Oct 102011

By Stephen Huie (MBA ’12)

In recent years, organizations have developed increasingly creative and large scale supply chain initiatives to deal with increasing energy costs, a recessionary environment, and consumer demand for sustainable processes.

To capitalize on this evolution in practice, academic institutions must also make a conscious effort to train the next generation of supply chain managers to build upon these best practices and identify further opportunities to improve.


Large organizations have not only become increasingly conscious of the benefits of greening their supply chains, they have begun to actually implement solutions to minimize their environmental footprint and enhance their bottom line.

For example, Unilever recently opened its aerosol manufacturing plant in Jiutepec, Morelos with smart manufacturing equipment that runs on energy-efficient variable speed engines and automatically shuts down when idle.  At the string cheese manufacturing plant in Campbell, New York, Kraft Foods converts whey byproduct from the manufacturing process into a biogas to power the plant and improve the cleanliness of wastewater discharge into the area.  The General Services Administration has targeted a 28% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 through fleet transformation, LEED design, and contractor incentives.

Greenstorming the Supply Chain

Students training to become managers or supply chain specialists have a lot to learn from such current practice and how organizations grapple with integrating a green supply chain.  At the Robert H. Smith School of Business, MBA and MS Supply Chain students recently participated in a case workshop guided by supply chain practitioners from Constellation Energy, Deloitte’s Federal Consulting Practice, LMI, and the Red Cross.  Teams of students and their practitioner advisers dealt with the dilemma of how to reduce the emissions and cost of shipping excess apparel inventory to secondary retail markets around the globe.  The teams identified factors driving excess supply and mis-forecasted demand and devised actions and mechanisms for intervention.  After presenting their ideas and discussing as a large group, advisers spoke about situations in their own career experience that shed additional light on the issue.

Such learning derived from industry experience and other opportunities to participate in structured engagements for real clients will disseminate best practice and allow future  practitioners to avoid reinventing the wheel.

Some programs, such as the Presidio MBA in Sustainable Management, even specialize in sustainable management practice and regularly train on cases involving waste management and water conservation.  At the Smith School, students involve themselves in such consulting engagements involving supply chain, marketing, and finance through the school’s Center for Social Value Creation.

This week at the Smith School, Mars, the food and health science maker of M&Ms, will be visiting for an informal “Cases & Beer” session to discuss their sustainable sourcing efforts.  Last year, Dennis Wrasse, the former Chairman and CEO of Pepco, came for Cases & Beer to talk about the future of alternative energy.

Cases & Beer is a series of ongoing discussion sessions organized by Smith’s Net Impact chapter to bring high-profile guest speakers and faculty to lead discussions on current business issues.

Stephen Huie is a 2nd Year MBA at the Robert H. Smith School of Business.  You can also read his blog about MBA education.

  One Response to “Training for the Sustainable Supply Chain”

  1. I agree that we are to look for greener solutions, but in all the example you stated the overlaying theme was cost savings.

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