Sustainability: The Final Stretch

Over on Spend Matters, Jason Busch points out that the market, and not regulation, is the reason sustainability wins. He points out that maybe we should review Malcom Gladwell’s The Tipping Point to better understand how trends become standard practice. He notes that sustainability in the supply chain is on the verge of reaching the tipping point, and this is partly because the message has reached a much broader audience than just procurement and operations practitioners. He also talks about Wal-Mart’s efforts, their recent press release, and how Wal-Mart’s President and CEO is almost missionary in his call to sustainable action. Furthermore, he posits that this evangelical commitment to sustainablility is a step in the right direction which Wal-Mart’s competitors will be forced to emulate.

Chris Jacob Abraham gave us his follow up to a brief background on sustainability issues over on @ Supply Chain Management. He notes that the crucial, unstated, assumption in most sustainability definitions is technological stasis, which is an idea that shouldn’t be sustained. It, in fact, points to a deeper issue with the very language of sustainable development – that most proponents of sustainability miss out on the fundamental nature of technology. The definitions of resource and pollutant are based upon today’s technology.

Chris argues that there are two broad-stroke problems that sustainable development should address: the Malthusian problem and the Climate-Change problem. At a simplistic level, Malthus’ believes that the constantly subsisting cause of periodical misery has existed ever since we have had histories of mankind, does not exist at present, and will forever continue to exist, unless some decided change takes place in the physical constitution of our nature. Taking the logic to its conclusion, the basic argument is that we’re living (far) beyond our means. Without innovation, we most likely are – but can we innovate our way out of the problems we create. The Climate Change problem basically boils down to Global Warming, which binds the synapses of anyone who dives into it.

Dave M offered us his third post by tackling a model of sustainable sourcing transparency over on Buyer Analytics. He says that to learn more about ethical sourcing, we need look no further than Mountain Equipment Coop, which takes corporate transparency to a whole new level. MEC fully discloses non-compliance in its supply chain. It reports material issues and openly discusses the dilemmas the company faces when it comes to ethical sourcing. It publishes an annual sourcing report with positive and negative information. It realizes the foundations of the solution to any problem, including sustainability, are truth and open discussion.

On MEC’s Ethical Sourcing blog, Harvey Chan tackles pollution, social ills, and the developing world. In the article he notes that, according to the United Nations Environment Program, Canada, on a per capita basis, produces five times more carbon dioxide than a communist apparatchik in China or an impoverished farmer in Sri Lanka, which is not all that “progressive”. The only thing us Canadians can be proud about is that we’re still slightly ahead of our southern neighbors, who produce 2.3% more equivalent global carbon dioxide emissions. He also points out that paying disposal taxes when we buy a product is brilliant because we consumers are price sensitive and making pollution costly will force us to think about our choices. This indicates that the big challenge facing government is finding similar policy instruments to reduce industry driven carbon dioxide emissions and that carbon taxes on corporations is the next logical step.