Supply chains in the year 2030 will look very little like those of 2000. Already, multinationals are making sweeping changes to the way they design, create, and move products in response to competitive, environmental, and societal pressures. However, there is still a lot of work to do. Supply chains are still largely stuck using a linear framework which is proving wasteful for the economy and harmful to the environment. For example, in Ontario alone, 75 per cent of waste still ends up in a landfill and so much potential value is lost.
The Supply Chain 2030 panel led by Ivey's Jury Gualandris looked at the challenges and opportunities of moving towards a more circular economy where materials are more readily recovered and re-used along the supply chain. According to Gualandris, this shift will require collaboration "to be built inter-organizationally, but also intra-organizationally working together with procurement and innovation teams. There will be conflicts but a community based approach might actually help.”
Nadine Gudz, Interface Canada - on changing the conversations with suppliers:
"It was a pretty big demand to ask suppliers to join us on our sustainability mission, which was essentially defined as eliminating any negative environmental impact throughout its supply chain by 2020. The only way to get our products to zero carbon footprint, zero chemicals of concern, zero virgin raw materials depends fundamentally on their (suppliers) practices. So investing in suppliers and changing those conversations, as well as having big mission and transformation conversations is a big part of that, but not sustainable in the long term. That requires of lot of investment."
John Coyne, Unilever - on ensuring material recovery is a priority:
We have completely and utterly inadequate recovery systems everywhere. And until we apply ourselves from a policy point of view and a commercial point of view to ensuring that we actually apply ourselves to the belief that recovery is a good thing our costs are going to increase at an unbelievable rate. The trajectory of cost increases in this area is really quite remarkable. We have all the data to tell us that, we just don’t have the policies in place to fix the problem. And that’s a problem for big businesses and it’s a problem for little businesses. So thinking about it at the back end of the supply chain for things like paper and packaging, you can apply it to almost any material. There is very little in this world that we should not be recovering, or should not in some way be re-utilizing or recycling. We are no where near close to being adequate in this space. When is comes to things like packaging about 11 per cent of the material gets recycled. That’s just appalling. Until we collectively decide that we want to make a substantive and substantial change in that way, we are going to make incremental improvements in that area, but we are not going to make a lot of progress."
Alice Irene Whittaker-Cumming, Smart Prosperity Institute - on the work of the Circular Economy Leadership Coalition:
"We are looking at ways how we transform design, produce and use products in order to eliminate waste, keep high value materials in use, and regenerate natural systems. We are looking to foster the policy and public conditions in our country such that the linear economy that we saw can be improved upon by ensuring closed loops. So nothing will be wasted, items will be designed for durability, repair and reuse. Pollution will be designed out of the system right at the beginning of the supply chains so materials can flow back into the system as valuable inputs… This transformation inspires innovation. Its creating the space for greater prosperity by embracing these new technologies and new business models."
David Hughes, The Natural Step Canada - on making the circular economy a global effort:
"As critical as it is that we deal with this in Canada, and improve our recovery systems, improve the way we design our products, and the entire life-cycle process in Canada, we also have to recognize that Canada is a very small fraction of the challenge and the opportunity that exists globally. So another dimension of our work has to be, how can we also influence other markets on the world stage? That’s why the SME market is critical domestically, but understanding how the SME and the large, multi and transnational companies are working in these spaces together is how we can start to have some influence and setting an example of what needs to be done on a local stage. That is a huge opportunity in terms of exporting knowledge and new technologies to southeast Asia and other parts of the world, where in some cases the challenges are even greater."
We spoke with Gualandris and Gudz after the event about their key advice.
Listen to the interviews.