There have been a lot of articles about the sustainability of supply (chains) lately, and some of them are quite good, but not a single one gives you the full picture. And if you were hoping this article was going to do that for you, then the doctor has bad news for you. That’s not an article, or even a book. It’s a trilogy. Of trilogies. And while the doctor has written that much on this blog by word count, it’s not going to happen today.
What is going to happen is that the doctor is going to give you a bit of an understanding of how broad, deep, and complex the problem really is and how it’s almost impossible for most people to solve, although not that hard to address with a reasonably high assurance of results. (And the answer, as regular readers will have surmised, does NOT involve any Artificial Idiocy, but it may involve complex processes and technologically advanced solutions.)
In order for the supply chain to be sustainable, every step of the supply chain has to be sustainable. Internally:
- Procurement needs to be sustainable. The processes, technology, and talent required to keep the Procurement organization going need to be sustainable.
If you work down the chain:
- Logistics needs to be sustainable. The methods used by the suppliers and distributors to pack, store, and ship the product to you need to be sustainable.
- Manufacturing needs to be sustainable. The methods, energy sources, and water sources used to produce the goods have to be sustainable.
- Materials need to be sustainable. This means that all of the materials used must be renewable, decomposable, or fully reclaimable in a sustainable manner.
And if you work up the chain:
- Logistics needs to be sustainable. The methods used to pack, store, and ship the products to your customers need to be sustainable.
- Sales needs to be sustainable. The processes, technology, and talent required to keep the Sales organization going need to be sustainable.
- Support needs to sustainable. The processes, technology, talent, and materials used to support, repair, or reclaim the products (for recycling and material reclamation) at end of its lifecycle need to be sustainable.
That’s a lot of sustainability that is required up and down the chain. It’s much more than just identifying a “sustainable” supplier who hits ESG targets, favouring renewable materials, or using virtual work (from home) solutions to reduce the travel and office carbon footprint. And attacking it requires a lot more than just attacking the 5 Cap Gemini supply chain transformation levers of Evolution, Orchestration, Data, Technology, and Talent or the 6 McKinsey next-normal strategy focus areas of Agility, Quality, Sustainability, Resilience, Service, and Cost and Capital because buzz-words are not solutions and you can’t decipher all of these dilemmas at the 30,000 foot view.
In other words, while there are easy two-word answers for reconfiguring the global supply chain for greater supply chain assurance and more sustainability at the 30,000 foot level, when you dig into the details, it’s not so easy as you have dozens of facets to get right to truly optimize sustainability across the supply chain.
In future posts we will dig into a few of these areas as addressing them is a lot more complex than you might think!