Sustainability Drives Supply Chain Professionals to Learn New Finance and Accounting Concepts

At JDA’s Focus event, Rich Beck, the Sr. Vice President of Global Operations at PepsiCo, gave the keynote on the second day of the conference. Rich said that their supply chain goals included “digitizing the value chain” (JDA was a key solution provider in this area) and “sustainability.”

I’ve been covering supply chain management for twenty years. Last year, I spent 20 percent of my time on the road. And I hear many, many supply chain speeches. I can count on a few fingers of one hand the number of supply chain executives I have heard say sustainability was one of their major goals.

That will change. 72% of the companies included in The S&P 500 Index® publish sustainability reports, up from just under 20% in 2011. Over time, companies’ sustainability efforts become more mature and corporate sustainability goals filter down and become key supply chain goals as well. And these are not incompatible goals. At PepsiCo supply chain sustainability includes “reducing their inputs while optimizing outputs;” but really, that has always have been a goal for supply chain organizations.

The CDP, formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project, is the best known of the organizations that are helping (or pressuring, depending on your point of view), companies to do better. Thousands of companies work with the CDP to measure, disclose, manage and share environmental information.

The CDP scores companies on their performance. “A high performance score signals that a company is measuring, verifying and managing its carbon footprint, for example by setting and meeting carbon reduction targets and implementing programs to reduce emissions in both its direct operations and (the extended) supply chain.” Companies score higher if they are focused not just on internal emissions, but the emissions caused in their extended value chain. This causes a ripple effect as big companies with sustainability goals request their suppliers to also reduce their emissions.

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Zara’s Agile Project Management Advantage

Zara is a fast fashion retailer that has achieved staggering success since its inception in 1975. Compared to its Zara peers in retail, Zara has one practice that helps contribute to its competitive advantage: an agile project management oriented supply chain.

Agile Project Management
Broadly, agile project management is based on the 12 principles brought forth by the agile manifesto. This manifesto forms the basis for a project management theory that focuses on iterations, adaptations, collaboration, and constant improvement. As opposed to many other project management designs, agile project management is a non-linear approach to problem solving that hopes to provide flexibility and adaptability, without having to go back to the start with each iteration undertaken.

While originally developed for software and technology problem solving, agile project management has gained acceptance in the supply chain industry for its ability to help companies adapt to market dynamics. In the same way agile project management helps a software company develop non-linear solutions to problems, agile project management allows a supply chain to creatively adapt to market evolutions without having to disrupt supply chains from start to finish. Zara has used this agile supply chain to earn a distinct and unmatched advantage in retail.

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