Tag Archive | Supply Chain Sustainability

Understanding and Tackling Societal Grand Challenges through SCM Research

The Academy of Management Journal’s previous editorial team defined its term with a thematic emphasis on “grand challenges”, and called for research through editorials on a wide array of topics that explored global problems including climate change, aging societies, natural resources, societal resilience, digital workforce, digital money, and gender inequality among others, as well as methodological approaches with which to tackle them. They defined a grand challenge as “specific critical barrier(s) that, if removed, would help solve an important societal problem with a high likelihood of global impact through widespread implementation”. Certainly the most widely adopted grand challenges are the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations. Another example, not mentioned by the editors, are the planetary boundaries identified by Steffen et al. (2015). Following their emphasis, what could our discipline do to better understand and tackle societal grand challenges and maybe also in a more systematic way? Do we need to renovate our thematic and methodological portfolios? Some of these AMJ editorials can certainly be an inspiration for SCM research.

George, G., Howard-Grenville, J., Joshi, A., & Tihanyi, L. (2016). Understanding and Tackling Societal Grand Challenges through Management Research. Academy of Management Journal, 59 (6), 1880-1895. https://doi.org/10.5465/amj.2016.4007

The Supply Chain of Tomorrow

It is time for a new video! Future Insights Network’s CEO and Co-Founder, Maria P. Villablanca, recently talked to me about the supply chain of tomorrow. Enjoy watching the video…

What’s a Smartphone Made Of?

In this TED-Ed video, Kim Preshoff investigates the smartphone production: “As of 2018, there are around 2.5 billion smartphone users in the world. If we broke open all the newest phones and split them into their component parts, that would produce around 85,000 kg of gold, 875,000 of silver, and 40,000,000 of copper.” I really like the video, as it takes a supply chain perspective, and I can imagine to use it in my future SCM courses.

Balancing Efficiency and Resilience in Multimodal Supply Chains

In his new report, titled Balancing Efficiency and Resilience in Multimodal Supply Chains, McKinnon (2018) writes: “Over the past twenty years, supply chain resilience has become a hot topic in industrial, government and academic circles – for good reason. Business surveys and a mass of anecdotal evidence have revealed that supply chains have become more vulnerable to disruptions and the consequences of these disruptions become more severe. […] Despite this attention and research efforts, many companies are still at an early stage in the development and implementation of supply chain risk management strategies.” The author examines “how efficiency and resilience can be balanced in the management of multi-modal supply chains”. The author further “investigates the trade-off between supply chain resilience and efficiency, the approaches to sustainability in supply chain management, innovation and technological development, collaboration and alliances and risk mitigation”. The report summarizes findings from a Roundtable of the International Transport Forum held in April 2018. A call for papers deals with supply chain resilience.

McKinnon, A. (2018). Balancing Efficiency and Resilience in Multimodal Supply Chains. International Transport Forum Discussion Papers, OECD Publishing, Paris.

Assessing Tobacco’s Global Environmental Footprint

“Cigarette production and consumption have seen dramatic growth in recent decades and although the health effects of smoking are widely recognized, its impacts on the environment are largely overlooked”, the authors of a new World Health Organization report argue, which is titled Cigarette Smoking: An Assessment of Tobacco’s Global Environmental Footprint Across Its Entire Supply Chain (pdf). The report explicitly takes a supply chain perspective: “From tobacco cultivation and curing, to cigarette manufacturing, distribution, consumption and discarding, every stage in the global tobacco supply chain involves considerable resource inputs, and results in the production of wastes and emissions. Consequently, tobacco puts pressure on the planet’s already stressed natural resources and its fragile ecosystems, threatening the livelihoods and future development of communities around the world.” What I learned from the report is that “tobacco’s total environmental footprint is comparable to that of entire countries and its production is often more environmentally damaging than that of essential commodities such as food crops”.

Land Use in Food Supply Chains

New research published in Science (Poore & Nemecek, 2018) analyzes land use in food supply chains. An astounding 3.1 billion ha reduction in land use could be possible by excluding animal products from current diets. That is an area equivalent to Australia + China + European Union + United States. The author also shows that animal products use about 83% of the world’s farmland and contribute about 57% of food’s different emissions, despite providing only 18% of our calories. These findings demonstrate that we need to shift from “company thinking” to “supply chain thinking” if we want to see the full picture.Moving from current diets to a diet that excludes animal products has transformative potential, reducing food’s landuse by 3.1 billion ha (a 76% reduction) – an area equivalent to Australia, China, the European Union and the United States.

Poore, J. & Nemecek, T. (2018). Reducing Food’s Environmental Impacts through Producers and Consumers. Science, 360 (6392), 987–992. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aaq0216 (free download)

The Role of Circular Supply Chains in the Circular Economy

The circular economy is gathering momentum: In the future this model could, for example, mean that smartphones will not be sold and consumed anymore, but companies like Apple and Samsung will then keep scarce resources and sell a smartphone service to users instead of a product to consumers. These users will then be required to bring back the phone after a specified amount of time. California Management Review has now published a special issue on the circular economy. Several of the articles of that special issue refer to supply chains and supply chain management; and several of the authors have published in SCM journals before. This indicates that “supply chain thinking” and “circular thinking” are increasingly stimulating each other. I would even go so far to say that the 21st century’s supply chain management has to shift from linear to circular. This also has implications for our research. What we might need to re-think is whether the “chain” in “supply chain management” is still the right expression.

The European Meat Industry’s Environmental Catastrophe

A new research report, provided by Mighty Earth, argues that “[deforestation] is the result of a long supply chain that starts on the South American frontier and ends on European plates”. The report is titled The Avoidable Crisis. It reveals that a small group of companies controls the global agricultural trade: “These companies collectively control the majority of global grain trade […]. In addition to their role in trade, these companies also play a more direct role in driving ecosystem conversion by providing plantation owners with financing, fertilizer, infrastructure, and other incentives for new deforestation to expand their supply base. Given their outsized role, these companies have the power to insist that suppliers protect native ecosystems and land rights. But so far, these companies have prioritized reckless expansion over even easy conservation wins.” The authors argue that “[the] EU must send a strong signal to the market by requiring that companies implement measures for transparency and traceability into their supply chains”.

Teaching Case – Everything Is Connected: A New Era of Sustainability at Li & Fung

The Case Centre has recently announced the winners of their 2018 global awards and competitions. Already last year, the winning case in the Production and Operations Management category was closely related to supply chain management (see my previous post, Zara: The World’s Largest Fashion Retailer). This is also the case for the 2018 category winner, which is titled Everything Is Connected: A New Era of Sustainability at Li & Fung. It was written by Hau L. Lee and Sheila Melvin. The case deals with the way how Li & Fung, a Hong-Kong-based trading company, reacted to the Rana Plaza disaster and other such events to ensure sustainable supply chain management. Li & Fung’s Head of Learning and Development is right when saying: “The hard part is to make sustainability part of our DNA, to get 27,000 people to understand that this is now as fundamental to us as the fact that we source globally.” Therefore, this case could be a great building block for future SCM courses!

Business Success through Sustainable SCM

Are business success and sustainability contradictory? A new white paper by Schmidpeter & Bungard, sponsored by DHL, is rather optimistic and argues that both goals can instead be mutually beneficial. The paper is titled Unlock the True Value of Your Supply Chain: Business Success through Sustainable Supply Chain Management. The authors state: “Sustainable Supply Chain Management (SSCM) can help drive positive business change by helping companies save costs, strengthen ‘license to operate’ and generate additional revenue streams.” But the authors also acknowledge that “[a]lthough there are good tools and best practices available for integrating sustainability into your business, there is no silver bullet that will let you realize the benefits of SSCM overnight”. They also acknowledge that the Sustainability department should not do it alone: “The topic of sustainability should be on the agenda for every leader and employee within a company”. The white paper might partly be quite optimistic, but it provides several good practices from business reality.