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Supply Chain Challenges

Supply Chain Sustainability: Lessons From My Seven-Year-Old

Alex Stark | March 21, 2012

Just back from Penn State's symposium on profitable sustainability in the supply chain.  Lots of great examples of policy-driven green initiatives that drove environmental benefits while keeping the bottom line front and center.  

But it occurs to me that many of the sustainability initiatives we hear about in the supply chain are formal, top-down programs.  We need more grass roots efforts that get the entire workforce proactively thinking about sustainability.  Entire companies need to be conditioned to think about sustainability in the same way kids today think about recycling.  My seven-year-old doesn't wonder if tossing a glass bottle into the recycling bin is a good idea, he just does it.  Ask him why and he won't cite our family's sustainability policy or read from an SOP.  He'll tell you it's good for the environment, and better than putting it in a landfill.  

Sustainability is a dense, complex issue. We need to solve it with simple communications that drive innovation from the ground up.  

LEAN programs provide a good model.  LEAN is about rooting out waste wherever you see it.  Can't get much simpler than that.  We need the green equivalent to LEAN training, where staffs are empowered to identify and address carbon-reducing opportunities such as alternate packaging, load consolidation, motion detectors for lights, collaborative distribution, reuse of packing materials….The list is endless.  

Let's turn our entire base of associates into lean, green warriors who feel empowered to join the green crusade.   We can do that by explaining the new reality, laying out the challenge to all staff in simple, straightforward terms, and asking for their help.