Friday, December 2, 2016

Greening the Supply Chain: Insights From One of the World's Leading Scientific Minds - Professor Joe Sarkis

Today we were honored and delighted to have Professor Joe Sarkis, the head of the Department of Management within Worcester Polytechnic Institute's (WPI) Foisie School of Business, deliver the lecture, "Supplier Collaboration and Development for Greening Supply Chains," as part of our UMass Amherst INFORMS Speaker Series. The series is organized by the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter so a special thanks to the chapter President, Pritha Dutta, a doctoral student in Management Science at the Isenberg School of Management, for handling the logistics and for designing the nice poster below.
The talk was even announced on the UMass Amherst homepage today.

And, interestingly, and coincidentally, if you look closely at the above homepage snapshot you will also see on the left under "News" the article on Seven UMass Amherst Researchers Named among 'World's Leading Scientific Minds.' In this 2016 Thomson Reuters survey of highly cited scientists is also our speaker today, Professor Joe Sarkis, and he is listed in the Engineering category so do check it out. He is renowned for his work on sustainability and supply chains and today he attracted an audience from the Isenberg School of Management, the College of Engineering, the Department of Environmental Conservation, among others. Just look at his Google Scholar citations.
He motivated his presentation by noting a 2016 McKinsey report on Supply Chain Management and emphasizing the importance of greening the supply chain to industry with the "leading edge of thought" should also be the "leading edge of practice." "We should be doing good," he said, and emphasized the gold mine of research in this area and that showed throughout his presentation as did his passion and energy. He has collaborated with researchers from China, from Egypt, and other countries and, I do admit I am now also working on a paper with him and with two of my former doctoral students, Dr. Sara Saberi who just started as an Assistant Professor at the Foisie Schoo of Business, and Dr. Jose Cruz, from the School of Business at the University of Connecticut, whose work was also mentioned in Sarkis' presentation.

He emphasized levels of problems and different methodologies and theories to tackle them - from global problems, such as global warming, to regional problems of deforestation and acid rain, to more local problems of pesticides and waste.

Of course, he had to mention that there are many different definitions of environmental sustainability (and he even authored a paper on this) and recognized the importance of ISO 14000, life cycle analysis (LCA), and carbon and water footprints. When it comes to supply chains it is essential to "close the loop" and deal not only with forward and reverse supply chains separately. He remarked that energy research is also important for supply chain management and stated that teaching informs his research and vice versa. I so agree with the latter statement and continue to be inspired by questions that my students raise.

It was wonderful to have my Isenberg School colleague, Professor Marta Calas, in the audience since she is working with a doctoral student on sustainability and the fashion brand Eileen Fisher. We have published several papers on fashion and sustainability with my former doctoral student, and now Assistant Professor at the University of Portland, Dr. Min Yu.

The relevance of theory, methodologies, and applications were emphasized and he also discussed whether carrots or sticks should be using for green supply chain management.

I very much liked what he said about different boundaries, including temporal ones, and associated decision-making. He also discussed the different types of flows that are relevant and since we work on networks, optimization, game theory, as well as sustainability I liked the flows of material, service, information, and financial ones noted very much. Also, I appreciated him mentioning different industries from food to the textile industry. On the latter, he is working with a collaborator in Egypt. Afterwards, a doctoral student and UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter officer, Ekin Koker,  brought up the automotive industry and sustainability.

Professor Sarkis spoke on his work on "supplier development" and the sharing of knowledge to help suppliers become greener and also about investment in greener technologies.

The theme of different "levels" also resonated, from the individual, to the organizational, the enterprise level, all the way to the circular economy. Also, how leadership in greening the supply chain affects motivation and employees.

When I asked him which paper he was most proud of, he mentioned his paper in Science, with co-authors from China and Italy, "Measuring China's Circular Economy." He also noted his paper with Zhu in the Journal of Operations Management, since it contains theory, methodology, and application and such papers tend to be highly cited. The history behind his Science paper was also fascinating, but you should ask him this.

The audience clearly had a great experience and benefited a lot from the presentation.
After the energizing and very inspiring talk, I took Professor Sarkis, two of his doctoral students from WPI that had joined us, and three doctoral students from UMass Amherst, Pritha Dutta, Deniz Besik, and Rodrgo Mercado,  to lunch at the University Club and the wonderful conversations continued. As Professor Sarkis said at lunch, there is no better life than being a Full Professor at a university!
The food was great and the conversation even better - amazing how some universities are incentivizing researchers to publish in good journals especially those outside the United States. Of course, we also exchanged notes on recent academic hires, the job market, etc. Interestingly, both the Dean of the Foisie School of Business and the Dean of the Isenberg School, Dr. Mark A. Fuller  (I admit I served on the search committee for the latter), are in the Information Systems field.

Many thanks to Professor Joe Sarkis for coming to the University of Massachusetts Amherst today. You are welcome back any time! Thanks to Pritha Dutta for capturing the "Bon Voyage"in the photo below.