Where Sourcing and Social Impact Meet
A conversation with Jerry Joye and Emily Kane Miller
These days – we are all acutely aware of the critical role that supply chains play for all businesses (and society more broadly!). As a company thinks about how to invest in ESG and Social Impact, looking toward the supply chain team might not be everyone’s first thought. That said, it’s a smart thing to do. Depending on the organization, taking a fresh look at supply chain contracts and vendor partners can yield major value as an organization looks to advance social and environmental goals.
To dig into some real-world examples, I sat down with my friend, colleague, and supply chain expert, Jerry Joye.
You can check out the video of our full conversation here or enjoy a redacted written version below.
Have a great example of flexing your supply chain for good? We’d love to hear about them!
Emily Kane Miller: You've been doing this work for 25 years(!). What are the three most notable innovations in supply chain that you've seen in the almost three decades you've been doing this?
Jerry Joye: 1) Robotics and automation -- and the pace at which robotics and automation is impacting the supply chain, 2) the reach that global sourcing has, and 3) the dependence on plastics, which is an innovation and curse at the same time.
Emily Kane Miller: Perfect segue to ESG (environment, social and governance). It's a buzzword. Companies are talking about it, thinking about it. Talk to us about how supply chain fits into the broader ESG landscape and how you think of as a supply chain leader when you hear the term ESG.
Jerry Joye: I think supply chain leaders around the world are in a different kind of context than they have been in the past. The global supply chain crisis that we're operating in where few if any industries are not in a complete tailspin around the volatility of demand and supply that we've had since the beginning of COVID. A lot of industries have been without inventory for a long time and now all of a sudden a number of industries have a lot of inventory, have maybe too much inventory … have some of the wrong things. There's things that are tougher to sell at the moment. So there's a lot of stress in supply chains and supply chain teams are fighting really for survival every day. And so the ability to truly focus on ESG has been interrupted.
All that being said, there's genuine determination to do good things across pretty much all the supply chains that I've got visibility into. I see investments in reducing impacts in the environment in everything from packaging choices to renewable energy. And these things are not because the business case makes sense, but rather because these are the right things to do. People are looking at this thing in the right way.
I go back to the plastics -- it's public enemy number one for brands. Supply chains have got to innovate their way out of the innovation trap that is plastics. For example, California's SB 54 is – for the first time – putting responsibility for the actual recycling of the plastics on the producers of those plastics. That's a big change. We'll see Canada moving in that same direction, and that may be a catalyst for a wholesale change in how supply chains approach using plastics.
A lot of different industries have used plastics. Again, because they were practical from a producer’s or a shipper's point of view. They were cheap and easy solutions for a lot of different problems. They may not be the cheap and easy way in the future.
Emily Kane Miller: That's what the California legislators are hoping for, right? One of the things we talked about when we were prepping for this conversation is the movement for businesses to really think more about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). I'm interested to hear your perspective on how that's playing into supply chain and supply chain leadership.
Jerry Joye: Yes, it's an area that's long overdue. I won't say it's universal, but I see a very widespread understanding that diverse teams are not only the right thing, but also they produce superior results. There's an understanding growing about this. There's a recent study by the University of Arkansas -- they found that in supply chain simulations, operations that were either entirely led by women or that at least had significant representation by women as participants in these simulations wound up being more efficient and collaborative than the ones that were all male. Gardner did a supply chain study in 2022, and showed that not only did diverse companies outperform companies that are less diverse, but also candidates want to work at diverse companies. If you look at supply chains today, there's a real war for talent. If you can cast a wider net because you're trying to access more diversity, and then the candidates that you have, if they are more attracted to working at your company because it is a more diverse place that they want to work at, those companies are going to win.
Emily Kane Miller: I'd love to hear -- beyond the standards, beyond the regs, what have you seen from a leadership perspective? Maybe a business or an individual example where you've just been really impressed, where sure, it’s meeting the standard, but it's also coming from a really good place.
Jerry Joye: Yeah. You know, an area I've been really impressed in is when leaders in supply chain take the concepts and they put it into examples that are really easy to communicate, share, and scale for everyone in the company. For example, in one company, they converted a type of waste into an equivalent mass of adult African elephants. By talking about thousands of elephants -- it made it real for people. How many elephants would fit in this conference room? How many elephants would fit on the floor or even in the entire building? Another company used how many hundreds of thousands of adult pine trees worth of carbon they were generating each year due to different activities. And, you know, you could see, okay, well, how many acres worth of trees or hectors worth of trees does that translate into? And people understood it a whole lot better – and it generates a sense that we need to go do something about this.
Emily Kane Miller: So, we've talked about all of the work that's happening. I'd love to transition into how people are tracking this work. Obviously, there's a lot of intention and doing good, and meeting benchmarks. Have you found the tracking to be easy, hard? How do you get the information back to the larger corporate team?
Jerry Joye: You know, I think maybe some companies are doing it well. I think across a lot of companies, it's fragmented. There's a lot of good intentions, but people are doing things differently. A lot of companies are following directions from major retailers, with major retailers saying, okay, use my platform and share the information this way. What I'm seeing is companies are not able to enter all of that information consistently. So I don't know how accurate or complete that information is across different industries and retailers. And even within a value chain to ensure that different suppliers are consistent – it’s a challenge.
Emily Kane Miller: Yeah. And, you know, as, as we've both sort of built our careers on this model, that if it's not measured, isn't manage, it's a pain point and it's exactly why we created Ethos Tracking and included supply chain. We didn't only include philanthropy and donations and what's going on with employee engagement. We specifically have a home for supply chain - and for sustainability - because we know that this work is happening in dynamic ways, and it needs to be looked at as part of the larger corporate impact.
I really appreciate you taking the time to have this conversation. Any final thoughts?
Jerry Joye: I look forward to seeing what Ethos is producing -- Keep it coming.