APICS is the premier professional association for supply chain management.

Sustainability Is Gaining Ground

by APICS CEO Abe Eshkenazi CSCP, CPA, CAE | N/A 2012 | 0 | 0

How does any new initiative become accepted in an organization? It often takes significant time and effort before a process, ideology, or strategy becomes an integral part of the business. I continue to read about companies struggling with change management, whether that means beginning a new lean program, redesigning a process, or enabling employees to take ownership and become stakeholders in key functions. Resistance can occur at every turn: in the teaching of new methods, in adjusting habits and behavior, and__perhaps most critically__in ensuring that changes become a lasting part of company culture.

However, at least one form of organizational change is taking root at many businesses. According to a study by MIT Sloan Management Review and the Boston Consulting Group, sustainability is on more and more management agendas. The Review article, “Sustainability Nears a Tipping Point,” states, “We have evidence that an increasing number of managers and companies are … taking sustainable business practices seriously even when the business case for such practices is less than obvious.” In the past, the desire to improve the company’s image and regulatory concerns were the primary reasons for adopting sustainability methods and principles. But now we are seeing a notable rise in management interest and the number of companies reporting that sustainability is an important competitive advantage.

In fact, the authors write, “having a commitment, a business case, and an ethical stance are insufficient for the long term. Unless sustainability adds to profits over time, a sustainability agenda will likely fail to gain or hold its traction in the enterprise.” The authors point to a group they call “harvesters”__companies that profit from sustainability and are likely to be frontrunners in both internal and external sustainability drivers. What differentiates harvesters from non-harvesters? Harvesters “are significantly more likely to have strong CEO commitment to sustainability, a separate sustainability report, a separate sustainability function, business unit focus on sustainability, and a chief sustainability officer.” In short, these companies have strong organizational support, and sustainability is a big factor in making the company more profitable.

Uncovering the triple bottom line

At APICS, we have taken great interest in uncovering the role of sustainability in today’s supply chain. In 2011, we conducted extensive practitioner research on the subject. The research report, “APICS 2012 Sustainability Challenges and Practices,” revealed that motivations for incorporating supply chain sustainability practices into an organization’s overall strategy are increasing. These motivations include brand management and reputation, cost reduction, revenue growth, customer demand, employee recruitment, government regulation, and investor or shareholder expectations.

The practice of supply chain sustainability__incorporating triple bottom line results into supply chain decisions__ultimately relies on supply chain practitioners, their organizations, and their supply chain partners to define and develop specific sustainable activities. Increasingly, well-defined standards, industry best practices, and research combine to advance supply chain sustainability around the world.

APICS plays an increasingly important role in defining sustainability principles and translating those standards into actionable techniques for our members and customers. Our APICS CPIM and CSCP exam committees incorporated more sustainability-related content into the exams based on extensive research into the job functions of industry professionals. Additionally, our board of directors has chartered a sustainability taskforce to enable APICS to take an active leadership position for sustainability in supply chain and operations management. We will continue to provide a forum for speakers and authors on sustainable supply chain strategy and practices through APICS conferences and publications.  

APICS remains committed to furthering sustainability practices and incorporating them into our body of knowledge. It is becoming clear that many of you share similar goals. I encourage you to visit apics.org and search for “sustainability.” I think you will be impressed with the content available to you and your companies as you continue to define how sustainability supply chain practices can make a positive impact on your bottom line. 

In other news

Related APICS education

  • Ideas for Reducing Food Waste By Antonio Galvao, CSCP January/February 2012, APICS magazine
  • Shedding Some Light on Sustainability By Tim Becker November/December 2011, APICS magazine
  • Play It Safe By Christopher M. Wright March/April 2010, APICS magazine

How APICS Operations Management Now relates to you

Operations management is everywhere. Today, operations management professionals have unprecedented impacts on the global economy. Consider these questions and how today's edition of APICS Operations Management Now relates to you and your career.

  • Is sustainability an important subject at your organization? What are the primary motivators for upper management to engage in sustainability practices?
  • How can better business cases be made for many green initiatives? What factors are the most appealing, aside from direct impacts to profits and costs?
  • Should sustainability be discussed more or less in the field of supply chain and operations management? Why? 

All comments will be published pending approval. Read the APICS Comment Policy.


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