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How a Disruption in Gas Imports From Russia Could Affect Global Supply Chains

A few days ago, the G7 countries rejected Russian demands to pay for future gas supply in rubles. Robert Habeck, Germany’s Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, therefore activated the early warning stage of the country’s gas emergency plan yesterday. Today, Russian President Putin signed a decree halting gas supplies unless paid for in rubles. It is not yet clear what the consequences of this decree will be, as it also contains loopholes. However, what would happen if Russia really stopped exporting energy to Europe? A study conducted by leading economists, entitled What If? The Economic Effects for Germany of a Stop of Energy Imports From Russia, examines the economic impact on Germany. The authors are cautiously optimistic, but the effect will certainly ripple through numerous industrial supply chains. One can hardly imagine the global supply chain consequences if, for example, the world’s largest chemical company BASF had to stop its processes due to a lack of gas. It is now becoming apparent how dependent Germany has become as a result of its focus on Russia as the single source of supply and how urgent it is to switch to renewable energies even faster in order to minimize this dependency.

A War in the Middle of Europe

The world is shocked by the Putin regime’s war of aggression against Ukraine – a war in the middle of Europe. It almost seems to me that our species has climbed back into the trees. This war already has many impacts on supply chains, and further implications will only become apparent with a time lag. Instead of taking the long necessary step to expand renewable energies, many EU countries have relied on cheap oil and gas supplies from Russia for too many years. This omission is now taking its revenge by restricting the scope for sanctioning the aggressor. High-tech products also depend on raw materials (e.g., palladium and neon) from Russia and Ukraine. This certainly adds to the current shortage of chips. The effects of this war on food supply chains could be particularly dramatic. Russia supplies important potash fertilizers and many countries around the world are urgently dependent on wheat harvests from Ukraine. But the fields will remain fallow this year.

European Commission’s Directive on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence

Yesterday, the European Commission adopted a long-awaited Proposal for a Directive on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence. It aims to “set out a horizontal framework to foster the contribution of businesses operating in the single market to the respect of the human rights and environment in their own operations and through their value chains, by identifying, preventing, mitigating and accounting for their adverse human rights, and environmental impacts, and having adequate governance, management systems and measures in place to this end”. Importantly, the proposal covers the company’s own operations, their subsidiaries and their value chains (indirect and direct business relationships). It covers large companies (500 employees, €150 million net turnover worldwide) and additional companies operating in defined high impact sectors. I am sure many supply chain managers, not just in Europe, will have the 70-page document on their nightstand as required reading for the next few days.

Personal Predictions for Supply Chain Management in 2022

The year 2022 has been going on for quite a while. I see the following topics at the top of the agenda in both academia and business: First, the last few months have been characterized by a large number of supply chain hiccups. Missing chips in the automotive industry have become a symbol of this development. Therefore, supply chain resilience is more important than ever. Second, a lot is currently happening in the European Union in terms of supply chain laws. Stricter rules on supply chain liability are expected shortly, and several EU countries have recently pushed their legislation forward. Third, many companies are transforming their linear into circular supply chains, see the new DHL report entitled Delivering on Circularity. Finally, many companies are also concerned with net-zero goals – and more importantly with action plans for these goals. Many of these plans explicitly involve the supply chain. Although I am a bit late, I wish you a good supply chain year 2022.

What the 2021 Nobel Prize Means to SCM Research

This year’s Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics goes to David Card “for his empirical contributions to labour economics” and Joshua D. Angrist and Guido W. Imbens “for their methodological contributions to the analysis of causal relationships”. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences writes in a comprehensive article about the scientific background of this prize (PDF): “Taken together, […] the Laureates’ contributions have played a central role in establishing the so-called design-based approach in economics. This approach – aimed at emulating a randomized experiment to answer a causal question using observational data – has transformed applied work and improved researchers’ ability to answer causal questions of great importance for economic and social policy using observational data.” Similar to what is still widespread in SCM research today, the traditional approach to causal inference in economics relied on structural equation models at least until the 1980s, but, based on the laureates’ work on the local average treatment effect, natural experiments have become increasingly popular in economics. Unfortunately, almost no corresponding research exists in our discipline, but a certain number of natural experiments were carried out in related disciplines (e.g.; Lee & Puranam, 2017; Li & Zhu, 2021; Huang et al., 2021). Perhaps this Nobel Prize can serve as an inspiration for more natural experiments also in the SCM discipline?

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