Daily Archives: June 20, 2010

Plain English Contracts Can Be Reasonable

Last year, Dick Locke, who has an entire state on his side, wrote a great post on the importance of plain English in contracts. Then, last month, with the help of The Temp Life (Season 2, Episode 7), I made it very clear what might happen if you don’t follow his advice.

But one aspect of contracts we haven’t tackled yet is that of “reasonableness”. As highlighted in this recent article over on SupplyManagement.com which asks you to now be reasonable, these clauses can end up causing more disputes than they ultimately resolve. While they are included in the hopes of raising contentious issues during critical phases of contract negotiations, they simply delay the inevitable because, given enough time, a supply disruption will happen and finger pointing will begin.

The key to preventing disputes is to define precisely what conditions define a breach and what steps each party will take to try and remedy it, in plain English, so there are no disagreements down the line. While it’s true that a contract cannot predict, or define a remedy for, every type of disruption that could happen, it can predict, and define actions for, the most likely disruptions. The use of plain English to define reasonable remedies for these disruptions will prevent problems down the line. This will minimize the chance that the “catch-all” reasonableness clause will need to be invoked, but even if the “catch-all” clause does need to be invoked, if the reconciliation process is defined in plain English (notify, meet, accept, correct, etc.), things will still go smoother than if plain English is not used.

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Greener Shipping Can Save Green

… but green goes beyond just packaging and carrier efficiency. In other words, while a recent article in the Environmental Leader on how greener shipping can make you more green had some great advice that should be a starting point in your shipping considerations, I think it missed a few key points. Furthermore, it advocated carbon offsets over greener technology, which is not the answer. You need to solve the sustainability problem, not just shift the burden to someone else who may or may not solve the problem with your cash.

To understand what green shipping truly requires, we need to start with a review of some of the key points made by the author:

Pick Packaging With Care

This goes without saying. As the author notes, the packaging must be unbleached, minimal, and should use recycled materials that meet the relevant environment standards. But before you address packaging, you need to address the product. Is it small and dense, or large and vacuous? If the latter, can it be shipped unassembled or partially assembled to save space, and thus, packaging? In other words, good packaging is more than just material selection, it’s maximizing how much you can get in a shipment (without a significant risk of damage).

Choose Efficient Shipping

This also goes without saying, but this is more than just choosing a carrier who has well planned routes, avoids wasted trips, and doesn’t send three trucks a day when one will do. It’s making sure that you’ve optimized your daily/weekly/monthly shipping schedules to maximize truckload volume, use the most carbon-efficient mode of transport possible (be it rail, ocean, truck, or air), and set up the right processes and systems to make sure their are no hold-ups or waits on your end during shipping or receiving.

Mitigate Shipping Related Emissions

This is a must, but carbon credits aren’t the answer. The answer is lower emission (bio) fuel, more efficient (hybrid) engines, and conversion to green power in your facilities (wind, solar, hydro, etc.) where the batteries for the hybrid/electric vehicles are recharged.

Read the Report

You should definitely do your homework, but don’t stop with the company’s official sustainability report which has been routed through their PR — search the traditional (online newspapers, magazines, etc.) and new media (blogs, forums, etc.) to see if there is any coverage or discussion around their sustainability and corporate responsibility and what the market has to say.

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