It’s Time for Government to Step Up on Supply Chain
As consumers, we rarely stop to think about where goods and services come from, let alone the journey they took along the way. Well-functioning supply chains tend to operate in the background, and perhaps we like it that way — rarely noticing or pausing to care.
It’s a dramatically different story when things go awry, like during COVID-19. Who could forget images of farmers dumping fresh milk, shoppers scrambling to get toilet paper or long lines at food assistance facilities?
When the “new normal” upended supply chains and ushered in new consumer behaviors, CPG companies pivoted on the fly to adapt. But not everything was within their control.
Like supply chains themselves, government policies that impact supply chain resiliency and competitiveness tend to lurk in the background. There are obvious ones, like infrastructure and trade policy, but for the most part, if we rarely notice supply chains, we are even less likely to recognize the role of government in them.
And yet, government policy plays a pivotal role in delivering the everyday, every day. Policy shapes the landscape of supply chains, impacting the availability, affordability and accessibility of the products we depend on. Years of successive policymaking contribute to national competitiveness and our ability to respond quickly and resiliently in crisis, like during a global pandemic.
Consumer Brands is calling on the federal government to create an Office of Supply Chain that would oversee supply chain policy, focusing on improving security, efficiency and resiliency.
Throughout COVID-19, the importance of supply chains came to the fore. So, too, did the role of government — and frankly, government’s own lack of understanding about its role. Simply put, even those within government often aren’t privy to the full scope of supply chain policies and programs, and the role they play in relation to private sector supply chains.
To address these discrepancies and help mitigate future crises, the Consumer Brands Association is calling on the federal government to create an Office of Supply Chain that would oversee and coordinate supply chain policy, focusing on improving security, efficiency and resiliency, engaging with the private sector and drawing upon its expertise and insights.
The Case for a Federal Office of Supply Chain
Consumer Brands worked alongside the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) and Iowa State University to detail impactful policies and make a series of recommendations about how to improve supply chain resiliency and competitiveness, based on data collected from 25 supply chain thought leaders, published supply chain research and government and NGO documents.
The results of this study speak to the complexity and interconnected nature of supply chains, which know no jurisdictional bounds. Beyond any one policy or recommendation, the most glaring and obvious point made in the report is the simple lack of attention given to supply chains, which stands in stark contrast to their outsized importance. At the same time, when attention is given, supply chain policy is often myopic, unintentional or uncoordinated. There is a tendency to view these issues through a single lens (transportation infrastructure legislation helps to build roads and bridges), versus the complexity and nuance they demand (those roads and bridges are points of connection, both for people and goods).
This lack of government attention to supply chains and degree of under-coordination has left the U.S. more vulnerable to supply chain disruptions like those experienced during COVID-19. Moreover, it stands in stark contrast to the policy undertakings of countries like China, that are taking aim at the U.S. on the geopolitical stage. Our call for a national Office of Supply Chain would provide a necessary level of expertise and help facilitate interagency coordination and collaboration with the private sector.
Far from heralding bigger government or yet another agency, such an entity would actually make better use of what we already have. The U.S. is not lacking in supply chain policy — in fact, it’s quite abundant. Many different policies impact businesses and ultimately the consumers those businesses serve. But the interplay between those policies and the private sector has not been fully documented or well understood; this report is a first attempt at reconciling that gap and bringing to light the need for greater coordination and strategic alignment.
This report’s recommendations are a roadmap to achieving some of those incremental gains, while acknowledging the private sector’s continued role in investing in new technology and innovation.
When supply chains function as intended, they reduce costs and create efficiencies that benefit all parties, from manufacturers to transporters to retailers to consumers. The report’s recommendations are a roadmap to achieving some of those incremental gains, while acknowledging the private sector’s continued role in investing in new technology and innovation.
The time to step up is now, putting into practice the lessons learned over the last year, in anticipation of permanently changed consumer behavior and an increasingly risk-prone future. As seen throughout COVID-19, the consumer packaged goods industry will continue doing its part to serve consumers and meet 21st century demand. The question is — will government?
Read our new report, U.S. Supply Chain Policy Priorities: The Case for a Federal Office of Supply Chain to learn more.
Published on February 23, 2021
Our Updates, Delivered to You
Receive the latest updates from the Consumer Brands Association.