Green: Not Such a New Supply Chain Idea

Green and sustainable supply chain management have been hot topics for more than a decade. A good example is a 1998 article in Supply Chain Management Review from the organization Business for Social Responsibility (BSR).

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The discussion around sustainability and a “green” supply chain has gained momentum in recent years. It’s hard to pick up an industry publication (including Supply Chain Management Review) or attend a conference without reading or hearing about the topic. But while the attention to green has heightened in this time frame, the topic itself has been around for a while—in fact, a lot longer that many of us realize.

This reality was brought home to me recently when I was researching articles we had produced in the early years of SCMR.  In our Summer 1998 issue one feature story on the cover jumped out at me—“The Greening of the Supply Chain.”  To be honest, I did not remember this particular article. And, again to be honest, I was surprised to re-discover that we were talking about green more than 12 years ago!

The article itself was co-authored by two officials from an organization called Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) and two BSR corporate members from General Motors.  Essentially, they were describing initiatives that GM and other members of the organization were putting in place to reduce waste, eliminate pollution, and improve what they termed “eco-efficiency.”  By the way, the BSR member companies involved in this initiative were a pretty impressive bunch. In addition to GM, they included DuPont, 3M, Hewlett-Packard, Nike, and IBM among others. (For more on the current activities of Business for Social Responsibility, visit the BSR: Sustainable Supply Chain Management Web site).

The article enumerated a number of characteristics and competencies that led to enhanced environmental management. These included such things as effectively communicating the “green” goals throughout the organization, working with suppliers to help them adopt sustainable practices, and—not surprisingly—gaining top management commitment to and support of the green initiatives. Sound familiar?  The environmental leaders today echo these very same traits when discussing their efforts to create greener, more sustainable supply chains.

Re-reading this article from our early years gave me an encouraging sense of continuity. The efforts that BSR and their corporate members pioneered more than a decade ago are steadily—and in some cases rapidly—gaining adoption. This speaks well for the supply chain community and the people lucky enough to be working in this space.

This SCMR article on “Greening the Supply Chain” appeared before the days of pdf’s.  But if you’re interested in it, I would be happy to mail you a copy. Just e-mail me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (and don’t forget to include your mailing address).

And while we’re on the subject of green, we invite you to visit a great Webcast that we did with folks from IBM and Herman Miller, Inc.—two leaders in supply chain sustainability.  It’s called “The Green Supply Chain—How to Make it Work for You.”


About the Author

Frank Quinn, Editor Emeritus
Frank Quinn is Editor Emeritus of Supply Chain Management Review, considered the premier publication for supply chain executives. Frank was the founding editor of SCMR and has overseen its growth over the past 16 years. He has been covering the logistics and supply chain scene in various editorial and consulting positions for more than three decades. Frank is also co-author of the book Diagnosing Greatness: Ten Traits of the Best Supply Chains.

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