How Employers can Work with Their Supply Chain to Help Them Support Mental Health and Wellbeing


Functions within Supply Chain Management are numerous and varied. Some can be very physical, like in plants or warehouses, whereas others are more sedentary like customer service and planning.

Therefore, two types of risks emerge for employees’ health and wellbeing, both physical and mental.

Supply Chains across the globe are particularly impacted by our VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity) world. In the UK, this is currently increased further by Brexit, where uncertainty is at a peak level. Teams are under a tremendous amount of pressure and stress. Decrease of volumes and forecasting scenarios are amongst some concerns.

Physical Health & Safety

Operation of heavy machinery and transport of large items need an acute awareness of safety, within the supply chains. Some companies have made it a priority.

Taking Danone Waters as an example, in 2004, the company implemented the WISE (Work In Safe Environment) programme with the help of DuPont. Safety as a whole, was considered primary. The programme was positioned as a fundamental element of the corporate Manufacturing Excellence Vision.

WISE was first executed on manufacturing sites and then expanded to other functions. When I was working there in France, as a Regional Account Manager, the meetings were opened with a review of safety results to emphasise its priority. The idea was also to increase our sense of ownership on that matter, as employees.

This programme was deployed worldwide and within six years, injuries and accidents were cut by 86.3%.

It is crucial to involve, engage and embark teams in those initiatives and embed health and safety into the company culture. Setting up safety audits, work sessions, analysis and risk forecasting in terms of accident is paramount. Then put action plans in place, build KPI through and with your collaborators.

Some companies have safety champions, people accountable to drive the implementation, communicate, follow-up. Find a sponsor to make sure things are followed through.

The risk of accident, and furthermore fatal accidents, could cause massive disruption on teams – impacting mental health long after the accident (depression, anxiety…) – and on the business too.

This is very true for in-house supply chains. It is also key to make sure outsourced supply chains are equally involved. So many companies outsource a part of their supply chain, like transport and logistics, or manufacturing.

How do you make sure that you inform and embark your suppliers onto the KPIs of your safety journey? Because this is where the risk of accidents is much higher as you have far less control. This too can disrupt your supply chain in dramatic ways, adding some stress to your inhouse teams and having a damaging impact on the business. This is where the importance of carefully selecting your suppliers cannot be understated.

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Mental health and wellness

In a recent study, Deloitte has found that the cost of poor mental health per employee ranges from £497 – £2564, depending on the industry and sector. Furthermore, the research has also found that the return on investment of workplace mental health interventions is overwhelmingly positive, with an average ROI of 4:1.

Often, hourly amplitude is very long and asks a lot of effort from the employees. This cannot be sustained for a long period of time, without the risk of burnouts and other mental health issues. Work/Life integration is very important; allow and trust people to work from home, take a part-time role.

Basic needs should be covered (comfort, air quality, good lighting, adequate heating, the right equipment) to ensure employees have the best chance to perform at the level you want. Lacking this will lead to decrease in performance and absenteeism.

For example, customer service teams can be big groups sitting together. To have an office where noise is absorbed and there are enough private rooms for important calls is a must. Considering the various functions within Supply Chain Management and their particular requirements, it is important to determine the environment in which each function will perform the best.

Another example is at PepsiCo, where teams are coached not to be surprised by ‘chaos’ and disruption, developing contingencies for the most common scenarios. Less surprises result in calmer teams and less stressful working environments.

Creating a safe environment is not only from a material and physical space perspective. If you wish to enhance innovation, creativity and collaboration, create an environment where your team members can open up, share their ideas and truly feel seen and heard.

Technology is a fantastic enabler to bring international teams together. And looking further, Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence are already offering solutions.


–       Make wellness and wellbeing a priority, embedded in the company culture – do not just talk about it; act on it.

–       Set up clear objectives and KPIs, specific to the different supply chain functions and aligned with the company ones.

–       Communicate clearly about the programme and the resources available to your collaborators (access to a gym, health check-ups, back and posture training).

–       Engage with your teams, make them accountable and have wellness champions to make sure the implementation is followed through.

–       Promote healthy nutrition and physical fitness at work – many studies have proven that those two elements have a strong positive impact on brain performance, mood, focus and energy levels.

–       Inform people on the benefits they will gain from your health and wellness programme, train and encourage to take action – with international incentives, fund raising… (giving back is also another way of bringing happiness!)

–       Be creative in the activities you can do, this could be a great opportunity to bring some fun into the workplace and improve team cohesion.

Training is key! Having a strong onboarding process emphasising the importance of health and safety, for both your employees and suppliers is crucial.

In such fast paced and ever-changing environments, behaviours and traits of personality that were embraced before might not be helpful moving forward. Employers could help their collaborators to face VUCA by being more agile and learning how to evolve in such an environment. Younger generations are also less inclined to stay if they are not happy in the environment they evolve in.

Nowadays, there are so many solutions that exist to help you design environments that are physically and mentally safe. Most importantly, this is a matter of attitude and leaders have the responsibility to lead by example, to create ripple effects. The supply chain notions of Fulfilment and Continuous Improvement can definitely be applied in the field of personal and professional development.


As business leaders, what culture can you create to make wellbeing and wellness a priority to drive capability, efficiency, innovation and joy?


Lauge Valentin – Supply Chain Planning Senior Director at PepsiCo

Annika Tibbe – Supply Chain Director EMEA at Cargill

Alejandro Gonzalez Navech – Head of Activity Management, Sourcing and Outsourcing UK & Ireland at Danone 

About the Author
Fabienne Boixel is an Executive Life Coach working with international leaders from diverse backgrounds, helping them to reconnect with themselves to better connect with others. Together, they explore the range of possibilities, to grow, think bigger and create a future they are more excited about. With an extensive experience in Executive Search, in Supply Chain Management functions, Fabienne has helped values-driven executives and entrepreneurs from around the world to create more positive impact, success and joy in their lives, careers and businesses. Get in touch at [email protected].

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