With all the talk about sustainability and the need to reduce our carbon footprint, just how far have companies come in their efforts to meet these challenges?
That overarching question shaped a survey conducted by researchers within the Ryder Center for Supply Chain Management in the College of Business Administration, collaborating with those from other entities at Florida International University. The results yielded a number of surprises and pointed to areas for improvement.
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“We expected big companies to be much more sophisticated in their activities than they are,” said Walfried Lassar, the center’s director, Ryder Professor, and chair of the Department of Marketing, who helped create the questionnaire and analyze the data. “We found they really don’t yet have a handle on green supply chain management in general and they don’t yet see how their sustainability efforts could increase their profitability.”
According to Lassar, brand image was one of the major drivers for respondents to this initial survey. However, with the escalating cost of oil and gasoline, even during the few months since the data were collected, and with the centrality of transportation in the supply chain, he expects that “green sustainability efforts will switch to more focus on cost reduction, rather than on public relations.”
Ryder Center establishes green niche.
Although many consultants and universities conduct research on supply chain management, viewing the chain from raw materials to final customer, the Ryder Center has carved out its own area of expertise—and a timely one—by zeroing in on sustainability and on the green aspects of supply chain management.
In addition to the 2008 survey, which is available for downloading at http://business.fiu.edu/greensupplychain, Ryder Center plans a variety of events to educate companies and give them the tools so they can assess their current state and implement changes. At a first step, the center drew experts together, including Gary Hirshberg, CEO, Stonyfield Farm Inc., at the Green Supply Chain Management Forum, held on February 7, 2008, a free, on-demand webcast of which can be viewed on the web site.
With baseline information gathered into the initial report, Lassar and his colleagues will expand their research through annual surveys.
“Next year, we will have questions that take an in-depth look at the functions within the supply chain, from raw materials procurement to logistics to finance and marketing, to get a sense of the changes companies are making or the areas of their supply chain they are examining to boost profitability,” he said.