Global Supply Chain Survey: Sustainability Efforts Can Move Balance Sheets from Red to Black (with a Little Green)

28 Oct

The eighth annual “Global Survey of Supply Chain Progress,” was released recently.  The poll was conducted by Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC), Supply Chain Management Review, The Eli Broad Graduate School of Management at Michigan State University, with assistance from The Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) and Supply Chain Europe Magazine.

This year’s survey gauged respondents present competencies and future plans in such areas as supply chain management policies and practices, supply chain continuity, and green and sustainability initiatives.  Understandably, with the down turn in the economy of the past couple of years, the results showed a mixed bag.  However, a key finding from the survey is that supply chain management (SCM) is now perceived by the vast majority of respondents as being of core business importance.  Leaders that implanted SCM practices that led to cost savings yield far greater results than the laggards…er, followers.  Nearly 77 percent of the respondents reported that SCM improvement and emphasis had increased over the past year, leading me and the surveyors to think that many companies may have been much worse off without SCM.

The Green Supply Chain Edge

Meanwhile, green supply chain initiatives indicated “lukewarm results” and once again, the most positive improvements reported resided mainly with the SCM leaders. A large number of respondents reported a modest but steady 3 to 4 percent annual savings, especially in areas of energy, transportation, and packaging.  Clearly, sustainability initiatives have a long ways to go before significant positive results are achieved. But as I see it, that small margin may just be the difference maker for many companies financial health.

The survey found that 49 percent saying they were currently implementing options and another 31 percent currently evaluating options.  When asked to judge performance from a sustainability perspective, the response was a typical bell shaped curve.  Nearly half of the respondents placed themselves squarely in the middle of the pack.

Kimberly-Clark Shows How Green Gets Done

Efficient supply chains are increasingly essential to maintaining prices and generating new revenue.  One example where efficiency has paid off handsomely, with additional environmental benefits is in the case of Kimberly-Clark- you know, the Kleenex folks (and so many other personal care products).   Kimberly-Clark is among those companies that successfully demonstrate that a focus on sustainable business practices goes hand-in-hand with cost reduction and efficiency.  Not only is the company designing and manufacturing products with a smaller environmental footprint, but they are getting smarter about how they transport their product.

According to i2 Technologies, a supply chain solutions provider, Kimberly-Clark is “ both reducing its environmental impact and running a lean and efficient supply chain, which in turn brings real benefit to its biggest customers, grocery retailers, and ultimately to consumers. Along with other initiatives designed to improve its impact on the environment, Kimberly-Clark has implemented i2 Transportation Management order fulfillment solutions in its European and North American operations that manage transportation pricing but have also reduced carbon dioxide (CO2) output. The company estimates that it’s saved over “£1 million, a reduction in mileage of 380,000 miles and a reduction in CO2 of as much as 540,000 kg”.

Perhaps Kimberly-Clarks CEO Tom Falk summed it all up: “”Because sustainability is a core value at Kimberly-Clark, we know that making better choices for the environment and society can many times mean making better choices for our business.”

The innovative example above and the recent CSC Global Survey demonstrate that small incremental gains can make a huge difference between being in the red or in the black on the balance sheets.

This post was originally published on my New Green Supply Chain Blog, which can be found at https://community.kinaxis.com/people/DRMeyer/blog

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