Category Archives: Sustainability

Visibility into Vizibl, The Collaboration Platform for True Supplier Innovation

It’s been a decade in the making, especially since it took years for Vizibl (founded in 2013) to find it’s focus, but what was once yet another SRM (Supplier Relationship Management) platform is now a truly leading Supplier Collaboration, Innovation, and Transformation platform.

Starting out with the vision of a better SRM, it took a while for Vizibl to find its niche and double down on it. In fact, it took years of working with clients with highly specific (customization/process) needs for them to realize that they were good at developing for and supporting specific, sometimes, complex processes and years more for them to sit back and identify the commonality, design standard project and service layers, and bring them to market. But they did, and they have, and we will discuss the first major project/service layer they are bringing to market later in this article.

The Vizibl platform has seven main components:

  • Supplier Information Management Foundation
  • Supplier Collaboration Workspace
  • Supplier Innovation Hub
  • Supplier Relationship Management Module
  • Dashboards, Analytics, and Reporting
  • Program Layer: (Foundation for) Specific Development/Improvement Programs that Cross-Cut the Entire Platform
    (built on a virtual platform integration layer)
  • Supplier Sustainability Management

1. The Supplier Information Management Foundation is what you would expect from a leading SRM platform — it can track all of the core data and meta data you would expect on a supplier and can be extended as needed to track all of the data you require across all areas of supplier information, products, risks, compliance requirements, performance requirements, contracts, projects, initiatives, and activities you wish to manage.

Supplier Onboarding is straight forward as it’s quick and simple to create a new company record to begin the process, with only minimal data needed. New suppliers can be onboarded as standalone, children of an existing company, or related entities. The platform can maintain complex supplier tree relationships and the tree can be visualized along with a roll up of relevant metrics, project counts, and appropriate relationship data.

2. The Supplier Collaboration workspace is where the buyer can communicate with the supplier, spin off action plans and initiatives, store ideas and plans, pull in and push out data as needed, and put thought into action.

3. The Supplier Innovation Hub is where the core of the magic happens. This is where challenges can be issued, goals set, and projects planned. It’s where projects are defined to increase supplier performance, improve product designs or manufacturing, increase sustainability, or decrease CO2/GHG emissions.

Projects have activities (or tasks), roadmaps that link them together, objectives (outcomes), value tracking metrics, integrated communications, and teams.

4. The Supplier Relationship Management Module is the glue that holds it all together. In addition to integrating all of the pieces, it also supports the creation of basic supplier action/account plans, the definition of strategic objectives, and integrated overview dashboards. It also allows for the definition of supplier teams (that it calls circles) that represent the different teams the organization will be working with, the management teams, and boards of relevance.

5. The Dashboards, Analytics, and Reporting capability is used to summarize and display the various types of data, metrics, and indicators tracked by the platform. These dashboards cannot only roll up metrics across the platform, but can also roll up metrics in, and across, projects by stages, as well as break them down by regions or supplier trees.

6. The Supplier Sustainability Management module is one of their latest modules focussed on tracking and managing an organization’s sustainability initiatives. It can track all of the emissions for each supplier, those that are reporting, the associated spend, and any other GHG data of relevance to the organization. It can also track all of the data associated with ESG surveys requested by the organization, which can be custom created and as broad or deep as required.

7A. The Program Layer is the toolkit that they use to build custom cross-platform program management capability that allows an organization to tackle new, and possibly exciting, initiatives that can transform their operations, product, and / or supply chains. Programs consist of suppliers, goals and targets, indicator metrics, associated data and reporting, summary dashboards, and scores.

7B: Decarbonization as a service is the first offering from Vizibl built on the program layer that integrates all of the platform capabilities to track scope 3 carbon across the supply chain by extending the sustainability management module to focus on the import and calculation of carbon emissions by supplier over time as well as best practices and learnings that can be shared with a supplier to help them reduce their emissions through leaner production, cleaner energy sources, new production processes, etc.

When it comes to the administration of the Vizibl platform, an administrator can configure, more-or-less, everything. First of all, they can configure the organizational tree as needed to match their organizational structure and include subsidiaries and use a variable number of levels for each organizational branch. So, the organization can have the global holding company; American, European and Asian holding company subsidiaries; individual (holding) companies for each country it operates in; and, if necessary, breakdown into individual locations or divisions if needed for management purposes. You can have five levels in Asia, four levels in Europe, and three levels in the Americas if that’s what’s necessary to exactly match the organizational structure. And of course, each company node in the organizational tree can have its unique settings, inheriting from the node above anything that does not need to be changed.

Similarly, because a company is a company in the system, full supplier organizational structures can also be modelled according to their company structure and modelled down to the individual (factory) location. This is particularly important since a diversity initiative may be global but improvement efforts might be restricted to one factory producing one particularly unique component for one product line.

Then, the organization can configure, for that company:

Account Plans
for each supplier, the company can define the strategic objectives, guiding principles, and target behaviours; these can be defined from scratch or added from a common library
Data Imports
to define regular / repeating file-based imports
Initiatives & Opportunities
the overarching initiatives and/or opportunities being sought, the plans and project stages, questionnaires, suppliers, etc.; the form builder is section based, supports all standard HTML objects, and all of the (numeric) data collected can be subjected to metrics and rules (to map to binary/integer) which can be defined on multiple choices
allows a user to define the performance metrics / KPIs, organized into categories, that are to be tracked, define what levels they are tracked at / rolled up to, and even customize the metric calculation in individual nodes
define the user permissions (by role)
centralizes the organizational projects
define the supplier relationships by mapping the supplier to the specific nodes in the organizational structure where the relationship exists as well as the segment (division/category) they are servicing
define and customize the reports
define the project states for initiatives and opportunities, rejections, suppliers, etc. as needed to match the organizational process; can start with defaults
encapsulates all of the surveys that can be reused across initiatives and opportunities
custom tags for tagging initiatives, opportunities, suppliers, etc. for quick search & filter
User Management
define the organizational users
Value Trackers
defines, and centralizes, the metrics that will be used in the innovations, opportunities, and performance tracking

In summary, the administration is very powerful … in fact, it’s one of the few solutions where the organizational structure for all companies (buying and supplying organizations) is extensively customizable, where initiatives can be tailored to the subset of relevant relationships and locations, where the inheritance for an initiative can be customized, and where you fully customize and localize all supplier interactions to just the organizations and teams that you need.

This is the first aspect of Vizibl that truly makes it stand out. The degree of customization of initiatives only to the relationships of relevance, teams of relevance, with metrics of relevance is far beyond what most of the traditional “Relationship” solutions actually offer.

The second aspect of Vizibl that makes it stand out is the new program layer they’ve built to support the creation of programs that tie together all of the relevant SXM capabilities needed to completely manage an organizational initiative across the supply base. In many platforms, the organization needs to manage the surveys, performance metrics, reports, projects, collaborations separately across the different modules of the platform that were built up over time.

The third aspect of Vizibl that makes it stand out is the new Decarbonation-as-a-Service offering built on this program layer that integrates all of the platform capabilities to track carbon down to scope 3 across the supply chain, provide insight into best practices and learnings to reduce emissions, allow for the creation of projects and initiatives to tackle the opportunities, track improvement over time, and essentially turn measurement into action into improvement. Carbon calculators are a dime-a-dozen from everyone and their dog, and can be built in 15 minutes in any good modern (spend) analytics platform, but few platforms do real monitoring, few platforms allow for the creation of supplier development projects, and fewer still provide real insight into what can be done to get results.

In other words, if you really care about the “R” in Supplier Relationship Management, and truly want to manage that relationship for true supplier development and improvement, you should definitely make sure Vizibl is on your short-list.

Will a Circular Economy Work with Leakage?

Sustainability is one of the big buzzwords, and the biggest verbal pushes, in today’s Procurement. (In practicality, most organizations won’t put their money where their mouth is and if the more sustainable solution is more than a point or two more cost-wise, environmentally damaging sweat-shop production, here we come!) We need to get there, because only an idiot would deny global warming (the last 13 years have seen 10 of the hottest year on record), and no one can deny the correlation between carbon emission, atmospheric carbon increase, and global warming. (You can argue just how much is due to carbon emission and how much due to other factors, many of which are indirectly caused by warming, but not that carbon is a problem.) Thus, even though we don’t know how much carbon reduction will help, we know it will, so we need to get there.

One big way to reduce carbon is to reduce production, which can done by reducing waste, which can be done through more refurbishment, repair, re-use, recycling, and reclamation — which are all part of the circular economy. Which is where we really need to get to (because waste is a problem — in addition to overflowing landfills that can pollute nearby water suppliers and make nearby land unfarmable, and even uninhabitable, think of the great pacific garbage patch and the containers of e-waste being sent to India, which has been a problem for well over a decade, see this 2010 article on the Times of India, and you start to get a grip on the magnitude of the problem).

But how efficient does the circular economy have to be to be effective? Theoretically, anything more that we do is one step better than what we are doing today, but, given that most products weren’t designed for recycle and reclamation, technologies for recycling and reclamation are immature and possibly carbon/generating themselves (especially if the answer is extract what we can, bury or burn the rest), and that there are breaks in the chain, is this leading to new waste that could possibly offset (or exceed) the expected (carbon) savings?

It’s a question Karolina Safarzynska, Lorenzo Di Domenico, and Marco Raberto recently tackled in an open-access paper on how the leakage effect may undermine the circular economy efforts available on In the paper, the authors examine the impact of the circular economy on global resource extraction by way of an input-output analysis using an agent-based model of the capital sector. Through a detailed analysis they find that an appropriately structured circular economy economy can significantly reduce the extraction of iron, aluminum, and nonferrous metals if
implemented globally
but the leakage effect may also cause some metal-intensive industries to relocate outside the EU, offsetting the circular economy efforts because an overlooked requirement for the circular economy is not just a reduction of waste, but a reduction of transport as transportation (air, rail, truck, and ship) contributes a significant amount of global carbon. In fact, if you go to Our World in Data, in the United States, the transportation sector accounts, like the energy (electricity and heat) sector, for approximately 30% of transportation emissions. The statistics right now are similar for the EU (24% for transportation and 28% for energy). So, if all of a sudden products need to be shipped halfway around the world to be recycled and reclaimed and the core materials shipped back, transportation-based emissions would increase significantly and possibly even overtake the extraction and raw material processing emissions!

In all fairness, we should note that the paper is pretty technical and metric heavy, and this is a bit of a simplification, but it’s the core idea we need to be aware of. It’s not an improvement if the carbon you take out of one segment is exceeded by changes in another. Just like we need to home/near-source for anything we can grow/mine/make at/near home, we also need to home/near reduce/reuse/refurbish/remanufacture/recycle whatever we can. It might be that the rare earths can only be mined in certain areas, but that doesn’t mean they have to be reclaimed and re-used there.

ERP at the Center of Sustainability and Human Impact?

ERP Today recently ran a brief editorial insight entitled ERP at the Center of Sustainability and Human Impact which caught my eye because ERP is generally not at the center of anything that is not manufacturing but yet should be at the center of sustainability data because it’s the ONE system that should be accessed, or at least be accessible, organization wide. However, in most organizations, all it stores is the manufacturing / order data, purchase orders, and invoices.

The article states that, within some organizations, they are providing the financial clarity to drive meaningful environmental and human impacts, however it only lists TWO (2) (Blue Marine Foundation and Oracle), and the doctor‘s experience, which is similar to other analysts he’s worked with, is that, for the vast majority of companies, this is JUST not happening.

Why? A few reasons, but the main ones are:

  • most ERPs don’t store complete financials; they’ll store POs and Inventory, but the complete financials will be in the organization’s AP/I2P/P2P systems
  • most ERP’s don’t store/calculate ANY sustainability data and
  • most ERP’s weren’t/aren’t configured to store ANY sustainability data

This means that, for an ERP system to provide financial clarity around meaningful environmental and human impacts, an organization needs to

  • integrate it’s accounting systems with the ERP and push all invoices and payments into the ERP
  • get subscriptions to third parties with the sustainability data and push that into the ERP after
  • updating the ERP configuration to store all of the relevant data around sustainability and responsibility that the organization wants to track

And while this will be doable with most modern ERPs, it could be expensive and force an organization to use another platform, such as a modern SRM (Supplier Relationship Management) platform as its core sustainability and responsibility platform instead. But it would be nice if the ERP could be the one platform that at least stores all of the organization’s golden records, because data warehouse, lakes, and lakehouses aren’t the answer (as all they do is duplicate data and make it harder to find the single source of truth) — the answer is a central source of sustainability and responsibility data that is, or could be, accessible organization wide so everyone can know the impacts of their (financial/supply) decisions. And while it could be the ERP, given the sheer cost of any customization work on any of the big ERPs, the doctor doesn’t think it’s very likely.

How Do You Sustain Sustainability When True Value is Long Term …

… and the brunt of the cost is short term?

AlixPartners recently published an article over on Mondaq on how The Fourth Dimension In Strategic Sourcing, Sustainability, Can Drive Value which caught our attention because Sustainability can drive value, but most organizations under cost pressures, which are rampant in our current inflationary economy, don’t choose the sustainable option as it’s typically a higher expense in the short-term.

Moreover, the big value is investing in suppliers that invest in new technologies that will be more sustainable in the long run. However, due to the cost of implementing these new technologies, the up-front costs are higher as the suppliers have to stay in business until the new technologies start to deliver returns. For example, the following are major improvements to sustainability:

  • suppliers utilizing, investing in, or building their own renewable energy grids (solar, wind) to avoid using the energy produced by the local coal/oil burning plants
  • suppliers re-designing production lines and methods to minimize waste (through cutting of metal, processing of food, etc.) and to ensure any waste they create can be used as an input to another production line (melting and re-fab of metal scraps, animal feed, etc.)
  • suppliers investing in their own water purification technology to re-use water in the manufacturing process
  • suppliers investing in product redesign research to minimize use of scarce rare earth minerals/metals and to increase use of reclaimed minerals/metals
  • suppliers investing in reclamation technology to maximize recycling of products created with metals/minerals

… and the following, highlighted in the article, are minor improvements …

  • sustainable supplier selection as everyone is going to try and secure the most sustainable supplier of the lowest cost suppliers, leaving less sustainable suppliers or more sustainable suppliers at a higher cost that the CFO/CEO will not let Procurement pay for the majority of organizations (the small, sustainable, suppliers cannot massively scale overnight)
  • eco-friendly packaging and waste reduction as this is not new and many organizations are already be doing this to the extent eco-friendly packaging is available
  • energy-efficient products and services as this is not new either and as companies replace end-of-life products, they have been choosing more energy efficient products for a while now with the increase in energy prices over the last five to ten years, and the truth is that this is usually a small dent on their total energy footprint
  • carbon footprint reduction as that is the goal, not a specific action that can reduce carbon footprint, and. most importantly, significant reduction requires significant investment (reducing travel and forcing the CEO to give up the private jet and fly first class only goes so far)
  • collaboration and reporting because while you need to understand your footprint, and sometimes shaming goes further than incentivizeation, reporting doesn’t actually increase sustainability unless action is taken …

IF PE firms, with billion dollar funds, won’t actually invest in supply chain (which includes sustainability) improvements, because you typically don’t realize the bulk of the value until you (significantly) pass the five (5) year mark, how can you expect short-term thinking CEOs and CFOs, trying to impress Wall Street or attract PE funding, to actually put their money with their big mouths are and invest in true sustainability?

If you have answers, we’d love to hear them — comment on the LinkedIn post.

Digging into Manufacturing Sustainability

In our article on Solving the Sustainability of the Supply Chain is Systematically Strenuous and Surprisingly Serpentine, we noted that 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:

  • Support
  • Sales
  • Logistics
  • Procurement
  • Manufacturing
  • Materials

Manufacturing sustainability is much more involved than just choosing sustainable materials and focussing on sustainable design. When you are manufacturing you have to think about all of the following:

  • Materials: are the materials renewable, reclaimable, recyclable, or compostable — if not, the materials are not sustainable
  • Design: is the design using as many sustainable materials as possible; minimizing the use of non-renewable materials in minimal supply; ensuring the product is designed so that non-renewable materials can be fully reclaimed / recycled; ensuring the product can be produced in a sustainable manner? etc.
  • Production: are the lines modern, minimizing energy and MRO material usage (fluids, parts that wear out, etc.), efficient, etc.
  • Waste: does the chosen production method minimize waste, i.e. if cutting, how much waste metal or wood, and can it be reused/reclaimed?
  • Energy all energy production and transmission has a Carbon cost, even solar, as there was an initial carbon production in producing the panels, thus, the production method should minimize energy utilization (especially if producing EVs … considering a battery pack can produce between 2.5 and 16 metric tonnes of carbon in its production, it’s critical all production be energy efficient)
  • Water for cooling and cleaning should be minimized as well, and, if directly reusable, reused, and then reclaimed for future reuse (through an energy efficient processing plant)
  • Workforce as there needs to be a sufficient workforce and training in place to make sure they are suitably skilled for, and efficient at, the job to minimize errors and the resulting waste that comes from every human error

Furthermore, how you think about many of these requirements differs for every type of product you are producing, and often requires extremely specialized expertise to address the design, materials, production process, and waste. Manufacturing sustainability is not easy, but if you can’t ensure your manufacturers are sustainable, then you definitely can’t claim to have sustainable Procurement.