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Building a Circular Supply Chain

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in collaboration with the Circular Supply Chain Network, recently published a white paper entitled Building a Circular Supply Chain. This publication addresses the transition from traditional, linear supply chains to circular ones, emphasizing the increased resilience they offer. Circular supply chains, characterized by distributed networks, multidirectional flows, and maximization of product and material use, provide a solution to the vulnerabilities of linear models. These supply chains not only help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and costs, but also minimize dependence on natural resource extraction. The white paper also highlights the key role of supply chain professionals in this transformation. They are responsible for managing the vast quantities of materials in the global economy and can influence the wider adoption of circular economy principles. The paper and an accompanying fact sheet highlight nine focus areas for supply chain leaders to facilitate this crucial transition, providing a comprehensive guide to redefining supply chains in today’s economic landscape.

Navigating the Climate Crisis in Apple’s Global Supply Chain

This article, entitled Apple’s Supply Chain Is on a Collision Course With Climate Change, argues that Apple’s supply chain faces major risks from the climate crisis. Despite its efforts to become carbon neutral, the regions where its suppliers are located are highly vulnerable to climate-related natural disasters and have carbon-intensive energy grids. I believe it would make a great case study for business school classes, using the following questions: 1. Identify and summarize the key challenges and risks Apple faces related to its supply chain in the context of the climate crisis. 2. Propose a risk management plan that Apple can implement (short-term and long-term strategies) to address these challenges. 3. Critically evaluate Apple’s recent carbon offset initiatives. 4. How can Apple “future-proof” its operations against escalating climate challenges? 5. How does Apple’s situation compare to other global electronics companies in terms of vulnerability to the climate crisis? What are the implications for the electronics industry?

Enhancing the Practical Relevance of SCM Research

One hundred years ago, practitioners were the lead researchers seeking to improve production processes. Iconic developments such as the Toyota Production System emerged from the real-world challenges faced by these early scientists. Fast forward to today, and there is a growing concern that our research is losing touch with real-world practice. Toffel’s (2016) article, Enhancing the Practical Relevance of Research, provides an insightful critique of the current state of operations (and supply chain) management research. In it, the author emphasizes that research should address real problems and offer solutions that practitioners can implement. The author suggests ways to bridge the gap between academia and practice: engaging with practitioners, site visits, working as a practitioner, and even forming consulting teams of practitioners. But making research relevant is not enough. Scholars must also ensure that their findings reach the right audience. The article calls on academic institutions – from journals to doctoral programs – to prioritize relevance alongside rigor.

Toffel, M.W. (2016). Enhancing the Practical Relevance of Research. Production and Operations Management, 25(9), 1493-1505.

The Tragedy of Deforestation in Our Global Supply Chains

Forests are not only a vital resource for maintaining a healthy and stable climate, but they also provide numerous ecosystem services such as biodiversity conservation, soil conservation, and water regulation. However, supply chains that rely on unsustainable practices are a major threat to the world’s forests. This BBC video emphasizes that immediate action is needed to address the drivers of deforestation and promote sustainable supply chains.

Tenth Anniversary of the Rana Plaza Disaster

Ten years ago, on April 24, 2013, the world was shocked by the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh. The tragedy claimed the lives of 1,134 garment workers and injured thousands more. The building housed several garment factories that supplied clothing to major global brands. Rana Plaza highlighted the dominant supply chain logic: that a T-shirt can only be sold at a very low price at the downstream end of the supply chain because the real cost is paid by the workers at the upstream end, who sacrifice their health or even their lives. In the aftermath, many apparel brands committed to improving working conditions in their supply chains. Yet, progress has been slow and uneven. Ten years on, there is still much to be done to ensure that garment workers are treated fairly and with dignity. As we remember the victims of the Rana Plaza tragedy, we, supply chain academics, have a crucial role to play in the transformation of fashion supply chains.

Circular Supply Chain Transformation

We have just released a new report, entitled Circular Supply Chain Transformation: Challenges, Opportunities, and Trade-Offs for Circular Smartphones and Computers. It highlights the importance, opportunities, and potential trade-offs associated with circular supply chains for electronic devices in a way that makes it easier for decision makers to understand and navigate the circular transformation. Importantly, the report emphasizes that everyone – from manufacturers and purchasers to distributors, recyclers, and policy makers – has a role to play in the transformation toward circular devices, and that it is possible to implement many of these circular initiatives in a way that reduces the environmental, social, and economic costs of electronic devices. By providing concrete examples and societal reflections, the report serves as a foundation and guide for decision-makers who want to reduce the negative impact of their electronic devices. The report is a result of the Reimagining Supply Chains Initiative – a collaborative research effort between Copenhagen Business School, Nordakademie, and Nordakademie Foundation.

The Dark Side of the Cobalt Supply Chain

Cobalt Wars is one of the most interesting documentaries I have seen recently. It looks at the supply chain of cobalt, a key ingredient in the batteries of our smartphones and electric cars, and the political, environmental and social challenges associated with that supply chain. (French with English subtitles, also available in German. Not available in all regions.)

Accelerating the Path to Net-Zero Supply Chains

The “No-Excuse” Framework to Accelerate the Path to Net-Zero Manufacturing and Value Chains is a new white paper that aims to provide businesses with the information they need to operationalize their commitments to reducing carbon emissions and addressing the climate crisis. The framework is intended to be a central tool for the World Economic Forum Industry Net Zero Accelerator initiative, which is designed to bring together leaders across industry sectors, academia, government, and civil society to jointly shed light on global insights and best practices for reducing emissions. The framework is divided into four stages: (1) build the foundations, (2) change the game internally, (3) drive systemic collaboration, and (4) make it simple, inclusive and exciting. Each stage of the framework consists of a combination of research-based insights, well-established action areas, and emerging themes. The goal of the framework is to be applicable across key industries and geographies. This white paper is the first output of the Industry Net Zero Accelerator initiative and further resources are available for chief executive officers at the Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders.

Personal Predictions for Supply Chain Management in 2023

As in previous years, I am making a prediction about what could be important topics in supply chain management research. Here are three predictions: (1) OpenAI has demonstrated the incredible potential of machine learning, and this will have numerous implications for the management of supply chains. It is important for our discipline to consider the potential and drawbacks of this technology at an early stage. (2) Supply chain resilience remains a critical issue. For example, the recent resurgence of Covid-19 cases in China could lead to the closure of ports and factories, which would disrupt global supply chains. This topic will continue to be relevant in the future. (3) The climate and biodiversity crises continue to worsen, and their solutions are closely tied to supply chains. Human-caused emissions and the destruction of rainforests are directly related to supply chains, and new laws, such as those in Germany and the EU, reflect this. I wish you all a Happy New Year 2023.

OpenAI and Its Impact on Supply Chain Management

OpenAI has attracted a lot of attention in recent weeks, and for good reason. The research institute, which focuses on developing artificial intelligence technologies and promoting their safe and responsible use, has made significant strides in advancing the field of AI. One area where OpenAI could have a significant impact is in the field of supply chain management. The ability to analyze large amounts of data quickly and accurately could be useful for optimizing supply chain processes, identifying inefficiencies, and making more informed decisions. However, there are also potential drawbacks to the use of AI in supply chain management. There is a risk that the technology could be used to automate jobs and potentially displace human workers. There are also concerns about the ethical implications of using AI in decision-making, such as the potential for bias in the algorithms that drive the technology. Overall, the use of AI in supply chain management has the potential to be both beneficial and detrimental. It is important for researchers and educators in this field to carefully consider the potential impacts of this technology and to develop strategies for addressing the challenges it presents. This blog post was generated using ChatGPT, a chatbot platform developed by OpenAI.