Supply Chain Enabled

Earth Day: Time to reflect and to commit! 

Published: April 21, 2023
Author: Lorcan Sheehan

Anyone working in supply chain is used to juggling multiple projects, commitments, and deadlines.  There is always an urgent deliverable that requires attention and a need to prioritise resources.  While we should not need milestones such as Earth Day, they can be a useful reminder to pause and reflect on whether we have given enough priority and attention to our actions in addressing climate change. 

It has been 17 years since AMR Research published Supply Chain Saves the World, a book that explored the idea that making money and saving the planet could and should be compatible ideas.  It recognised the unique position of supply chain leaders in orchestrating international commerce and the decisions that could be made to be more sustainable in our actions.     

I am reminded of a panel session that I hosted at the End-to-End Supply Chain conference in Dublin in 2015.  After an engaging and uplifting conversation about the future of supply chain in Ireland, a hand went up in the audience. “The panel that was here two years ago said pretty much the same thing, and it does not feel like we are any closer to making it happen”.

When it comes to sustainability, are we still having the same conversations that we had 17 years ago?   Are we still tinkering with pilot actions to prove concepts? Are we looking around to provide marketing with some fodder for an Earth Day message or to feed examples of green projects into annual reports? Or can we truly look back and say that we have moved the needle? 

All the data shows us that the runway to make changes to mitigate against the worst effects of climate change is very short.  Legislative and regulatory changes will require change in the next 5 years as the EU and other jurisdictions commit to sectoral targets for emissions reduction.     

The team behind Earth Day refers to generating a billion green actions at a personal, corporate, and government level.  As the team from AMR research pointed out 17 years ago, supply chain executives have a unique ability to influence sustainability actions within corporations, so our actions – green or otherwise – have the potential to disproportionately influence outcomes. 

What is different now from 17 years ago is that we now understand more about the path that we can take towards a more sustainable future.    

  • We have existing frameworks and measures that can guide a more comprehensive approach to our sustainability actions 
  • We have opportunities to migrate away from fossil fuels to more sustainable energy sources  
  • We have the tools to re engineer how we manage our supply chains in a more sustainable manner  
  • We have examples from companies in every sector from which we can learn in plotting our own path 

A challenge to all of us is to use this milestone to take time with our team to reflect on our sustainability journey and actions, to be ambitious with our plans for the future, and to make commitments that we can be proud of as our part of a billion green actions.    

Happy Earth Day to you and your team! Use it productively!

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