the world’s largest brands facing a variety of compliance matters. These include mandatory conflict mineral reporting in the U.S., restricted substances reporting in the EU, human trafficking on a global basis and more.
Recently, research firm Gartner released a report on the importance of the Internet of Things (IoT), a buzzword that simply refers to the connectivity of physical objects, devices and products not technically considered computers.
Many of these connected devices are, in fact, elements found along the supply chain – including smart palettes, trucks, refrigerators, home alarm systems, forklifts, even watches and other wearable technology.
Based on the latest available stats, there are currently 15 billion connected devices, with this number set to increase to about 50 billion by 2020. In its research, Gartner points out that this massive increase in internet-connected physical devices will “significantly alter how the supply chain operates.”
It is critical to point out however, that one of the most crucial elements within this system of connectivity is the software or management systems that link these items. Without effective software management systems to gather, analyse and share this constant flow of information, the Internet of Things has no real benefit to logistics companies.
For companies involved in supply chain and logistics, these controlling systems, apps and technologies are the difference between failed or successful real world deliveries.
The benefits from the Internet of Things means are most profitably leveraged through the real-time access to, and analysis of, more and deeper data. The compiling, evaluating and sharing of this data amongst various players within the supply-chain ensures for example, in-transit visibility – meaning these smart systems enable companies to make decisions, avert disasters, and manage clients in an incredibly competitive environment.
An application of this kind of system is VSc Solutions’ transport management solution that enables real-time visibility of vehicle movements against a delivery plan, allowing for the proactive management of issues as they arise during the day.
Within the South African transport environment and its specific challenges, the benefits from this type of system are manifold, for example when it comes to the role of drivers within the transport chain. While technology may replace people in many areas of industry, human drivers will still be an integral part of moving goods from one end of the supply chain to the next.
Wearable technology, such as the Apple Watch and other similar technologies, is ready to be applied to supply chains in order to enhance inputs into planning and route compliance software. This technology, integrated into the system, can both protect and monitor drivers, leading to multiple benefits for both drivers and logistics companies.
The key benefits of incorporating Bluetooth and wireless technology into wristbands, similar to watches, center on their ability to measure the rhythm of the wearers’ heart, ensuring reliable information, even being able to ascertain if a driver is under stress. For example, a sudden jump in heart rate will indicate a stressful event such as a hijacking, enabling the control center to send for help in case the driver is unable to raise the alarm.
Ultimately, the Internet of Things, and all the related elements are technological tools that enable businesses to provide better service to customers. In order to remain competative within the regional or global sphere, logistics companies need to embrace these tools and find partners to assist them in leveraging the most possible benefits.
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By Lloyd Macfarlane
Michael Porter, one of the world’s most respected management theorists, argued that there are only two ways for firms to compete: by charging a lower price, or by differentiating their products or services from those of their rivals.
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The modern value proposition increasingly incorporates factors that are not just related to the product or the service (such as price, quality or relevance) but to factors associated with the organisation itself, such as reputation, transparency, accountability and corporate performance against sustainability targets, for example.
Companies that have embarked on a sustainability journey can use the reporting process to distinguish themselves in the value chain by targeting and marketing points of differentiation.
Differentiation – Product, Service and Company
Companies spend time and money trying to differentiate their offerings under the abovementioned [showad block=null]headings, in order to be more attractive to their target markets. Differentiation is a basic economic principal that promotes competitiveness, and one that has been focussed on by many of the classic theorists, such as Edward Chamberlin (Theory of Monopolistic Competition, 1933).
Customers make purchases based on the value propositions presented by their suppliers. A value proposition (in this context) is quite simply the unique value offering that the customer will receive from a transaction (as compared to value propositions from others).
A number of factors go into the assessment of value and in the first instance the product or service is usually assessed for relevance (or usefulness), desirability, price and quality. However, the product or service is delivered by a company whose profile is of increasing importance in the procurement process. This means that the assessment of value is being broadened to include factors that relate to environmental, social, governance or empowerment (SA) credentials. Far more opportunities for brand and company differentiation are emerging in the value chain.
Drivers of differentiation
Forces and pressures are usually responsible for innovation and creativity. If there is no need to change, re-package or improve then there is unlikely to be much differentiation.
Some of the forces/ circumstances in which differentiation is more likely to occur:
Mature markets or sectors:
Companies in mature markets or sectors are more evolved and value propositions are more similar, so there is a greater need for differentiation, particularly with service providers that have less opportunity for tangible innovation.
Take established cellular service providers for example – call costs and network coverage of competing companies can be almost identical and yet these companies spend millions letting you know how different they are by building a corporate identity that you can relate to. Conversely, in new markets or new sectors (and in good economic times) less differentiation is apparent – there is less need for differentiation when there is no threat from competition.
Economically stressed markets:
When margins are tight and procurement budgets have been cut, buyers look more closely at the value proposition and sellers tend to increase levels of innovation and differentiation. The world has been on a tough economic treadmill since the collapse of the financial markets in 2008/9 and this has seen the emergence of new ideas and not surprisingly corporate sustainability has enjoyed prominence in this regard.
Regulated markets or sectors:
Regulation or supply chain policies can elicit forced (e.g. tax or incentive) or voluntary (e.g. reporting) responses from suppliers. Government can use incentives to speed up change and perhaps the best example of this is carbon taxation which will be introduced in South Africa in January 2016.
Carbon tax will see the need for more measurement and management of carbon across value chains and this will bring about procurement policies that require suppliers to measure their carbon footprint. These policies may further evolve to specify an acceptable range of carbon emissions per unit of output or per square metre of operations in any given sector, for example.
Supply Chain Sustainability
The real power of the economy lies in procurement. The quantity and availability of products and services is directly affected by demand and because demand is affected by supply chain/procurement policies, the supply chain can be a most powerful agent of change.
Companies are introducing sustainability into their supply chains not only because it’s the right thing to do, or because they are under pressure to do so, but because they see the value of doing so in the context of their medium to long term strategies.
The United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) is encouraging corporate leadership in this regard and many businesses use the ten UNGC principles to inform their supply chain policies. Similarly, the recently launched Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) G4 Guidelines contain much emphasis on supply chain sustainability, traceability and chain of custody.
The next big opportunity – supply chain differentiation
The most significant recent step up in corporate sustainability is the increased emphasis being placed on sustainability in the supply chain.
Procurement policies that encourage and even enforce certain key sustainability principles can meaningfully affect markets and should be noted by suppliers looking for opportunities to differentiate.
Importantly, supply chain policies take a closer look at indicators relating to companies and not simply their products or services.
This is placing more emphasis on environmental, social and governance issues and represents an exciting new opportunity for differentiation for those companies that are first to move.
Risk, reputation and leadership
Large customers are auditing suppliers using various criteria, but generally these audits will seek to establish:
• Whether there are any risks in an association, based on how the supplier’s business is conducted.
• Whether the supplier has a reputation that could cause any harm.
• Whether the supplier’s reputation could add value
• Whether there are any examples of leadership that could be amplified for mutual advantage.
Supply Chain Differentiation – Strategic Approach
Any random approach to differentiating under sustainability indicators is unlikely to succeed in the medium to long term. This is mostly because customers are beginning to use sustainability frameworks and systems to determine a holistic and materiality- based set of procurement indicators in their supply chains.
Therefore, an authentic approach must be driven by a sustainability plan that includes clear statements of objective and vision, where these have been informed by a process of identification and assessment of material issues for the company.
Companies are increasing the degree to which they report on sustainability in their supply chains. They are reporting on the sustainability impacts of their suppliers and on the influence that they have had in changing the sustainability performance of their suppliers.
This means that an opportunity exists for suppliers (and potential suppliers) to:
- Target (or report on) internal interventions that will be acknowledged by customers as meaningful to report on.
- Package sustainability information for large customers and other stakeholders.
- Strategically target key customers and new prospects using this information.
- An authentic sustainability/integrated reporting process will adhere to certain principles that are important in the identification of real opportunities for performance and therefore differentiation. The process of identifying and reporting on material indicators, particularly if inculcated in functional centres, will:
• Highlight data for comparison with competitors
• Highlight opportunities for intervention and performance management
• Establish targets, which can form the basis of future differentiation
Internal capacity and stakeholder engagement
Key stakeholders are engaged by various employees in various ways. Many of these engagements can be opportunities for communication of the company’s primary points of differentiation.
It is therefore necessary that key employees in functional centres of the business are familiar with the terms and tenets of corporate sustainability, the company’s sustainability plan and the role that they can play in the strategic approach.
Building this capacity in the organisation is important to the success of the overall plan.
Sales and marketing
Any sales and marketing plan should incorporate a customer needs analysis. As the needs and the requirements of the customer begin changing to incorporate sustainability indicators, it is important for suppliers to be ahead of this process.
This is only really possible with an engagement process that elicits information that can be used to for innovation and differentiation. This engagement process will ensure that targeted areas of differentiation are aligned with customer requirements.
After the requirements are known, a marketing plan should consistently reinforce messages that are directed at the
establishment of the desired ‘profile’ for the company. A multi-media approach can be effective to leverage packaged information to establish a desirable corporate image – one that is aligned with the ideals and requirements of the targeted customer.
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Source: The Integrated and Sustainability Reporting Handbook Volume 1
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By Carla Higgs
One powerful group of stakeholders affecting the environmental performance of corporate enterprises are Small, Medium and Micro-sized Enterprises (SMMEs) who are often the main contractors in industrial supply chains. Though small, SMEs have an enormous impact on social and environmental issues and play an important role in sustainable development, SMMES drive economic development, job creation and skills development opportunities.
Their impact on the environment however, particularly on local ecosystems, can be calamitous. The National Small Business Act1 describes Small, Medium and Micro- sized Enterprises (SMMEs) as separate and distinct business entities of any sector of the economy that are classified as either micro, very small, small or medium by their number of employees, annual turnover and asset value. SMMEs are not restricted to formally registered enterprises, but include informal enterprises, such as survivalist street traders and informal manufacturing, services and home-based enterprises.
SMMEs are commonly recognised as the most important sector of an economy. It is estimated that, in South Africa, 2.8-million SMEs make up approximately 91% of formal enterprises, contribute between 52% and 57% to the national GDP, and constitute 61% of formal employment. Their role in the financial economy and employment creation has heralded SMMEs as key to driving South Africa’s economic growth, equity acceleration and social development. Small business contributes significantly to the provision of productive employment opportunities as the providers of the majority of jobs, and the creators of a large number of new jobs that generate income and ultimately result in the reduction poverty. This, coupled with their role in encouraging entrepreneurship, stimulating local and regional development and creating resilient economic systems, means that SMMEs are important contributors to sustainable development. In contrast to their economic and social contribution, the environmental impact of SMMEs has not been quantified, is poorly understood and is presumed to be substantial.
When compared to their larger counterparts, smaller firms in their individual capacity may have a lesser environmental impact. However, since they represent such a large percentage of economic activity, collectively, the large number of SMMEs means that their environmental impacts are substantial. SMMEs, especially those in developing countries, are characterised by the use of older technologies which are generally less energy efficient and contribute to pollution. Some studies have indicated that SMMEs’ contribution to local pollution levels can be as much as 70%, generating as much as 60% of commercial waste and contributing between 40 and 45% to industrial water and energy consumption. The agricultural, manufacturing and service sectors have been identified as having the largest environmental impacts.
The agricultural sector is a source of water pollution and land contamination. Manufacturing SMMEs consume energy and natural resources, and generate waste and pollution. The service sector, particularly petrol stations and repair shops, pose
a risk of routine pollution or accidental releases. Further, it has been found that environmental management among small business is in its infancy and there is a general problem of non-compliance with environmental legislation. Characterised
by resource constraints, SMMEs lack awareness of environmental responsibility, environmental legislation and their own environmental impacts. In the absence of relations with stakeholders, SMMEs are also less susceptible to reputational risks.
Under the banner of corporate social/ environmental responsibility, many large corporate enterprises are implementing pollution prevention measures, material and energy efficiency initiatives, waste management, and product stewardship (to name a few) in an effort to mitigate their environmental harm and improve their environmental performance. While mitigating one’s own environmental harm is indeed noble, and can result in many positive spin-offs such as reputational benefits and cost savings, it would be erroneous to set operational efficiencies as the boundaries for an enterprise’s environmental responsibility. From a regulatory perspective, The Waste Act2 establishes Extended Producer Responsibility—an important policy approach for environmental protection as a regulatory mechanism to ensure that corporate enterprises focus on whole product systems rather than individual production facilities. This means that the responsibility for the product is broadened to include the management of the product through its entire life cycle, through all downstream levels of its supply chain and to the point of end-of-life management. From a non-regulatory perspective, corporate enterprises, although large and well-resourced, are not autonomous; they rely significantly on outsourcing for numerous products and services.
Corporate enterprises essentially function at a supply-chain level and there is an obligation for enterprises to assume responsibility for the environmental and social performance of their suppliers and partners; both suppliers’ upstream in their product chain and for their products downstream in the supply chain. SMMEs are the main contractors in industrial value chains and, therefore, can help improve or harm environmental performance within the supply chain and, ultimately, the corporate enterprise contracting the SMME. Given that extant research indicates that SMMEs are generally not engaging in environmental responsibility, this has noteworthy implications for corporate enterprises operating in the corporate social/environmental responsibility arena.
Overlooking SMME suppliers and contractors could potentially damage the environmental performance of an enterprise, with further reaching consequences particularly in relation to reputational risks. On the other hand, integrating environmental thinking into supply-chain management can potentially change the corporate social responsibility landscape. Particularly, when considered collectively, their prevalence means that SMMEs could make a significant positive contribution to environmentally sustainable development.
Source: The Green Economy Journal
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