I interviewed Debby Clement who discussed How Supply Chains & Non-Profits Can Work Together.
How does what you do in your non profit world relate to the supply chain industry?
As an ordinary human being on the planet these days – I’m “downstream” of a number of industries in my daily work – pharmaceuticals, energy, agriculture, marine & shipping, energy, food, consumer packaging. Each of those industries has an impact on our oceans – and I see it all the sea is downstream from everything we do – and we use it as our sewer and our supermarket – so we have to look after it.
If I put that into a supply chain context - from where I’m sitting things look VERY challenging out there – both in sourcing and output terms - and not just from my ocean impact perspective. – in California right now the water crisis impacting farmers hugely in the USA, gotta be a problem for your mango and pecan nut buyers in supermarkets right?
The BP Gulf Spill destroyed local fishing economies and continues to impact stocks of shrimp and oysters in the Gulf. The plastic packaging in our oceans is now a global health threat and fish are actually ingesting unsustainable levels of microplastics.
Which problem do we solve?– with who – and how?
As an ordinary human being on the planet these days – I am sometimes overwhelmed and feel like I’m turning up to an earthquake with a dust pan and brush in trying to solve some of the problems. But luckily most of us are hard wired to being optimistic and we’ve never been so blessed with so much technology and collaborative tools to solve issues … connected people + collective power = force for good I wondered if any individuals in your supply chain network ever think to sit down with a specialist NGOs working in their area and discussed mutual challenges and opportunities? Would they? Could they?
Granted, these are gutsy conversations to have but that’s where I see huge opportunity. Corporations can connect with the ocean of opportunity that there is – come on in breath the disruptive air, break some rules, solve some real problems. And I believe we all want to solve a problem –and all we need is more dialogue and to brainstorm relevant issues and shared problems … and through that creative tension is where the real ideas and neat solutions will come from.
We have an enormous opportunity to synchronise the economy with the environment moving forward. A chance to disrupt and re-engineer some stuff and hack some of the usual silo’d thinking channels and try new collaborations outside of sustainability and marketing – what about R&D, product development... we’re not all beards and sandals you know…and some of us can actually see the commercialization opportunities, but its not in our mission remit to go after them – but if an organisation can help our mission, then they might benefit from that uncovered opportunity. And you may ask … why should we? its enough of a challenge in my day job with all the MRP challenges I’ve got on my desk …
What challenges does an NGO see in the future supply chain …
On the surface we appear to be living in a world of plenty but I wonder in 10 years time if that will be the case.
I wonder how many supply chain people out there have had a panic this year because the supply of a particular fish stock has been closed to them, or a rare earth metal has suddenly trebled in price or how many are bracing themselves for the next spike in oil price … And let’s not kid ourselves fossil fuels are getting harder and harder to extract, not to mention the consequences of how we’re extracting.
So I think collaborations and working on shared problems and mutual concerns now will get early insight into the bigger problems on the horizon. Which means you learn how to adapt your businesses to the future challenges – and that’s a real competitive advantage. Not to mention the commercial opportunities surfacing, and that’s OK we’re not against that. Remember what the Apollo space race did for the economy – and we wouldn’t have solar energy without that challenge.
How can the supply chain get involved – we already have the sustainability and green teams?
Well here’s my challenge for the Kinaxis forum innovation and collaborative partnerships are going to be increasingly important in the future.
Your competitors may not be who you think they are so organisations are going to need to look outside traditional dialogue channels to solve supply chain issues, so why not join up the dots today and work together. Well how about inviting in a specialist non profit or NGO and just brainstorm and explore over lunch the mutual challenges in a chatham house rules environment.
You might be surprised some of the ideas which might surface and sum of your combined strengths. We’re finding space and defence companies are really interested in our use of marine drones – which we use to collect the breath from whale below for analysis…
But what does that collaboration look like?
Many NGOs are the source of the data that drives regulatory change, so why not get ahead of the curve in shaping products, services and processes? What if YOU have a question or suspicion during a product development that you need the answer to before or after going to market?
You might be concerned about a product impact – but don’t have the oceanic or laboratory expertise to explore the issues – well an NGO might what impact will nano particles have on our oceans? These are currently in use in more than 300 commercial products like sunscreen, washing machines, stain resistant clothing and we’re finding them in the oceans.
What do you want your corporate legacy to be? With more than 1 billion people eating from our oceans what if you could use our data to shape your products – and lead innovation in creating new products that don’t leave a legacy of toxins; products that people will buy that put you ahead of the competition.
I wish I could show you a picture of the average mouthful of contents from a baleen whale – do you think it would be just plankton or do you think it would also be
microplastic granules, like the ones you get in your every day facewash with microbeads? What if your plastic packaging technicians could have a 20% time allocation like google employees with an NGO partnership - What products would they be inspired to create – and repackage?
I know for example we have some brilliant scientists on our books who would love to work for good rather than just profit … and solve issues that we have flagged to them and they can see. Is there a RB or Unilever or P&G that has the courage and conscience to do that – how much good could be generated from it – for everyone?
What shipping companies could engage in innovation projects for measuring ocean acidification or generate and carry whale warning sounds using our acoustic whale recording library?
Could we look at how to repopulate a depleted ocean with plankton together and trial that in a poor sea area?
Can we generate a pollution heat map of the oceans to help you assess risk and understand downstream pollution impacts?
How do we de-toxify or deplasticize our oceans?
Can we re-engineer desalination plants to clean oceans of our pharmaceuticals?
So what if businesses could invest with NGOs together in research in the currency of the new economy – which is courage and conscience to put right, with transparency which generates trust?
Could you fund an exchange programme for example for us eg. Southampton university in the UK and Ocean Alliance in Boston – to look fund effective lobster farming off the coast of cornwall but uses the expertise of local displaced fisherman from the recent cod fish factory closure?
These are the kind of projects that can be done and the mix of corporate, NGO and STEAM (science technology engineering art & maths) can be breathtakingly impactful -
Why should supply chain get more involved with non-profits and NGOs?
Things are changing for you because of how your customer is feeling … Its important every corporate conscience thinks and acts about this now – Rachel Botsman talks about the collaborative economy – and that’s a threat to every global corporate organisation out there and I’d urge you to check out her ted talk. Its not enough to “make more stuff, make more profit” any more – your supply chain sourcing activities echo for a long time in your consumer’s conscience – seen the Tesco share price lately when you don’t get the balance right.
Consumers are now bypassing the big organisations and going back to local because they are losing trust in corporations who’s only value appears to be profit and who’s sustainability activities are actually designed just for improving return to shareholders. We’re in a demographic shift towards more values based caring economy. more socially aware and less materialistic generation. companies who get it right will benefit – Wholefoods in the USA for example – great leadership of a holistic approach internally and externally, a values based model that provides a good return for shareholders, staff and consumers.
How is your non profit collaborating?
We’re Challenging norms & innovating and connect dots and networks! We’ve been a thought catalyst for projects like Parley for the Oceans and Gstar Jeans and Bionic Yarn – unique collaborations that combine science, fashion and tech.
So I would encourage global organisations to be bolder and don’t just go for the corporate agenda low hanging fruit as far as deploying renewable energy on site, planting trees is all very nice but there are bigger opportunities to solve problems that your customers can identify with.
How could you work with a non-profit/ngo/partner to re-engineer the products in your supply chain and solve some real world problems?
You never know that competition you jointly launch with a non-profit might find that new innovation that saves your business.
What has influenced you ?
There are a few books and ted talks I’ve encountered in the last 6 months that have had a profound impact on my thoughts, activities and behaviours.
Jeremy Leggetts’ – The Energy of Nations
Jeremy Rifkin – The Third Industrial Revolution
Naomi Klein – This Changes Everything
Gary Hamel – What matters now
Rachel Botsman – the collaborative economy – the currency of the new economy is trust …
Robin Chase – Peers Inc - the sharing economy
If you look at the science of what’s happening on the earth today you would not be optimistic – and I see the raw data every day around what’s happening to our oceans and the fish within them … and we become what we eat …
But if you met some of the people in NGOs who are working to restore the earth then you can’t help fail to be inspired and motivated to do better for our planet and our people … so come and seek us out to generate ideas for solutions, there’s some willing foundations that will co fund projects with meaning.
About Debby Clement
Corporate Development - at OCEAN ALLIANCE, INC.