Certainty Blog

What are Supply Chain Risks and How to Manage and Mitigate Them

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Supply chain disruptions and risks are becoming increasingly common, affecting businesses of all sizes and across various industries. The data speaks for itself – recently released by Resilinc’s EventWatchAI monitoring database, supply chain disruptions in Europe increased by 38% in 2022. To ensure business continuity and success in today’s global market, it’s crucial for companies to understand the various types of supply chain risks and implement effective risk management strategies.

What is Supply Chain Risk?

A supply chain risk refers to any event or situation that has the potential to disrupt the flow of goods and services within a supply chain network. This can range from natural disasters, pandemics, and supply chain disruptions to cybersecurity threats, raw material shortages, and environmental risks.

For example, the global pandemic in 2020 exposed significant vulnerabilities in supply chains as businesses struggled to adapt to changing demand patterns and supply chain disruptions. Another example is the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan, which caused widespread supply chain disruptions, impacting major tech companies like Apple, which saw their production of electronic devices heavily impacted.

In today’s globalized business environment, companies must also be mindful of their supplier’s social, human rights, and environmental impacts as these can pose a large risk to your business. When a supplier engages in unethical or unsustainable practices, it can result in serious consequences for the company that is sourcing its products. For example, if a supplier is found to be using sweatshop labor or contributing to environmental degradation, it could lead to consumer boycotts and damage the company’s reputation, regulatory compliance, and financial performance.

With supply chain sustainability and due diligence legislation like the German Supply Chain Act, companies can face the risk of legal penalties and fines if they are not properly monitoring and managing their supplier’s social, human rights, and environmental impacts.

Why Risk Management is Important

Risk management is crucial for businesses as it helps to minimize the impact of supply chain disruptions and reduce the operational, reputational, and financial risks associated with these events. A proactive approach to supply chain risk management can help businesses increase their resilience and better respond to unexpected disruptions.

Here are some of the key benefits:

  1. Improved Business Continuity: By identifying and mitigating supplier risk, businesses can minimize the impact of disruptions and ensure the smooth operation of their supply chain network.
  2. Enhanced Reputation: By demonstrating their commitment to responsible sourcing and supply chain management, businesses can enhance their reputation and build trust with stakeholders, including customers and suppliers.
  3. Avoids Regulatory Non-Compliance: By monitoring and managing the social, human rights, and environmental impacts of their suppliers, companies can ensure that they are meeting the requirements of current and future supply chain sustainability and due diligence regulations, thus avoiding costly fines and reputational damage associated with regulatory violations.
  4. Reduced Costs: Implementing effective risk management strategies can help businesses reduce costs associated with supply chain disruptions, such as higher transportation costs and expedited shipping fees.
  5. Improved Sustainability: Reducing the impact of supply chain disruptions promotes sustainability by reducing waste and conserving resources. Ultimately bolstering a company’s overall Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) efforts.
  6. Increased Agility: Businesses that are proactive in managing their supply chain are better equipped to respond quickly to volatility in market changes and make adjustments to their supply chain as needed.

The Risks of Lagging Risk Management

Failing to implement effective risk management strategies can have serious consequences for businesses. Companies without a risk management program in place are more likely to experience supply chain disruptions, resulting in increased costs, decreased efficiency, and damage to their reputation.

Moreover, not having a risk management program can also result in regulatory violations and legal liability. For example, the German Supply Chain Act requires companies to assess and address the risks associated with their supply chain, including human rights violations, environmental damage, and exploitation. Companies that fail to comply with these regulations could face penalties and reputational damage.

How Global Businesses Should Manage Supply Chain Risk

Global supplier risk management is a critical aspect of business operations, as it can impact the overall success and sustainability of a company. There are several steps that businesses can take to manage their global supply chain threats.

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One crucial step to establish visibility into your supply chain is to conduct social, human rights, and environmental due diligence on all tier 1, 2, and 3 suppliers. This provides businesses with real-time information on the social, human rights, and environmental impacts of their suppliers and forms the basis for the continued monitoring and performance improvement activities of suppliers. By conducting this due diligence and having this visibility, businesses can quickly identify and respond to risks – and potential disruptions – in the supply chain.

A key step in identifying supply chain risks is to have suppliers conduct an initial self-assessment, using tools such as Certainty Software’s GSCA Checklist or Supplier Social and Environmental Compliance Checklist. These risk assessments help businesses identify potential risks, such as cyber-attacks, environmental risks, and intellectual property vulnerabilities, and take proactive measures to mitigate them.

In addition to engaging suppliers, businesses should also stay up-to-date with relevant legislation and regulations that impact their supply chain. For example, the German Supply Chain Act requires companies to take proactive steps to risk mitigation with their suppliers by ensuring they’re not involved in any unethical practices, such as forced labor or environmental degradation.

Another important aspect of risk management for global supply chains is the use of metrics and forecasts to anticipate potential risks and make informed decisions. By using predictive analytics and advanced forecasting tools, businesses can better understand the potential impact of supply chain disruptions, and make proactive plans to mitigate the risks.

Finally, businesses can also consider implementing automation technologies to streamline their supply chain processes and reduce the risk of human error. Automation can help businesses improve efficiency, reduce costs, and enhance supply chain resilience while reducing the risk of supply chain disruptions caused by human factors, such as mistakes or miscommunications.

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