Rethinking Corporate Social Compliance in the Supply Chain

Managers are increasingly under pressure to ensure that their products bear attributes like “fair”, “ethical”, “green”, or “social”. Hereby, it becomes clear that solutions cannot just be found in the manager’s company, but in the company’s end-to-end supply chain. This has led companies to audit every company along their global supply chains against the own standards, which resulted in a large volume of auditing. The Rana Plaza building collapse, however, tragically showed that this top-down approach seems to fail. Departing from this observation, a new EY report, Human Rights and Professional Wrongs (pdf), provides an excellent summary of the problem and a set of recommendations for improvement. For example, the authors recommend to use third-party certifiers and auditors more strategically, to prevent orders from factories that have not had their status assessed, and to maintain longer relationships with a smaller number of suppliers. These recommendations could help to sharpen a blunt sword.

A Fourth Star for Germany

So far, Germany has won the FIFA World Cup three times, in 1954, 1974 and 1990, and there is a good chance that it will win it a fourth time this weekend. So, why is this a topic for a supply chain blog? Well, according to a report by Spiegel Online (in German), Adidas has already prepared its supply chain operations and started to put a fourth star, symbolizing the number of World Cup victories, on some of its newly produced Germany soccer jerseys. “We have always believed in the fourth star and prepared ourselves for various scenarios already long before the World Cup”, a spokesperson told the newspaper and added: “We are prepared for a successful outcome. In the case of a possible victory of the Germany national football team, first jerseys with the fourth star will be commercially available in the course of next week.” (It has to be mentioned that Adidas is also prepared for a victory by Argentina.)

Update (2014-07-13): Germany were, indeed, crowned world champions for the fourth time.

A Trail Guide to Publishing Success

Are you currently conducting conceptual, qualitative, or survey research? Are you also aiming to publish the results in a top journal? Then I have some tips for you that could bring you one step closer to your goal. These tips can be found in a recent JBL editorial: A Trail Guide to Publishing Success: Tips on Writing Influential Conceptual, Qualitative, and Survey Research. Herein, the authors identify and describe agreed-upon basics that can help to “(1) increase consistency in the review process, (2) reduce publication cycles, and (3) begin to roll back the length of articles”. For three types of research (conceptual, qualitative, and survey research), best practices are presented for crafting articles. I especially like a table with warning signs “that authors are wandering down a perilous path”, which can be used as a check list for your own research. These warning signs might also help reviewers to evaluate the quality of a manuscript.

Fawcett, S., Waller, M., Miller, J., Schwieterman, M., Hazen, B., & Overstreet, R. (2014). A Trail Guide to Publishing Success: Tips on Writing Influential Conceptual, Qualitative, and Survey Research. Journal of Business Logistics, 35 (1), 1-16 DOI: 10.1111/jbl.12039

The Science of Sustainable Supply Chains (Guest Post by Dara O’Rourke, UC Berkeley)

My guest post today comes from Dara O’Rourke. In his recent Science article, The Science of Sustainable Supply Chains, Dara argues that the field of supply chain management needs to significantly improve and integrate sustainability measurement systems and decision-support tools.

The science of sustainability measurement has progressed alongside efforts to advance supply chain traceability, impact assessment, and aggregation of data into sustainability indicators. Advances in life-cycle assessment (LCA) and product “footprinting” are increasingly being deployed in efforts to turn data into decision-support tools for global brands and retailers. However, the speed and dynamism of modern supply chains creates challenges for incorporating sustainability data into sourcing decisions. In addition, the use of divergent methodologies, data sets, and system boundaries have led to confusion across assessment initiatives. In order for these systems to generate accurate sustainability assessments, there is a need for consistent LCA inventory data and common data sets for up-stream activities; consistent life-cycle impact factors; better uncertainty analysis; localization of LCA data sets; modeling of nonlinear responses and ecosystem dynamics; and improved systems for valuing ecosystem services. Better data, decision-support tools, and incentives are needed to move from simply managing supply chains for costs, compliance, and risk reduction, to predicting and preventing unsustainable practices.

Dara O’Rourke is a professor of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the co-founder of GoodGuide, Inc. which recently launched PurView, a supply chain sustainability data platform for retailers and brands. You can follow Dara on twitter @DaraORourke.

O’Rourke, D. (2014). The Science of Sustainable Supply Chains. Science, 344 (6188), 1124-1127 DOI: 10.1126/science.1248526

Logistics Trend Radar 2014

Trend research helps academics and managers to discover topics that are interesting and important alike. DHL has now published the 2014 edition of its Logistics Trends Radar. Trends discussed in this new report include (1) omni-channel logistics, which refers to “[t]he integration of different offline and online shopping channels making use of interactive eTags with personalized content and integrating social media and mobile devices”, (2) anticipatory logistics, which involves “[t]he big data analysis of customer product searches, shopping histories, wish-lists and even cursor movements in order to send a shipment even before the customer places an order” and (3) crypto payment, which is focused on “universal payment systems that allow global cross-currency payments to clear in seconds, support any unit of value [...] and make room for new pricing models”. These trends provide flags for the logistics world of the future. Let us get prepared – both in academia and in management practice.

Ranking Master’s Programs in Supply Chain Management

Finding the right Master’s program can be a difficult exercise. In spite of their sometimes oversimplifying nature, rankings can provide a first indication to make this exercise a bit easier. One of such rankings is the 2013/2014 Eduniversal Best Masters Ranking, provided by SMBG, a French consulting company, and based on a global survey of recruiters, students and representatives of academic institutions. And here comes the Top 5 of Master’s programs in supply chain management: (1) Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands: MSc in Supply Chain Management, (2) Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria: Master of Science in Supply Chain Management, (3) KEDGE Business School, France: MSc Global Supply Chain Management – ISLI, (4) Purdue University, United States: MBA in Global Supply Chain and Logistics, (5) Copenhagen Business School, Denmark: MSc in Economics and Business Administration – Supply Chain Management. The full list can be found on the webpage of Eduniversal Best Masters Ranking in Supply Chain and Logistics.

The State of the Retail Supply Chain

When we talk about supply chain management, we often intuitively take the perspective of the manufacturing industry. However, if the ultimate business objective of supply chain management is to satisfy the final consumer, it becomes clear that we should not forget about the special and major role the retail industry has in achieving this objective and, thus, consider their perspective. A new JDA-sponsored report, The State of the Retail Supply Chain (pdf), has been jointly developed by Auburn University and the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA). “The study reveals that retailers are investing in resources that will fuel revenue growth, support expansion of omni-channel fulfillment options, and harness big data for more accurate demand planning. The results also highlight the need for retailers to focus on supply chain talent management, network growth, and resource optimization.” These results mirror several of the results we have found in our report Trends and Strategies in Logistics and Supply Chain Management.

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