This new paradigm of thinking is needed to develop a ‘seamless’ sustainable supply chain strategy that now includes the three pillars of corporate social responsibility (CSR) – economic, social and environmental impacts.

Over the course of the past twelve months, Rail Champions has delivered a number of workshops covering business development and sustainability. Quite deliberately, we set forth the challenge ahead, aligning strategy with the greatest needs of the customer. In doing so, we were able to gain a unique perspective on how organisations were able to meet the challenge of collaboration, transformation and development of a sustainable supply chain in their respective businesses.

First we looked at the culture, reconnecting management with their vision, mission and values. Inevitably some recognised early on, that success in the future would depend on the culture within the business to adopt new practices and focus on change. Customer- driven supply chain strategies should span three to five years, so if you’re looking at your strategy today, you should consider what the world will look like in 2017- 2020.

Perhaps you were addressing supply chain capabilities for the recent round of Network Rail CP5 frameworks? This may have involved setting priorities, reviewing internal /external capabilities and enhancing through-life cost of your products or services. All companies need to adapt for the future, which if that includes Crossrail, CP6 or HS2, then innovation and talent management also come top of the list.

A word of caution

There is no secret in developing a sustainable supply chain; the first steps are to see where you are right now; establish a benchmark of quality, set key performance indicators and establish a clear line of sight to accomplish your customer’s greatest goals. This means driving product reliability and enhancing safety or asset management capabilities – all of which are identified in the Rail Technical Strategy and the Network Rail Supply Chain Strategy.

In developing your three to five-year strategy, you will need to generate lots of ideas and a project plan that delivers results for your company’s goals for cost and capital reduction, and offers enhanced customer services.

However, there is a word of caution. We now find ourselves in a policy environment that is much more geared towards demonstrating the positive social impact of development and delivering ‘more for less’. We need to demonstrate our CSR, ethical trading, social value and ‘good’ business practice credentials in responding to public and private sector procurement programmes.

All of this has had a profound effect on the commissioning environment for development, regeneration and publicly funded projects. There is a growing sophistication on the part of clients and commissioners who understand the need to address RP, CSR and sustainability via delivery of projects. They will cascade the impetus for delivering this to the construction and development industry.

New ways of thinking and doing

If the rail industry is going to respond, then it has to evolve and develop new ways of thinking and doing. One of our partners, Mend London is offering world class industry change, by supporting communities, organisations and businesses to do just this on the Crossrail C305 Eastern Running Tunnels project. The company also specialises in managing the social impact of development and helping businesses, organisations and projects to demonstrate its social impact and social value, acting as a critical friend.

In closing, we remind leaders that some companies have a ‘ready-fire-aim’ culture. In these businesses, there is little appetite for planning or strategy development. People are just too busy. These companies will find the future demanding. Rail Champions is helping more and more companies deliver sustainable supply chain strategies that deliver the three pillars of CSR simultaneously. The trick is to get buy-in early and set realistic targets, and offer a brilliant roadmap that is understood and makes everyone accountable, all of the time!

Chris Williams-Lilley is founder and managing director of rail business change consultants Rail Champions.
Twitter: Inspire greatness (@RailChampions)