Guest Post: Sustainable Business Practices Depend on Sustainable Management

17th August 2017

Logistics BusinessGuest Post: Sustainable Business Practices Depend on Sustainable Management

By Sabine Ursel, Journalist and communications consultant based in Wiesbaden, Germany, with a focus on procurement and distribution

Faster, higher, stronger: (Over-)ambitious goals, usually dictated from on high, leave us little time to catch our breath. And to reflect? Reflect on what? Well, we could start with climate change, our diminishing natural resources, the profound disruption of our basic ecosystems, and the resulting threats to our supply chains. But once again: Our goals, typically of a pecuniary nature, have us chasing our own tails. It’s all about topping last year’s earnings, after all. To stand still is to move backward.

Many people are well aware that our current economic system poses environmental, social, and even economic risks. “That really should trigger a shift in our overall economic approach, our daily habits as consumers, and our mobility,” says Klaus Krumme. The Managing Director of the ZLV Center for Logistics and Traffic at the University of Duisburg-Essen appeals to supply chain professionals: Everyone loves to talk about green logistics, but now it’s time to finally free up all possible resources to bring about the necessary economic and social transformation. We need to reposition the business of supply chain management amid the competing forces of collaboration, profit, and responsibility.

We’ve all heard the lofty notions and dire warnings: Adapt or die. Don’t miss the boat. So it’s best to start chewing on the diffuse idea of disruption as soon as you get up in the morning. But the problem is, almost no one is able to “cut to the chase” and say exactly what they want when, with some annoyance, they demand tangible results.

Klaus Krumme knows how to move beyond theory to practice. As a presenter at “EXCHAiNGE—the Supply Chainers’ Conference,” he will offer explicit models for correcting the cost and price parameters when social and environmental concerns become necessary elements of modern business activities. The end goal is to combine short-term KPIs with long-term sustainability KPIs. Ideally—in theory—supply chain managers will become shapers rather than mere responders.

Transformation doesn’t stop at resource supply channels, production, transport, trade, procurement models, and consumption patterns—and it certainly doesn’t stop at leadership style. All too often, this is forgotten. Because as long as traditional business schools preach the gospel of “money makes the world go ‘round,” as long as we cry loudly for accountability but fail to accept it, and as long as management errors remain largely without consequence, it will be tough to get businesses to seriously embrace social and environmental issues. But sustainable business practices can only succeed if guided by sustainable management. So let’s wait until the last fig leaf has fallen. In this—theoretical—scenario, there is a new qualitative benchmark for “success”: the measurable KPI of “ethical behaviour in the supply chain.”

I look forward to many stimulating conversations at EXCHAiNGE on September 26 and 27, 2017, in Frankfurt.

Visitors can grapple with the economic and social issues outlined here in presentations by Klaus Krumme with supply chain professionals Oliver Kaut (DHL Global Forwarding GmbH), Holger Michalka (Rittal GmbH), Michael Kuhndt (Collaborating Centre on Sustainable Consumption and Production), and sustainability expert Dr. Nadine Pratt.

Save the date:
“EXCHAiNGE—the Supply Chainers’ Conference” will take place on September 26 and 27, 2017 in Frankfurt am Main.