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APICS Supply Chain Management Now

Sustaining Green Initiatives

By APICS CEO Abe Eshkenazi CSCP, CPA, CAE - August 16, 2013

Last week I saw some interesting yet disappointing statistics from AlixPartners’ “2013 Executive Survey on Supply Chain Sustainability.” While the majority of respondents agree that sustainability increasingly is becoming important to customers and company leaders, cost still ranks as the primary motivator for green efforts.

The firm surveyed 150 senior-level executives in businesses across the United States and Europe. Although 72 percent of respondents said their companies have sustainability policies or objectives, 84 percent reported that lower costs are more important to customers than improved environmental impact.

For executives that noted their companies are making efforts toward more sustainable supply chains, the top two green practices are recycling raw materials and consolidating less-than-truckload shipments. One surprising revelation is that companies in the United States and Europe alike are not employing nearshoring as a way to green their supply chains: Only 7 percent of respondents indicated they used it in their supply chain sustainability efforts.

Despite all the mixed messages regarding sustainable supply chain efforts, AlixPartners reports that “companies that can implement cost-effective supply chain sustainability improvement strategies and effectively market them to customers will have a competitive advantage.”

Going green for the long term

Consider the following definition of sustainability: “In operations and supply chain management, sustainability is the idea that business can help ensure that markets, commerce, technology, and finance advance in ways that benefit economies, societies, ecosystems, and stakeholders in general—or at a minimum, do no harm—and contribute to a more maintainable and inclusive global economy.”

The definition appears in the APICS Operations Management Body of Knowledge Framework, and it’s no accident it is located in the strategy section of the reference. Are supply chain leaders thinking about long-term strategy when it comes to sustainability? What about competitive advantage?

APICS 2013 features an entire learning path dedicated to sustainability. There you can join APICS magazine “Working Green” author Antonio Luis Galvao Costa, CSCP, as he discusses “Sustainability in an Efficiency-Focused World.” Galvao is the vice president of supply chain—global I&L business partner for Diversey, now part of Sealed Air, and in his career he has addressed short-term pressures while focusing on long-term gains in competitive advantage.

Galvao is just one of the experts speaking at APICS 2013, and it’s not too late to register for this premier event, September 29–October 1, 2013, in Orlando, Florida. I’ll see you there.

Questions for discussion

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