Sustainability Culture for Supply Chains Across Africa: A Guide

Although sustainability culture and practices in supply chains are all the rage globally, it has yet to be received with open arms across Africa.

There are several reasons why there is much resistance to the concept. They are primarily because of the perceived cost to the supply chains and lack of promotion by the government.

But ignoring it doesn’t take away the need for the idea. Considering the constant political crises and devastation cutting across the continent, I dare argue it is needed now more than ever.

The good news is there isn’t a total resistance to the sustainability concept on the continent. But it can be hard for businesses to get it right when it feels like they are the only ones eager to achieve it.

One way to overcome these challenges is by taking sustainability steps one business or operation at a time. And you achieve that by creating a culture of sustainability across the supply chain.

This article will review the importance of a sustainability culture and how to achieve it.


What is a Sustainability Culture?

Sustainability culture refers to an organizational environment where a commitment to sustainable practices is ingrained in the organisation’s values and operational processes.

These practices and values are rooted deeply in responsibility for the environment, along with social and economic factors.

They impact the decision-making of the organization, its operations, and its employees.

A sustainability culture involves a shared dedication to minimizing environmental impact, promoting social well-being, and ensuring long-term economic viability within the organization’s operations and supply chain.


Why is it Beneficial to Develop a Sustainability Culture for Supply Chains Across Africa?

There are several reasons why a sustainability culture benefits Africa and its various supply chains.

1. It Simplifies Supply Chain Compliance

Supply chain compliance can be seamless when a culture of sustainability is in place.

It helps businesses and supply chains get their stakeholders to comply without always having to enforce it.

When supply chain compliance becomes easy, businesses do not have to worry about mitigating the necessary risks.

It also enhances efficiency across the supply chain.

2. Enhances Competitive Advantage

When there is a sustainability culture, it ultimately finds its way into the businesses’ output and supply chain.

This helps the business develop a brand reputation, endearing it to the customers who care about it on the continent.

Another way this reputation can be useful is when partnering with major global corporations trying to break into the African market.

These corporations mostly practice sustainability and are eager to partner with supply chains or organizations with the same value.

3. Community Development

Supply chain and production can get messy for the environment, especially in rural communities with little infrastructure to protect themselves.

When there is a culture of sustainability, there is protection for various communities across the continent from pollution they otherwise had no protection against.

Waters are kept clean, foods remain healthy, and the environment is not corroded with unknown or deadly substances.

These supply chains can also invest in developing the communities they operate out of, which is a primary mission of the social movement under ESG.

4. Supply Chain Longevity

With a good culture of sustainability, activities and operations in the supply chain are done with longevity in view. It could be costly initially, but the ROI far outweighs the investments.

When supply chains are designed with longevity in view, there is less need to replace people, processes, and infrastructure periodically.

This helps maintain consistency and standards across the supply chain and the general business.


How To Develop a Sustainability Culture in Supply Chains Across Africa

In this section of the article, we evaluate the strategies that can help build or develop a sustainability culture for supply chains on the continent.

1. Enforce Supply Chain Transparency

Supply chain transparency promotes a culture of openness and allows every stakeholder in the supply chain to understand and track the sustainable practices of the supply chain.

When transparency is in place, it becomes easy to identify shortcomings in implementing sustainable practices.

When the active players in the supply chain see no room for errors or blind spots for non-sustainable practices, they will do their best to align with the sustainability goals of the supply chain.

These players can either be internal or external to the supply chain.

2. There Has to be a Leadership Commitment

To promote sustainability culture in African supply chains, there has to be a top-down approach to the ideology.

In this case, the leadership is not just the managers but the board and senior executives across the supply chain process.

It is a case of “do as I do” and not “do as I say.” if the supply chains will succeed in driving a sustainability culture.

When the leadership is committed, it promotes sustainable policies and activities that get the rest of the supply chain players on board the movement.

3. Celebrate Successful Milestones

A policy of celebrating every sustainability milestone will promote the sustainability culture better.

The supply chains invested in building this culture should endeavour to celebrate as many milestones as possible.

Examples of milestones that could be celebrated include hitting diversity quotas, reducing carbon emissions, implementing sustainable tech solutions, and many more.

In Africa, green warehouses are rare. Building something like that and celebrating it sends a message that it is doable and forces others to pay attention.

4. Create a Policy of Continuous Improvement

Despite the eagerness of many of us to achieve the highest level of sustainability practices as soon as possible, it is not quite possible.

Now, you may see that as unfortunate, but on the other hand, it could be quite overwhelming for the players who have yet to take an interest in the idea.

It can also be too expensive for the supply chain to undertaken at once. This is where a culture of continuous improvement comes into play.

Continuous improvement allows supply chains to gradually tweak and improve the sustainability culture until it nears perfection.


Factors that Impact the Development of Sustainability Culture in Supply Chains Across Africa

Building a sustainability culture is possible, but there are a few factors to consider when setting it up.

1. Buy-In From The Players

Supply chains cannot implement a sustainability culture by themselves. They need the buy-in from staff. That is the only way it will ever be able to enforce the culture.

The supply chain should also partner with vendors who share similar values and are already implementing them in their organizations and operations.

2. Sustainability Incentives

Incentives motivate the players and stakeholders to take the culture seriously. When the right incentives are in place, vendors and employees will always strive to ensure the promotion of the culture.

For instance, give bonuses to employees who champion the culture and maybe give more supply opportunities to vendors who are diligent with it.

3. Sustainability Policies

Sustainability policies highlight the supply chain’s sustainability goals and expectations from players (employees, vendors, and investors).

The right policies will inform all the players in the supply chain on what you expect from them. It will also highlight how they can help the supply chain or organization achieve its sustainability goals.


FAQs on Developing a Sustainability Culture for Supply Chains Across Africa

Q1: What are the essential elements of an African supply chain’s sustainability culture?

Economic viability, social responsibility, and environmental sustainability are all part of a sustainable culture.

Reducing carbon emissions, encouraging ethical labour practices, aiding local communities, and guaranteeing financial sustainability are also important.


Q2: Are there particular difficulties in fostering a culture of sustainability in African supply chains?

Difficulties include investing in sustainable technologies, complicated regulations, and restricted access to resources. However, depending on the area and sector, these difficulties may differ.


Q3: How does a sustainability culture in African supply chains affect the economy?

Economic factors include long-term planning, prudent investing, and financial resilience.

Developing a culture of sustainability guarantees supply chains the ability to withstand economic fluctuations and maintain their competitiveness.



Building or developing a sustainability culture in supply chains within Africa is achievable. However, there has to be a consideration for certain factors.

We reviewed some of them in this article, including the benefits of such a culture to supply chains across the continent.

The strategies highlighted in the development process are tired but tailored to the African context.