Going Green to Put You in the Black

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.

Concerning Environmental Sensitivity: Where Does Responsibility Fall?

Bill Hoffman – owner of Aptos Jewelers
Click the above image to be taken to the New York Times article associated with this post.

As students in an operational management class, we study all issues involved with operating a business.  We are taught that operating in an ethical manner is paramount and all-encompassing.  That an organization’s leaders must be cognizant of the impact their decisions have internally and externally – specifically in regard to the environment.  The article used for this post describes what happens when the government forces businesses to function in a certain way.  I found this article intriguing and in reading it, I found myself extremely conflicted.  Below is a brief synopsis.


More than two-dozen cities in California have enacted a ban on the use of plastic shopping bags and have begun charging between 5 to 10 cents to use a paper bag.  The movement has created a divide between shop owners like Bill Hoffman – owner of Aptos Jewelers in Aptos, California – and their counties.   Hoffman, who has been one of the more vocal opponents of the regulation, feels that charging his customers (who are often spending thousands in his store) for paper bags is crass.  Hoffman also is of the belief that the way he packages his product is part of the experience he offers.  He is offering a high-end product that requires high-end packaging.  After filing with Santa Cruz County for an exemption from the ordinance, Hoffman was turned down.

The push toward reusable bags has also upset the plastics industry, which is pursuing legal action against counties in California that have enacted a plastic bag ban.  Industry representatives claim that there is insufficient evidence to support that banning plastic bags will have any drastic impact on the environment.

Stephen Joseph, who is the primary voice and attorney for the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, has argued that bans in cities that have a high tourist presence (such as San Francisco – which is initiating a plastic bag ban this month) will be particularly ineffective because tourists typically don’t travel with reusable shopping bags.  This has led Joseph to deduce that tourists will begin buying reusable plastic bags when they arrive in a location, and will dispose of them upon their departure.  This, of course, would make a huge dent in the purpose of the ban.

When questioned, many consumers voiced a frustration with the ban/paper bag charge, but expressed that it’s ultimately necessary.*

Questions to consider:

  • How do you feel about a movement of this type?
  • Should the government step in and ban materials that are harmful to the environment?
  • Should it be up to the business owner to ensure he/she is operating his/her business in an environmentally responsible manner?
  • Should consumers take the responsibility?


* The information provided in this post was drawn from the following New York Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/29/business/energy-environment/communities-curb-use-of-paper-and-plastic-shopping-bags.html?pagewanted=all

“Ben & Jerry’s”-The Ethical Approach

We have learned about ethics, environmental sustainability, conservation and the renewal of resources through the product life cycle. In operations management sustainability refers to the ecological stability of the environment. The ethical approach extends through the design, production and destruction of the product. Ben & Jerry’s is one of the most ethical and socially responsible companies in existence today. Ben & Jerry’s views product design from a systems perspective by weighting the costs to the firm compared to the cost to society.

  • Design-Ben & Jerry’s realize the importance of creating packaging that will reduce negative impacts on the environment. In 2009, they began using a certified paperboard for the entire stock of U.S. pint containers that comes from a forest managed for the protection of wildlife. Moreover, the boxes used for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream bars are made from 100% post consumer recycled paperboard. (Developing safe and environmentally sound practices)


  • Production– In the Vermont manufacturing plants, Ben & Jerry’s has invested heavily in energy-efficient technology. This includes cooling systems, lighting, water and waste management systems. (minimizing waste of resources)


  • Destruction– Ben & Jerry’s sends dairy waste from the Vermont plants to two of the farms that supply them with fresh dairy ingredients. The waste is put into methane digesters along with other farm waste where it produces energy to power the farm. (Reduce environmental liabilities)


Social Responsibility

Here are some ways Ben & Jerry’s focuses on ethics, the environment and social responsibility:

Ben & Jerry’s has always been focused on the communities in which they serve. In the UK, they have a bus that travels through the streets during festivals selling ice cream. The profits gained are used to support charitable causes in the local community such as “Childline” and “Trees for Cities”.

The company offered stock options to its hometown of Vermont where it began when it decided to expand into other cities. Ben & Jerry’s wanted the community who supported its beginning to be the first to benefit from its success.

Ben & Jerry’s uses certified humane cage-free eggs in their ice cream products in Europe. In the US, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream products are 99% cage-free. The existing 1% is in the novelty ice cream bars sold in the US and Asia.

What are some things your employer has done to become environmentally friendly with respect to design, production and destruction?