Climate change, environmental protection, carbon footprint; all of these phrases are familiar to us. But what do they have to do with operation management? A lot, actually! We can see this in the concept of sustainability, “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their needs.” (Heizer 189.) Sustainability is important to operation managers because of how it affects things outside of the company. From the beginning of the supply chain to the end, managers have to consider how the product and the operations will affect not only consumers, but also the environment. To do this, managers can look at raw materials, product design, suppliers, disposal of material and waste, and transportation to reduce the impact on the environment. If the managers do not practice sustainability, the company can receive bad press from different stakeholders. Not only that, if the company is not meeting regulations, the company can be fined. According to our text, “if a firm wants to be viable and competitive, it must have a strategy for corporate social responsibility and sustainability.” (Heizer 199.)
There are many examples of companies changing the supply chain to be more sustainable. For instance, bottle companies using recycled plastic or companies reusing wastewater. Recently, even more companies have promised to reduce their environmental impact. Last week the New York Times reported more companies are supporting greener supply chains, renewable energy, and stopping the destruction of the tropical forests. According to the article, these promises have been a growing trend for a number of years, “…with virtually every major company now feeling obliged to make commitments about environmental sustainability, and to report regularly on progress.” (Nytimes.) This goes back to why sustainability is important for operations management. Because of the growing expectations, managers are looking for ways to make the supply chain sustainable. It also supports the fact that companies have to be sustainable to be competitive. Apple has committed to looking for ways to practice renewable energy and reduce emissions from their suppliers in the supply chain. For instance, Apple has been building solar farms and wind arrays in the United States. Other companies in the article have pledged to stop deforestation. Including Unilever, who has pledged to “…trace all…palm oil to known sources by the end of this year.” (Nytimes.)
Personally, sustainability was really interesting to read about. Though I have chosen to only talk about sustainability in regard to the environment, sustainability also includes other dimensions, as well. I think what surprised me most about sustainability is how companies really do have to practice it in order to stay viable and competitive. I realized that company sustainability influences how I think about a company. I am more willing to buy the company’s products and I think most other customers are like that too.
What are your thoughts on sustainability? Do you agree with the statement that companies need to practice sustainability in order to be viable and competitive? Why or why not?
Gillis, Justin. Companies Take the Baton in Climate Change Efforts. Nytimes.com. New York Times, 2014. Web.
Heizer, Jay, and Barry Render. Principles of Operations Management. Upper Saddle River. 2013. Print.