Human Capital Challenges for Green Supply Chain Management and Development, and How to Resolve Them

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The greening of supply chains isn’t one of the hottest topics front-of-mind for most executives going into 2018, but it should be because while the current U.S. administration isn’t pushing a green agenda, most of the rest of the world’s leaders are. As CDP indicated in their 2017 Supply Chain Report: “The supply chain is the new frontier in environmental responsibility – an area rich with an opportunity that remains mostly unexplored, where a number of pathfinders are starting to show others the value that can be found.” Global giants including 3M, Coca-Cola, General Mills, GM, Hewlett-Packard, Nestle, Sony and over 3,000 other companies in their economic class are dedicated to working with their suppliers to decrease climate-related risks. Their biggest challenge, which will be yours too, is not financial — they have trillions of dollars of purchasing power for green endeavors alone — it’s identifying and on-boarding human capital with executive-level skills in reducing negative environmental impact, specifically in supply chains.

Human Capital Challenges for Green Supply Chain Management and Development, and How to Resolve Them

Your Green Supply Chain Management (GSCM) will require subject matter experts (SMEs) and transformation architects with expertise in the top eight trends driving environmentally friendly distribution:

  1. Cross-Department Collaborative Planning — Yes, your marketing and sales executives do have a role in logistics, because they have product and customer demand-cycle data that drives shipment planning. You need to cross-train an end-to-end functional team to identify where and how delivery can be slowed (e., steamer shipped instead of air flighted to reduce emissions). The most expeditious (hence cost-effective) and low-risk way to train and jumpstart your in-house team is to bring in an interim executive coach or coaching team that has combined experience in:Data collection, mapping, and modeling
  • Data collection, mapping, and modeling
  • Voice of the Customer (VOC)
  • Value-stream mapping
  • Business process and change management
  • Team facilitation
  • Shared vision and buy-in

This individual or team doesn’t necessarily need experience in your product niche. Their primary role is to help your people understand the data from both the customer service and supply chain, and use that data to map and plan pro-environment freight management.  Essentially, retreading the way all functional team members look at their department’s effect on the supply chain, requires the help of experts in de-siloing their thinking.

  1. New Markets Emerging Because of Improved Infrastructure and Vice Versa — At first glance, this may not seem to demand any influx of talent, but it actually has the potential to disrupt your bottom line positively, or negatively, in unexpected ways. These markets may be more competitive in your industry, or they may open up an opportunity you need to maximize before your competitors do. They may also benefit your greener supply chain because they are emerging at a time when more access to environmentally positive methods of transporting freight are readily available, so they may become go-to in your GSCM plan. To fast-forward your in-house team in order to avoid risks and optimize potentials in these areas, it’s advisable to bring in interim experts in:
  • Opportunity management and maximization methodology
  • Risk management and mitigation methodology
  • Cultural readiness appraisal
  • Change readiness appraisal and management
  • Strategy development
  • Government relations
  • Local resource management

Experts in these areas can quickly help your executives get up to speed regarding the pros and cons for your company of these emerging markets, and how to adapt quickly and effectively to them.

  1. Industry Working with Environmental and Civil Society Organizations to Green Supply Chain and Logistics — Before long it will be essential that your organization has a department dedicated to social and environmental responsibility (if you already have one, you’re way out in front). A green supply chain isn’t an option, it’s a necessity for the future of life on this planet and organizations like CDP and Business for Social Responsibility are writing standards we’ll all have to follow in regards to measuring, disclosing and managing the environmental impact of our supply chains, and how to make them green. Gradually, these standards will become law (the right thing to do is not to wait for that inevitability). Join the global giants out in front by bringing in SMEs to coach and transfer knowledge from their expert base in:
  • Corporate social responsibility
  • Social return on investment
  • Green economy
  • Sustainable change
  • Performance management
  • Compliance
  1. Green Truck, Air, Ship and Rail Management Planning and Deployment — Hand-in-hand with standards and regulation, your company will be required to plan your shipping, inbound and out, to use freight-transport companies that have the best environmentally friendly practices (e., all-electric freight trains) and plan your shipping to always use the friendliest option. Your logistics people will have to amass a robust knowledge of options and the impacts of their use, above and beyond, mastery of available planning and scheduling systems and software. Experts in the following areas should be brought in to get your people, processes and systems green-scheduling quickly:
  • Green logistics
  • Sustainability
  • Supply network design
  • Multi-modal freight pipelines
  • Emerging green technologies
  1. 3D printing — How this will impact your green supply chain development is unclear. What is clear is that sooner rather than later, the opportunity will exist to “print” in-house components you may now order and ship inbound. This would reduce your inbound freight environment footprint exponentially. You’ll need to bring in SMEs with transferable skills in:
  • 3D printing engineering
  • 3D printing software and hardware
  • Patent law
  • IT integration
  1. Automation, Especially of Transport Vehicles — Last-mile delivery will be taken over by driverless vehicles. These transports will likely be environmentally zero-impact. Internally, warehouse and fulfillment automation will ultimately be low environmental impact while requiring less staff, meaning reduced commuters and resultant emissions. You’ll need to bring your warehouse and transportation team up to speed quickly with the help of experts in:
  • Change management and readiness
  • Project charters and controls
  • Value stream mapping
  • Configuration management (CM) software
  • Development methodology
  1. Recycling and Reuse — Incentivizing return of products at their end-of-life, is a hot topic for logistics companies. While it may ultimately increase the volume of items being shipped, it will positively impact green manufacturing when the returned items are utilized in the production cycle. Recycling existing freight transport vehicles with greener operating technologies will also have a pro-environment impact on supply chains. SMEs with these skills can help you transform your operations to closed-loop quickly, and with reduced risk:
  • Remanufacturing
  • Quality control
  • Control planning
  • Process mapping
  • Mistake and error proofing
  1. Pressure from Your Customer — Consumers are increasingly aware of and alarmed by the environmental impacts of manufacturing and supply chain functions. They will put more and more emphasis on passing legislation that makes industry greener. Refer to Number three above for a list of experts who can come in and help you get your green initiatives supported and initiated sustainably by your teams.

It’s safe to say there just aren’t enough green manufacturing and supply chain management gurus to go around as GSCM is an all too new practice. Fortunately, you and other lead executives have access to hundreds of thousands of SMEs with diverse and specific skills and knowledge who can work with your teams individually or collectively to bridge your GSCM capabilities gaps. As a busy executive, you don’t have time to bring these SMEs on board, so train and task your HR department with identifying and working with a set of interim expert placement companies that specialize in areas like operational excellence, engineering, green industry, IT, etc. They’ll do the work and send in the experts you need, to get your green on.

Additional Reading

Lean and Green Supply Chain

Supply chain altruism – The art of giving back by using your hard-earned lean and supply chain skills to help others help themselves


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