How Supply Chain Management Can Help Africa Tackle Climate Change

sustainability in supply chain

Climate change is one of the most pressing challenges facing the world today. It poses serious threats to human health, food security, biodiversity, and economic development. Africa is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, as it has the least capacity to adapt and cope with the changing conditions. According to the World Bank, climate change could push up to 100 million people into poverty by 2030, with most of them living in Africa.

However, climate change also presents an opportunity for Africa to transform its economy and society towards a more sustainable and resilient future. One of the key drivers of this transformation is supply chain management, which refers to the planning, coordination, and execution of the flow of goods and services from the source to the end user. Supply chain management can help Africa reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, enhance its resource efficiency, improve its competitiveness, and create more jobs and income for its people.

How supply chain comes in

Supply chains represent a significant, yet largely unexplored, avenue for reducing emissions¹. In many businesses, particularly those that cater to end consumers, the emissions produced by their upstream supply chains often surpass the emissions from their own operations.

In fact, supply chain emissions are, on average, 11.4 times higher than operational emissions, accounting for approximately 92% of an organization’s total greenhouse gas emissions. This highlights the immense potential for impact that businesses can have by promoting decarbonization among their suppliers.

Moreover, eight major supply chains are responsible for more than 50% of global CO2 emissions. This includes sectors such as food and construction, where agricultural and heavy industrial inputs contribute to the majority of the emissions embedded in everyday products.

By focusing on decarbonization within these supply chains, businesses can significantly reduce their overall carbon footprint and make a substantial contribution to global emission reduction efforts. This approach not only exceeds what they can achieve through changes in their own operations but also has a far-reaching impact due to the globalized nature of modern supply chains.

Read More from : EPA

Here are some of the ways that supply chain management can help Africa tackle climate change:

  • Decarbonizing supply chains: Supply chains account for more than 50% of global CO2 emissions, and eight major supply chains (food, construction, fashion, fast-moving consumer goods, electronics, automotive, professional services, and freight) are responsible for most of them. By adopting low-carbon technologies and practices, such as renewable energy, energy efficiency, circular economy, and carbon capture and storage, supply chain actors can significantly reduce their emissions and contribute to the global climate goals. For example, a study by the World Economic Forum and Boston Consulting Group found that fully decarbonizing these eight supply chains would add just 1-4% to end-consumer costs for many everyday items.
  • Leveraging Africa’s natural resources: Africa is endowed with abundant natural resources that can support its green growth and climate finance solutions. The continent has the potential to become a global supply chain powerhouse for sustainable industries, such as renewable energy, electric vehicles, green hydrogen, and biofuels. The UNCTAD report says: “As the global economy adapts to climate change … there will be a rise in the demand for specific metals with utility in the low-carbon transition and green mobility, for instance, aluminium, cobalt, copper, lithium and manganese.” Africa also has a rich biodiversity and ecosystem services that can provide natural solutions to climate change mitigation and adaptation, such as forest conservation, restoration, and management.
  • Building resilience and adaptation: Supply chains are also exposed to various climate risks, such as extreme weather events, water scarcity, crop failures, and disease outbreaks. These risks can disrupt the supply chain operations and cause losses in productivity, quality, revenue, and reputation. To cope with these risks, supply chain actors need to build resilience and adaptation capacities through measures such as risk assessment and management, diversification of sources and markets, contingency planning and emergency response, insurance and financing mechanisms, and stakeholder collaboration. For example, the healthcare supply chain in Africa faces multiple challenges due to climate change impacts on health outcomes and service delivery. To address these challenges, healthcare supply chain actors need to adopt strategies such as improving data visibility and analytics, strengthening cold chain infrastructure and logistics, enhancing quality assurance and regulatory compliance, and fostering innovation and partnerships.
  • Driving inclusive development: Supply chain management can also help Africa achieve its social and economic development goals while addressing climate change. By optimizing supply chain performance and efficiency, supply chain actors can reduce costs, increase profits, and create value for their customers and stakeholders. By integrating environmental and social criteria into their procurement decisions, supply chain actors can support local suppliers, especially small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and women-owned businesses, and promote fair trade, ethical sourcing, and human rights standards. By investing in skills development, capacity building, and technology transfer, supply chain actors can empower their employees, partners, and communities, and enhance their competitiveness and innovation potential.


Some possible key performance indicators (KPIs) for supply chain management in relation to climate change are:

Carbon footprint: This measures the total greenhouse gas emissions generated by the supply chain activities, such as production, transportation, storage, and distribution. It can be expressed in terms of CO2 equivalent per unit of output, revenue, or profit. A lower carbon footprint indicates a more environmentally friendly and efficient supply chain.
Energy consumption: This measures the amount of energy used by the supply chain processes, such as electricity, fuel, and heat. It can be expressed in terms of kilowatt-hours (kWh) per unit of output, revenue, or profit. A lower energy consumption indicates a more energy-efficient and cost-effective supply chain.
Water consumption: This measures the amount of water used by the supply chain operations, such as irrigation, cooling, cleaning, and processing. It can be expressed in terms of cubic meters (m3) per unit of output, revenue, or profit. A lower water consumption indicates a more water-efficient and resource-conserving supply chain.
Waste generation: This measures the amount of waste produced by the supply chain activities, such as packaging, scrap, and emissions. It can be expressed in terms of kilograms (kg) per unit of output, revenue, or profit. A lower waste generation indicates a more waste-reducing and circular supply chain.
Climate risk exposure: This measures the degree of vulnerability and impact of the supply chain to climate-related hazards, such as floods, droughts, storms, and heat waves. It can be expressed in terms of probability and severity of disruption, loss, or damage to the supply chain assets, operations, and performance. A lower climate risk exposure indicates a more resilient and adaptive supply chain.

These KPIs can help supply chain actors monitor and improve their environmental performance and sustainability, as well as align their strategies and actions with the global climate goals and commitments.

Actions Supply Chains Can Take

There are several actions that supply chains can take to support the goals set out at the Africa Climate Summit:

  1. Build Transparent Supply Chains: With technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, companies can create supply chains offering a level of transparency they couldn’t achieve previously.
  2. Plan Smarter Routes Using Tech: Technology can be used to optimize routes and reduce emissions from transportation.
  3. Work Towards Net-Zero: Companies should strive to achieve net-zero emissions in their supply chains.
  4. Leverage Risk Management and Scenario Modeling: Use existing processes to help identify risks and opportunities related to climate change.

Here are some examples of sustainable supply chain practices:

Repurposing Products: Many materials used in the production of products can be recycled and reused. This is not only environmentally friendly but also profitable for the company and beneficial for its customers.

Sustainability Metrics and Checklists: Companies use checklists for tasks and sustainability metrics to measure the effectiveness of a supply chain or a product. This encourages companies to use their supply chains and products more holistically.

Sustainable Packaging: Companies ensure they use environmentally friendly packaging materials1. This reduces waste and is an important step towards sustainability.

Efficient Planning and Simplified Processes: Efficient planning and simplifying processes are key to moving towards an ethical supply chain.

Optimizing Transportation Routes: Optimizing transportation routes can reduce fuel consumption, thereby reducing carbon emissions.

Monitoring Environmental Risks: Keeping track of environmental risks is crucial for maintaining a sustainable supply chain.

Implementing Sustainable Technology: The use of sustainable technology can help improve internal processes and cut back on resources, energy, and waste.

Sustainable Procurement: Opportunities include purchasing renewable energy, procuring energy efficiency technology and services, and sourcing other organizations’ waste and byproducts as raw material inputs.

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