Tag Archives: unilever

2010 Green Supply Chain Awards Recognize Companies for Innovation, Efficiency, Environmental Performance.

17 Nov

Last week, the Supply & Demand Chain Executive magazine announced the recipients of its 2010 Green Supply Chain Awards.  These awards recognize companies that are making sustainability a core part of their supply chain strategies.

This is quite an impressive list and perhaps it shows that “green supply chain” as an integral function in business operations may be cementing itself as a new “business as usual”.  Why?  I have spoken repeatedly about how small to midsized companies are being pressured by primary customers, or original equipment manufacturers are seeing trade barrier blockage due to emerging rules and regulations, and how advancements in accounting for corporate social responsibility effort are on the rise, to name a few.

 “The purpose [of the Green Supply Chain Awards], according to Andrew K. Reese, editor, Supply & Demand Chain Executive is to “highlight a range of strategies and solutions that companies are employing to incorporate sustainability into the supply chain,” Reese said. “Our readers can use this information as a baseline to assess their own efforts in this regard.”  Through an online nominations process, submissions were reviewed based on the clarity and content of the sustainability and related supply chain management goals and strategies, implementation measures taken and performance results to date.

From among the nominated companies Supply & Demand Chain Executive selected those firms that “stood out for their projects to incorporate sustainability objectives into their own supply chains or to enable sustainability in their customers’ supply chains”.  Recipients ran the gamut from logistics and transportation companies (Maersk, DHL, YRC, CaseStack, Penske, Unisourse, Evergreen), , airlines and railways (Norfolk Southern, Cathay Pacific), clothing and footwear apparel (Timberland, Puma), healthcare (Kaiser Permanente), pharmaceuticals (Novartis), retail office supplies (OfficeMax), software and enterprise systems applications (Syspro, Cisco), among others.

Past recipients like Schneider Electric implemented a number of measures through its supply chain designed to manage the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemical Substances (REACH) law entered into force in the European Union in June 2007. Taking proactive action with its suppliers avoided costly disruptions in its operations.

At D.W. Morgan Co. last year, the company introduced iPhone-based mobile communications system, and with it managed to eliminate roughly 50,000 paper way bills annually.

Finally, 2009 winner Conexant Systems consolidated its hubs to two major locations in Singapore and Taiwan.  This consolidation allowed the company to allowing it to mix-and-match its chip sets at those locations, leading to significant reduction and reuse of packing materials, and reduced customer shipment frequency (by up to 75 percent).  Now that is efficient!

These examples  demonstrate how viewing at sustainability as a vital business risk management tool can be effective at all points in the product value chain- from Sourcing/Procurement, to Product Fulfillment/Logistics, Operations, Product Lifecycle Management Design , and other areas of the product value chain.

On top of the SDCE Green Awards list, Inbound Logistics named its Top 50 Green Partners list earlier this year (some of the third party logistics and freight companies are also listed on the more recent SDEC list I might add).  Visionaries every one of them for being innovative and sustainable without negatively impacting their bottom line.  I encourage you to look over the list and the great accomplishments each of these manufacturers and supply chain partners have achieved.

There are a myriad of “boots on the ground” examples where companies have tackled operational efficiency and optimization and managed to reduce their environmental footprint and pare costs of production and product distribution.  All it takes is innovation, a solid cross functional team, leadership support and the will to finish the job. Perhaps next year, your company will make the list.

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Redwood Forests Provide a Clue to Business Sustainability and a Greener Supply Chain

26 Oct

Thoreau did it.  So did Carter and Brezhnev, and Reagan and Gorbachev too.  They all took a walk in the woods, like I did on a recent weekend…to explore and resolve internal and external issues.  My hike took place in the coastal redwood forests of the Santa Cruz Mountains on the central California Coast.  A hike through these beautiful groves of ancient redwoods is truly an awe-inspiring, reflective experience. Redwood forests are complex ecosystems. From the tallest trees in the world to the tiniest animal, the whole forest is a working system in a very delicate balance. Everything has a role to play in this forest.

Coastal Redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) are also known for their resistance to fire.  They are protected by a very thick bark that lacks the highly flammable resin of other tree species. These resilient trees in some cases, can live for more than 2,000 years, making them one of the oldest tree species in the world. Also, unlike most trees, redwoods lack a taproot. Instead, they have a shallow root system that can extend up to 100 hundred feet outward, forming a network of connected root systems with other trees. But despite the connected roots, high winds and/or flooding can bring these massive trees to the ground.

Now substitute the word “forest” with “supply chain”, “tallest tree” with “largest company” and tiniest animal with “smallest supplier”, and you hopefully get where I am going with this post.

I mentioned in prior posts that to make progress on environmental issues in organizations and in supply chain management, organizations must understand that they’re part of a larger system. Fifth Discipline and The Necessary Revolution author Peter Senge makes valid claims that organizations are in a better competitive position if they understand the larger system that they operate within and to work with people you haven’t worked with before.  Like a forest, where all parts depend on the other, if the balance is upset, there can be chaos and poor ecosystem health.  A supply chain is in effect a business ecosystem.  And a supply chain functions the same way as a redwood, in that it has interconnected roots rather than one strong taproot, but can be blown down by external forces that it may not be able to control.

The Concept of Business Ecosystems

Author James Moore developed and popularized the strategic concept of business ecosystems in his 1996 book The Death of Competition: Leadership and Strategy in the Age of Business Ecosystems. According to Moore, a generic business ecosystem is defined as the economic and social environment that consists of organizations, individuals, regulatory structures and controls, government organizations, customers, competitors, suppliers, and the many entities with which a business interacts. The principal purpose of the business ecosystem is to align its members towards a shared vision that is greater than the sum of its parts.  Business ecosystem value is created by the combination of participants and their contributions – and their role within the ecosystem to enable the achievement of a combined vision or goal.

Many organizations have sought ways to deliver greater product and customer value through innovative supply chain solutions. The common link is that customers’ receive value from a whole solution, which takes into account all value chain contributions.  Think HP, Microsoft, Cisco, IBM.  Traditional high tech companies.  But this thinking extends to consumer product and apparel manufacturers (Herman Miller, Procter and Gamble, Unilever, Nike, Keen, Patagonia) and major retailers like Walmart, Starbucks, Kohls.  The list grows weekly.  Each of these organizations have created business ecosystems through redefining the nature of the value for the client.  They have further created new competitive environments, with new rules and practices that account for sustainability and that challenge their industry norms through green supply chain innovation.

While my recent post called out many large companies for being procrastinators and laggards, I continue to applaud the industry leaders who’ve seen how each tree (supplier) contributes to a stronger and healthier forest (supply chain).

So go take a walk in the woods.  Breathe the air, take in the silence…and think of ways that you can help your company refocus its sustainability efforts and supply chain health for future generations to enjoy.

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.

Sustainability, Peter Senge, and the Necessary (Supply Chain) Revolution.

29 Sep

I just finished reading an interview with Peter Senge in the October Harvard Business Review.  Senge, for those of you that are unfamiliar, founded the Society for Organizational Learning, is a faculty member at MIT Sloan School of Management, and the author the The Fifth Discipline and The Necessary Revolution.  Senge maintains that to make progress on environmental issues, organizations must understand that they’re part of a larger system. Senge also makes a great point that companies will be in a better competitive position if they understand the larger system that they operate within and to work with people you haven’t worked with before. And while these two skills might seem distinct, in practice they’re interwoven. This is generally because systems are often too complicated for one person to grasp, crossing over many boundaries, both internal and external.  It’s these external boundaries that supply chain management issues begin to become apparent.

According to Senge, and as I mentioned last month in an earlier post about Starbucks, supply chains support whole systems thinking because they focus on the “nature of the relationships”. In the HBR article, Senge maintains that in most supply chains, 90% of them are still transactional.   Manufacturer or retailers still pressure upstream suppliers to get their costs down and little incentive is given toward innovating together.  This in turn erodes trust, however, as I have mentioned in this space, changes are everywhere.  Some companies like Starbucks, Coca-Cola and Walmart are also partnering with Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) and working in an open source manner with industry associations to innovate.   Successful ventures like Walmart/Environmental Defense Fund, Unilever/Oxfam and Coca-Cola/World Wildlife Fund are taking a collaborative approach to problem solving that drives innovation, breeds trust and industry “cred” and offer NGO’s a wider voice in addressing social, environmental performance issues in the supply chain.

But success in levering supply chains to impact environmental performance ultimate resides with corporate leaders.  Senge maintains to successfully engage thousands and thousands of people around the world from multiple organizations, you’ll need technical innovations, management innovations, process innovations, and cultural innovations.  And to effectively achieve these innovations take bold, often heretical leadership.  Organizations need to often take a step back from the details and “see the forest for the trees” (and hopefully not just see more trees!)

Research and practice in supply chain management is beginning to prove once and for all that supply chain as a “practice” offer unique learning opportunities related to triple bottom line based sustainability.  Learning experiences can range from relatively simple, incremental modifications to a current knowledge set – for example, new environmental regulations like REACH and RoHS – through to complex new approaches which will involve experimentation, small scale piloting and larger scale adaptation (such as those designed to help transporters manage their carbon emissions).

How does your company use “whole systems” thinking to manage supply chain issues? In coming weeks I will begin exploring supply chain learning and management through a sustainability lens, and share some findings from various manufacturing sectors.  It’s my hope that readers can then begin to understand how to apply whole systems approaches across enterprises in the supply chain.  It’s my grand plan that these ideas will gel into practical steps that add value and become a core operating principle in your company.

Corporate Social Responsibility & Sustainability- Their Place in a Green Supply Chain

3 Sep

As we here in the U.S. head into Labor Day weekend, a few news items caught my attention this week.  Each of these moves by large consumer and retail brands call to mind that there is a social side of the supply chain that adds organizational value and enhances brand reputation.  This has been made more evident recently by all the discussion regarding efforts to change U.S law to squeeze ‘conflict minerals’ associated with manufacturing of cell phones, batteries and other electronics (http://bit.ly/aaae1V)

Yesterday an article in Triple Pundit (The Most Important Assets are not on the Balance Sheet http://bit.ly/9fDfd5), noted that there are several “intangible” assets that create organizational value.  Each of these “assets” clearly can (and should in my opinion) extend up and down the supply chain.  First and foremost, a company’s primary assets are its employees. The article makes a valid point that employees are “the secret in the sauce and the glue that holds the corporation together”. Without employees to produce the goods, ensure product quality, move those goods efficiently and respond to customers, other company “assets” hold little value beyond their resell potential.  Next, a company’s reputation is its most important asset, particularly if the corporation publicly declares commitment to the triple-bottom-line. As reported by Jeffrey Hollender earlier this year, Fortune Magazine has estimated that a company’s reputation represents 75% of the total value of an average business. Finally, company mission provides the long term direction on what tangible assets to acquire, align with and where to divest. It’s said that the mission is the “organization’s compass and the written articulation of corporate soul”. The article argues the importance of corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a key intangible that can affect corporate success and bottom line performance.

In a similar vein, several companies stepped into the spotlight this week to shine the importance of social and environmental responsibility along the supply chain.

First, Nestle, the world’s biggest food group, announced late last week it would invest $487 million in coffee projects by 2020 to help the company optimize its supply chain http://bit.ly/dhDhGY.  Part of this plan includes the “Beyond the Cup” Nescafe Plan (http://bit.ly/9TnCIs): distributing 220 million high-yield, disease-resistant coffee plantlets to farmers by 2020, expanding technical assistance and buying directly from growers.  The company announced its plans to double the amount of Nescafe coffee bought directly from farmers and their associations.  All of the directly purchased green coffee will meet the company’s “4C” sustainability standards by 2015, with the support of the Rainforest Alliance and the 4C Association. The Rainforest Alliance is a nongovernmental organization that certifies farms for meeting sustainability criteria. The 4C Association, registered in Geneva, works towards sustainability in the coffee sector with a code of conduct and a verification system.   Over 90,000 tons of Nescafe coffee will be sourced under the principles of the Rainforest Alliance and the Sustainable Agriculture Network, a coalition of conservation groups, by 2020, the company said.   With apologies to Maxwell House and Kraft Foods, now that’s coffee that is “good to the last drop”!

In an upstream supply chain twist, Corporate Express/Australia has recently announced two major initiatives designed to encourage and assist businesses to become more environmentally and socially sustainable (http://bit.ly/bMB0U8).  The company has produced the “Go Green Guide” – for a Greener Workspace” and is focused on adopting sustainable procurement practices. The 100% recyclable Go Green Guide features:

  • Over 1500 environmentally preferable products across all lines of business;
  • Facts and figures demonstrating the effect all businesses can have on the environment by using environmentally preferable products;
  • Explanations of certification labels to help businesses make environmentally conscious purchasing decisions;
  • An action plan that provides businesses with easy steps on how to start their journey towards creating a greener workspace.

Finally, Unilever has come up with a new tool designed to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in its supply chain. http://bit.ly/aLZ9wF.  The company has developed The Cool Farm Tool.  The tool enables both supply chain managers and individual farmers to input data they have access to in their daily jobs, and uses this to calculate their total greenhouse gas emissions from fields, inputs, land use and land use change, it said.  “Farmers are then able to see the effect that making small actionable changes to their agricultural methods will have on their overall carbon emissions (such as using a different fertilizer, for example).”

Each of these examples underscores the “whole systems” approach that I’ve previously written about in this space and that underscore transparency and collaboration the “value” in the supply chain.  Each company recognizes that to be a truly sustainable organization, it must reach deep beyond its four walls to its suppliers and customers.

What is your company doing to engage it’s supply chain to enhance corporate social responsibility and implement environmentally responsible product stewardship- along the entire supply chain?  Happy Labor Day, everyone.

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

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.