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Tracking Holiday Gifts With Intelligence And Purpose

  • Written by  Patrick McCarthy, SAP Ariba and SAP Fieldglass

0aaapatmccarthyAs the holidays draw near, front doorsteps everywhere pile high with boxes filled with presents. Where do they all come from? Some attribute the phenomenon to reindeer, sleighs and a shop in the North Pole. Others point to delivery drivers and parcel trucks. Either way, the packages just keep arriving. But what about the gifts inside? How much do we know about the origins of the products we give and receive and the sustainable business practices involved in their manufacture and distribution?

Increasingly, shoppers lend considerable weight to such factors. A recent survey from Accenture gauging the views of 1,500 consumers in the United States reveals that nearly half (45%) of respondents believe retailers have a responsibility to address social issues through their business practices.

Meanwhile, fully half of respondents indicate they would forgo next-day shipping in favor of greener, albeit slower, delivery options (such as in-store pickup or ground shipping in lieu of air freight). An equivalent proportion say they’re willing to dispense with gift wrapping, and 47% feel it’s “very” or “extremely” important to patronize environmentally responsible retailers. A majority, 54%, indicate they would use recycling services made available by retailers.

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Business leaders are heeding consumers’ call for accountability, and they’re echoing that call throughout their supply chains. But at a time when unbiased information can be hard to come by, where can businesses turn to gauge their potential trading partners’ commitment to ethical and sustainable business practices?

They can begin by leveraging features and functionality currently available via digital procurement networks.

Years ago, businesses had little insight into their trading partners’ internal operations. But with the digital transformation of procurement, a buyer’s and supplier’s operations are increasingly transparent. They’re interconnected.

Cloud-based networks lend newfound visibility not only into traditional business metrics such as inventory turns, cycle times and utilization rates, but also into socially meaningful questions such as: Does a potential trading partner root out forced labor from its supply chain? Has it established responsible stewardship of natural resources? To what extent does the company award business to firms owned by historically underrepresented groups of people? What is its record on ensuring humane working conditions in the various parts of the world in which it operates?

Thanks to the transparency afforded by digital networks, businesses can size up their potential trading partners on these and dozens of other criteria. The result is a value chain that reflects shared brand values. When businesses align their commercial relationships with the causes championed by customers, they engender something all too rare in a world of instant clicks and nanosecond attention spans: enduring loyalty and positive impact!

Meanwhile, as businesses expand their visibility into supply chains, they gain powerful opportunities for collaboration. Working together in real time, businesses can spur innovation, optimize operational costs and bring purpose to life. By applying artificial intelligence to vast troves of mutually held data, digital networks enable businesses to extend their competitive advantage, invest in their collaborative capabilities and reinforce their brand values.

When businesses rely on cloud-based digital networks to procure with purpose and achieve Intelligent Spend Management, they create real holiday magic that can last all year round!


 

The author, Patrick McCarthy, is Senior Vice President and General Manager of SAP Ariba and SAP Fieldglass.

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