Large companies continue to set ambitious sustainability targets while their Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprise (SME) supply chain partners (Scope 3) bear much of the burden of reaching those goals. An initial analysis of more than 1,000 corporate supply chain goals shows that fewer than 10% aim to empower SMEs to help meet sustainability targets. The result: pushing top-down solutions onto the workers implementing the change without consideration for their needs.

CREST is thought to be the first major initiative to encourage large, multinational companies to recognize and include the voices of SMEs when developing supply chain sustainability targets and policies. By the end of 2025, this project aims to reach and activate 100,000 SME workers around the world.

Showing Companies How SME Needs Impact Their Supply Chains and Sustainability Goals

Equitably achieving corporate climate goals requires a better understanding of the needs of SMEs along the value chain — and incorporating those into material support for the people making products. This project aims to highlight a blind spot for large companies and pave a path for more equitable supply chains by supporting SMEs.

Centering Worker Voices to Create Equitable Supply Chains

WRI Global will set a new sustainability action agenda for equity in global supply chains. This work will identify, amplify and communicate the systemic challenges that SMEs and their workers face in meeting the mandates of multinational companies to reduce climate impacts.

Researching Opportunities for Supply Chain Innovation

An initial WRI working paper, coming out this spring, helps large companies understand the critical role of SMEs in their sustainability plans. By examining three unique commodity sectors — mint, textiles and EV batteries — this paper will pinpoint the most useful places of intervention for large companies to support their SME partners and rebalance supply chain relationships.

Creating a New Tool to Support Climate Action Throughout Supply Chains

Following this working paper, WRI will develop a tool for companies, investors and governments to rebalance risks and rewards with SMEs in global supply chains. The new tool will aim to help SMEs track and reduce GHG emissions, finance energy efficiency and renewable energy, develop low-carbon products and services, and support adaptation and resilience in their communities).


  • Show how and where SMEs need support so that larger companies can redirect material resources towards those critical priorities and help ensure fair and just economic transition. This could include assistance in career preparation and reskilling, personal finance and entrepreneurship.
  • Illustrate the importance of centering SME workers to create more resilient supply chains for people, nature and climate.
  • Encourage the corporate world and public sector to institute equitable policies for the people who produce the products the world relies on.

Cover image by Arno Senoner/Unsplash