Sustainability & Supply Chains

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A New Perspective on Enterprise Resource Management

  • Opinion & Analysis
  • Read Time: 10 min 

Information systems are designed to help companies use enterprise resources more efficiently. But what if companies used information systems more broadly — not just to measure profits but also to account for the needs of people and the environment?

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The Trouble with Supply Chains

The UN’s Global Compact report identifies auditing the supply chain as the biggest obstacle to putting sustainability principle into practice. Companies simply don’t have enough information about suppliers’ sustainability practices to determine which links on the supply chain will provide the best outcome. But as global data sources become more all-encompassing — and companies’ analytics capabilities grow more sophisticated — that is changing.

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Delivering on the Promise of Green Logistics

The best way to reduce emissions and cut costs is to transport goods efficiently. So why aren’t more companies taking the steps that would get them there? In a set of three case studies, one of the key obstacle becomes clear: implementing logistics strategies to reduce emissions requires significant internal and external collaboration between companies, suppliers, and shippers. But as these case studies prove, undertaking complicated process changes can also produce significant rewards.

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Surprising Insights from Environmental Screenings

In the past decade, packaging supplier Greif, Inc. found its key industrial customers demanding more environmentally friendly products. Customers wanted environmental information, such as greenhouse gas emissions data, on Greif products. Greif turned to life-cycle assessment studies on core products such as steel, plastic and fiber containers to respond to the market and identify areas for improvement — and what they found surprised them.

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Sustainability Goals — Thinking About What Works and What Doesn’t

New research shows which sustainability practices have a statistically significant impact on the overall success of the sustainable value-chain — suppliers, distributors, and partners — initiatives measured, their cost savings, and their revenue impact. The leading practices that showed particular effectiveness were clustered around three areas: engagement, goals and standards, and outside expertise. Managers should focus on the practices that are proven to work, and stop wasting their efforts on reinventing the wheel.

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A New Mix: More Sustainable Beer from Better Water Practices

It’s only natural that a beer company would be concerned about water. It takes five liters of water, on average, to manufacture one liter of beer. When SABMiller mapped its water footprint and found that it took 45 liters of water to produce one liter of its beer in the Czech Republic, and 155 liters in South Africa, the company changed its water practices to make its beer more sustainable. An interview with SABMiller’s senior vice president of sustainable development explains how they did it.

Image courtesy of Official U.S. Navy Imagery/Flickr.
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Designing for Resilience

Designing for resilience can ensure that critical systems continue to operate despite increasing threats. The focus of any organization concerned with resilience should be on whatever assures the continuity of business operations and the systems in which they’re embedded. By defining a critical system — its components, boundaries, and functions — managers can begin to use “what-if” scenarios to determine which components, or combination of components, are most vulnerable.

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How Dell Turned Bamboo and Mushrooms Into Environmental-Friendly Packaging

At Dell, the sustainability team, working with suppliers and recyclers, has developed new compostable packaging materials made from bamboo and mushrooms. As John Pflueger, Principal Environmental Strategist, says, “It’s absolutely amazing.” Long a “pain point” for customers, the new lighter and compostable packaging is a big step forward, improving many sustainability metrics.

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Video: How Stonyfield and SAP Are Building A Sustainable Product Lifecycle

Jason Jay, sustainability expert at the MIT Sloan School of Management, speaks with the sustainability chiefs at Stonyfield and SAP to hear how both companies are approaching the problem of understanding product footprints. They emphasize the strong links between measuring product footprints and building a business case.

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Image courtesy of Flickr user jurvetson.

Improving Environmental Performance in Your Chinese Supply Chain

Multinational corporations are under growing pressure to make sure their contractors and subcontractors in China meet environmental standards. Yet traditional approaches to ensuring environmental, health and safety compliance, such as checklist audits, have proved problematic. This article recommends that organizations work closely with suppliers, providing incentives for identifying, disclosing and addressing problems and establishing collaborative relationships with NGOs and industry groups.

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Reducing Your Company’s Carbon Footprint — Through Logistics

  • Blog
  • Read Time: 2 min 

Trying to reduce your company's carbon footprint? MIT engineering professor David Simchi-Levi suggests taking a systematic look at the logistics involved in your supply chain -- and then carefully analyzing the data to understand the greenhouse gas emissions impact of your logistics choices, the MIT News Office reports.

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The Four-Point Supply Chain Checklist: How Sustainability Creates Opportunity

Supply chain executives are uniquely positioned to be able to see the whole ecology of a firm’s business, because they’re so close to all the pieces. This is especially true when it comes to matters of sustainability. This interview with Edgar Blanco, Research Director at the MIT Center for Transportation & Logistics, outlines the areas in which supply chain managers can immediately have a sustainability impact, including packaging, transportation, supplier engagement, and customer alignment.

Showing 1-14 of 14