Thursday, April 22, 2010

Greening of Supply Chains and Earth Day

Today is Earth Day and there are many special celebrations going on to mark this day!

One of my passions is studying and analyzing supply chains in a holistic, system-wide way and finding ways in which supply chains can be made greener. Two aspects to this is to enhance the manufacturing links as well as the transportation links. As is well-known, today's supply chains are global in nature, so in order to reduce carbon imprints, and to assist in sustainability, one must capture all the supply chain network activities.

Interestingly, Louis Uchetelle writes in the New York Times that the Green Economy is Not Yet Made in U.S.A. (but we are working hard on this). The article quotes a colleague of mine at UMass Amherst, Dr. Robert Pollin, who has done studies for the administration estimating the impact and who is also optimistic: Clean energy is a huge opportunity to revive manufacturing. Last May, we had the pleasure of hosting Dr. Pollin, who spoke in our Speaker Series at the Isenberg School on "How Green Growth Can Revive the Economy," and he was simply terrific!

Another aspect of greening of supply chains is to minimize the emissions associated with transportation and a big issue is how to keep those trucks coming back, as filled as possible. Ken Belson, also writing for the Times, in the Business of Green, in his article, Keeping Trucks Full, Coming and Going, notes that: Deadhead trips, as they are known, are a waste of fuel, money and time, and a producer of greenhouse gases. The article notes a neat, new initiative, known as Empty Miles, which is a program that is the brainchild of the Voluntary Interindustry Commerce Solutions Association, or VICS, a nonprofit group that tries to make the supply chain in consumer goods industries more efficient. Macy's (one of my absolutely favorite retailers) and J. C. Penney have both signed on. The more companies that sign on, the more the trucks will not be traveling empty, improving the flow of freight, while reducing emissions -- a win-win situation, which is terrific!

Let's celebrate the beauty of our Earth today and revel in knowing that by being more efficient, we can actually be more green!