Leadership companies are looking at their supply chains not only as a conduit for goods and materials, but also an unbelievable asset to help drive social impact. From Coca-Cola's plan to transform its supply chain into a pipeline for medical supplies, to Boeing and South African Airways idea to repurpose tobacco farms to grow a jet fuel alternative, companies are finding supply chains can be leveraged in unexpected ways to solve complex global issues.
This month at the Clinton Global Initiative's Winter Meeting, Unilever partnered with Acumen and the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership to announce the Enhanced Livelihoods Investment Initiative, a new $10 million commitment to support smallholder farmers. The three-year initiative seeks to boost economic growth in low-income communities in the developing world by linking small, primarily family-run farms with Unilever's global supply chain and distribution network. The program will create and invest in "privately-held enterprises which will support farmers" and while also providing "sustainable agriculture, nutrition and hygiene training" directly to farmers in India, Latin America and the Caribbean. For Unilever, the initiative will help the company maintain quality materials, increase reliability and mitigate risk through supplier diversification. But, the program also has myriad benefits for the communities it operates in. Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, explains, "This partnership has the potential to dramatically increase the scale of what we can do to support smallholder farmers, empower women across our supply chains and in turn help build sustainable, viable businesses that alleviate poverty."
Unilever's partnership with Acumen and the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership is just the newest example of a company harnessing supply chains for greater good. These mutually-beneficial programs show how thinking outside the box about supply chains can create major ripple effects in developing areas, raising up communities through economic development while reinforcing strong relationships for the future.