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Supply Chain Resilience 2021

In association with The Times, Raconteur has recently published a very insightful report, entitled Supply Chain Resilience 2021. It covers many interesting stories. For example, the report urges us to rethink just-in-time ordering, because “the global semiconductor shortage has highlighted the pitfalls of procuring parts right at the moment they’re needed”. Another interesting article in the report asks what the supply chain industry can learn from the Greensill Capital collapse: “Greensill Capital, the ill-fated provider of supply chain finance, claimed to be offering vital support for hard-pressed small firms, but is SCF all that good for SMEs?” A third article I would like to highlight is about net-zero logistics: “The decarbonisation of supply chains is as critical to [a country’s] net-zero ambitions as it is difficult to achieve, but innovations are emerging to address the problem areas of air freight, shipping and road haulage.” Much of the report is in line with my own view of resilience.

Webinar: “Supply Chain Transformation for a Sustainable Future”, September 8, 2021

How can innovation and new business models transform global supply chains in the transition to a sustainable economy? On September 8, I look forward to joining Juliane Reinecke (King’s College London), together with our speakers from Anglo American and the World Economic Forum, to discuss this topic in a webinar on Supply Chain Transformation for a Sustainable Future. Please register at: https://cbs.nemtilmeld.dk/300/

Why Is the SCM Discipline So Silent About the Climate Crisis?

The Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was released today. Bringing together the latest advances in climate science, it addresses the most updated physical understanding of the climate system. Even without this new IPCC report, it should be clear that our planet is in an existential crisis: The scale and intensity of the recent floods in Germany have broken all records and the ongoing fires in Greece have reached biblical proportions; Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said these fires showed “the reality of climate change”. Devastating fires are also raging in Russia, Italy, Turkey, and various other places. Attribution studies show that the recent record-breaking heatwaves in Siberia and Western North America would have been impossible without man-made climate effects (Ciavarella et al., 2020; Philip et al., 2021). Much of the greenhouse gas emissions are generated in global supply chains. Possible solutions to the climate crisis, thus, include new supply chain structures, processes, and business models. Yet, despite the existential threat to our species from this crisis, our discipline has so far been strangely silent. Therefore, I hope that as many SCM scholars as possible will now read the 42-page Summary for Policymakers of the new IPCC report from cover to cover. Our discipline simply cannot continue to ignore the elephant in the room.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2021): Summary for Policymakers. In: Climate Change 2021: the Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Geneva, Switzerland. https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg1/#SPM

Supply Chain Resilience

In our new article, Two Perspectives on Supply Chain Resilience (Wieland & Durach, 2021, p. 316), we provide a new definition of supply chain resilience:

Supply chain resilience is the capacity of a supply chain to persist, adapt, or transform in the face of change.

Based on our observation that SCM scholars have often taken an engineer’s perspective to interpret supply chain resilience, we argue that it needs to be complemented with a social–ecological perspective. Our discipline is surprisingly isolated from the ongoing resilience debates in other fields, such as ecology and urban science. Supply chain resilience is not just about “bouncing back” and persistence, as the engineer’s view implies. Supply chain resilience promises to be about “bouncing forth”, adaptation, and transformation. It is time to study the assumptions we make about the supply chain more explicitly. The supply chain is not only an engineered system that needs to be stabilized, as it may be the case with a subway system. It is a fluid system that contains social actors and is anchored in our complex world.

Wieland, A., & Durach, C. F. (2021). Two Perspectives on Supply Chain Resilience. Journal of Business Logistics, 42 (3), 315–322. https://doi.org/10.1111/jbl.12271

Food Supply Chain Emissions

The importance of food supply chain emissions has increased. According to a study, entitled Food Systems Are Responsible for a Third of Global Anthropogenic GHG Emissions, recently published in Nature Food by Monica Crippa et al. (2021), our food systems emit 34% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions every year. It turns out that “[t]he largest contribution came from agriculture and land use/land-use change activities (71%), with the remaining were from supply chain activities: retail, transport, consumption, fuel production, waste management, industrial processes and packaging”. What is remarkable about this study is the level of detail and size of the dataset, called EDGAR-FOOD, which identifies the sources of greenhouse gas emissions across the entire food production and supply chain. One of the coauthors argues that “[a]ny policy decision requires a good and robust evidence base”, hoping that “EDGAR-FOOD will be helpful in identifying where action to reduce food system greenhouse gas emissions is most effective”.

Crippa, M., Solazzo, E., Guizzardi, D., Monforti-Ferrario, F., Tubiello, F. N., & Leip, A. (2021). Food Systems Are Responsible for a Third of Global Anthropogenic GHG Emissions. Nature Food, 2, 198–209. https://doi.org/10.1038/s43016-021-00225-9

Critical Engaged SCM Research

The Journal of Supply Chain Management is doing an excellent job of stretching the boundaries of our discipline. I know from various conversations with colleagues that I am not the only fan of the journal. I would like to give an example of a very powerful recent JSCM paper: Touboulic, McCarthy, & Matthews (2020). It is entitled Re-Imagining Supply Chain Challenges Through Critical Engaged Research. The authors explore “how engaged research can support the development of the theory and practice of supply chain management (SCM) and present critical engaged research as an extended form of engaged research”. Check out the following video from the authors explaining their vision of critical engaged SCM research.

Net-Zero Challenge: The Supply Chain Opportunity

A new World Economic Forum report, entitled Net-Zero Challenge: The Supply Chain Opportunity and co-authored with Boston Consulting Group, showcases “the opportunity that all companies have for huge climate impact through action to decarbonize global supply chains”. This report argues that addressing supply-chain emissions enables many companies to impact “a volume of emissions several times higher than they could if they were to focus on decarbonizing their own direct operations and power consumption alone”. Among the major findings of the report: (1) Many companies can multiply their climate impact by decarbonizing supply chains; (2) Eight supply chains account for more than 50% of global emissions; (3) Net-zero supply chains would hardly increase end-consumer costs; (4) But: decarbonizing supply chains is hard. The report contains a step-by-step guide, which shows nine major initiatives every company can undertake. These initiatives were identified through interviews with a large number of global companies that, according to the authors, lead the way in reducing supply-chain emissions.

Personal Predictions for Supply Chain Management in 2021

The pandemic has caused a great deal of suffering to many people. More than ever, the crisis made the general public aware of the importance of supply chain management. In the beginning, many realized that supply chain disruptions can create problems with supplies of food, face masks, and medicine. Later, many recognized the importance of functioning SCM for vaccine distribution. Most importantly, the crisis teaches us that we have to leave outdated narratives behind. Much has been questioned, many new ideas have emerged. This crisis could therefore turn into an opportunity for the necessary societal transformation. It might just be a foretaste of the much more existential crises that lie ahead. If lockdowns and vaccinations are answers to the pandemic, then the answers to the climate and biodiversity crises are what? Many of these answers might be found in our global supply chains. Identifying them could be an important leadership opportunity for SCM in 2021. Now is the time for the SCM community to positively shape the future!

What the 2020 Nobel Prize Means for SCM

This year’s Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics goes to Paul R. Milgrom and Robert B. Wilson “for improvements to auction theory and inventions of new auction formats”. Wilson “developed the theory for auctions of objects with a common value – a value which is uncertain beforehand but, in the end, is the same for everyone”. Examples for this include the volume of minerals in a particular area and the future value of radio frequencies. Milgrom “formulated a more general theory of auctions that not only allows common values, but also private values that vary from bidder to bidder”. He demonstrated that an auction format “will give the seller higher expected revenue when bidders learn more about each other’s estimated values during bidding”. I am sure their work will now attract even more attention in the SCM discipline, because auctions already play an important role in many supplier–buyer relationships. Let us not forget the important work on auctions that has already been conducted in our discipline, for example by Wagner & Schwab (2004), Hartley and her coauthors (2006) and Carter & Kaufmann (2007), to name just a few.

Risk, Resilience, and Rebalancing in Global Value Chains

The McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) has recently published a new report: Risk, Resilience, and Rebalancing in Global Value Chains. The authors show that becoming more resilient does not have to mean sacrificing efficiency. Their research highlights the many options for strengthening resilience. They argue that “[companies] have an opportunity to emerge from the current crisis more agile and innovative.” They also write: “Intricate supplier networks that span the globe can deliver with great efficiency, but they may contain hidden vulnerabilities. Even before the COVID‑19 pandemic, a multitude of events in recent years temporarily disrupted production at many companies. Focusing on value chains that produce manufactured goods, this research explores their exposure to shocks, their vulnerabilities, and their expected financial losses. We also assess prospects for value chains to change their physical footprint in response to risk and evaluate strategies to minimize the growing cost of disruptions.” I found this report to be very insightful.