Tag Archives: herman miller

Green Supply Chain Management Requires Less Procrastination & More Innovation, Leading by Example

15 Oct

Admit it- we’ve all done it.  Procrastinated. Waited until the brink of a bad outcome.  Not taken the time to thoughtfully, proactively, pragmatically complete an assignment, implement a new ‘leading edge’ technology or launch a disruptively innovative initiative.  Instead we react, overlook great ideas for something less, produce a less articulate response to an inquiry, or implement a semi thought out idea.

Even in the business world, whether in supply chain management or in adoption of the ‘triple bottom line’ in business strategy, there are leaders and there are laggards.  Innovators and adopters.  I was reminded of this when I ran across a research paper that was published in “Sustainability” Journal this past spring.  The article, “Supply Chain Management and Sustainability: Procrastinating Integration in Mainstream Research” presents the results of a study conducted by several university researchers in The Netherlands. The researchers noted that “procrastination can be viewed as the result of several processes, determined not only by individual personality, but also by the following factors:

  • availability of information;
  • availability of opportunities and resources;
  • skills and abilities; and
  • dependence on cooperation with others.”

In addition, in a review of more than 100 additional studies on procrastination, the following additional items were found to likely to influence procrastination:

  • the nature of the task, and
  • the context of the issue.

It is these last two issues that the authors raised as primary reasons for procrastination, especially regarding embedding sustainability research and practices in supply chain operations and management. The authors found that “the nature of the task”, because it’s often complex and requires many internal and external stakeholders, and therefore tends to “generate conflicts”.  Also, the roots of supply chain management and related research are generally grounded in operations management and operations/logistics.  Therefore, the researchers noted that environmental and social aspects of supply chain management are foreign,  “out of context” and not wholly integrated into supply chain management and research.  I would also argue that dependence on others is a key issue as well given the widespread, outward facing challenges associated with supply chain coordination.

So what this means is that if a concept is foreign or unfamiliar or “out of context” it’s either set aside as being non-value added.  Also because of some of the complexities often inherent in grasping and applying sustainability concepts, some just throw up their hands and say “I’ve no time for this”.  This in turn can lead to procrastination in the real-world application of sustainability in supply chain management.

In a study conducted during the height of the recession (late 2009), GTM Research found that despite its growing prominence, “sustainability is not a core part of most companies’ strategies today or …a prime driver of their supply chain agendas.”  The study found that sustainability lies in the middle of the pack of supply chain priorities today, behind cost cutting.  The graphic presents a “leaders vs. laggards” scenario.  The 23% difference between leaders and laggards related to sustainability initiative implementation is large and underscores the work that remains to advance the “value proposition” for sustainability in supply chain management.

Prior posts have described positive aspects of adopting whole systems-based, collaborative and transparent approaches to sustainable sourcing and manufacturing,  and green logistics.  Sustainable thinking in supply chain management also value chain practices supports environmental and social responsibility – so why aren’t more companies adopting these methods?

I know who many of the leaders are in implementing greener and more sustainable supply chain practices in their respective markets and I’ve written about them here – Walmart, HP, Dell, Patagonia, Nike, Intel, Cisco Systems, IBM, Herman Miller, Proctor & Gamble, Unilever, Campbell Soup, Timberland, Danisco, UPS, FedEx, Staples immediately come to mind.  Laggards? Well you know who you are, but I am not pointing fingers.

While the future looks bright for a “greener” perspective in supply chain management, there still remains a stigma that a sustainable value chain is a costly one. In reality, there may be some up-front costs associated with some initiatives- very true.  But companies must take a longer view and pencil out the ROI of supply chain sustainability best practices. And its possible by taking a leap and reaping the benefits.  I’m confident that those organizations who wish to lead (and stop procrastinating!) will find a great many benefits including:

  1. less resource intensive product designs,
  2. better supply chain planning and network optimization,
  3. better coordinated warehousing and distribution and
  4. more advanced and innovative reverse logistics options.

Those who choose to lead will realize significant cost savings, improved efficiencies and a more secure and profitable future.

Give it a whirl- what have you got to lose- or should I say, gain?!  C’mon, tell this community what you think.  We’re listening.

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Sustainable Sourcing – Transparency & Collaboration to Create ‘Reciprocal Value’

12 Aug

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

In the new ‘green’ economy, disclosure and transparency is king. In fact, consumer demand, especially in the retail sector is driving a new “business as usual”, where green indexes that display the environmental footprint of a product are rapidly becoming commonplace. Sourcing sustainable materials can mean, therefore, putting added pressure on suppliers to share sensitive information and help create green products—or risk being cut out of the supply chain altogether. So was the conclusion in a recent article on how many consumer products manufacturers are literally “going the distance” to source sustainable ingredients (http://bit.ly/a1a1Bw). From specialty products like Dr. Bronner’s Magical Soap to larger products manufacturers like Unilever and Method, manufacturers are revisting the design process to source less resource intensive, more environmentally benign ways to manufacture their products. Not only is this good for the environment, but clearly better for companies bottom lines.

A classic case of disclosure in the supply chain came recently with Herman Miller, the popular furniture manufacturer. Years ago the company embarked on the sustainability path, because they clearly saw a business advantage but felt it was the “right thing to do.” The company launched its ‘Perfect Vision’ campaign in 2003, which included green goals such as no landfill waste, no hazardous waste, no air or water emissions from manufacturing, and the use of 100% green energy, all by the year 2020. Simply put, the company couldn’t reach those goals without engaging over 200 materials and components suppliers in managing their own environmental footprints global supply chain.

The company chose to take a holistic approach to design, raw materials, production methods, packaging, shipping, recycling, and even marketing–across the entire value chain. They reached down four full tiers in their supply chain, crafting hundreds of non-disclosure agreements to understand the true environmental footprints of each and every component of their products.  They knew that to be a truly sustainable company, they had to green its entire supply chain. This obviously has not happened overnight, but Herman Miller has stayed the course.  They embraced transparency and openness but did so with their value chain in a collaborative, win-win manner.  To date nearly half of the 200 plus suppliers are in alignment to meet Millers waste reduction goals with 10 more years to cross the finish line.  It’s clear to me that most companies are not lagging behind to meet these goals and are stepping up to stay ahead and to stay competitive.

Successful supply chains are based on mutually beneficial relationships between suppliers and customers, so it is important to extend the scope of sustainability value creation by sharing intelligence and know-how about environmental and emerging regulatory issues and emerging technologies, so that suppliers and customers can collaboratively strengthen each other’s performance. Doing so aids in distributing cost of ownership, enhancing product differentiation, and ensuring customer loyalty.

Collaboration and transparency then creates a sort of “reciprocal value creation” in the supply chain, where both suppliers and customers are better equipped and enabled to recognize and quantify each others value contributions to a successful, green supply chain.