Loyola University Chicago

Quinlan School of Business

Sustainable, ethical business is the core of Supply and Value Chain Center

Sustainable, ethical business is the core of Supply and Value Chain Center

This Solutions Summit panel on water stewardship is an example of how the Supply and Value Chain Center promotes sustainable business.

Supply chain accounts for 44 million jobs in the United States, which is 37% of the workforce. This makes supply chain uniquely poised to have the largest and most lasting impact on sustainability initiatives.

The Supply and Value Chain Center, part of the Loyola Business Leadership Hub housed in Quinlan, is leading the way in finding creative solutions to the complex problems facing businesses today.

“Sustainability and ethical decision-making in the supply chain is absolutely critical, even more so than in other sectors. This is where the largest environmental impacts are coming from,” says center director Harry Haney. “So many aspects of business touch supply chain—from transportation to labor and global sourcing.”

But it can be difficult to put resources toward areas that make a major impact on environmental issues. “For example, it can be tempting to focus on flashy areas of impact, such as plastic straw usage,” says Haney, “but the reality is that does not make enough of an impact to address the environmental crisis we face.”

Creating solutions

That’s where the Supply and Value Chain Center comes in. Encouraging sustainable and ethical business decisions is a key responsibility of the center, according to Haney. Consumers and other stakeholders are demanding businesses behave responsibly—environmentally, socially, and financially.

“Every year, we host a number of programs, such as the Solutions Summit with sessions directly related to ethical and sustainable leadership,” says Haney. “We also do project work for companies where we take a look at their practices and present more responsible actions for the future.”

In 2018, the center’s consulting teams of students and staff worked with 11 organizations to tailor their supply chains to meet their changing needs. One project worked with large global health care manufacturer to optimize their supply chain network in India, including a deep assessment of the social and environmental factors, which culminated in recommendations of alternative supply chain strategies focused on social, environmental, and financial impact.

Another project worked with small grocery chain to assess operations and reduce food waste. Recommendations included developing a partner network to receive food donations, training, and incentives to change the cultural approach to food waste.

Leading actionable change

The center also serves as a thought leader in the field, focusing on the importance of taking action.

“Our goal is to advocate for change and lead the way,” says Haney. “We contribute research and articles to Supply Chain Management Review frequently stressing that behaving responsibly is a business imperative.”

The center recently surveyed members on their corporate social responsibility practices and priorities, which was highlighted in the article “The ethical supply chain” →

Social responsibility also fits with financial responsibility in many cases. There is a greater cost benefit in using responsible labor practices, and sustainable use of resources is financially beneficial in the long term.

“The financial responsibility side of ethical supply chain management has gone unnoticed because it is harder to quantify than other assets,” says Haney. “Our current accounting systems are not built to reflect sustainable use of resources, making it difficult to track the value added by sustainable business actions. But as stakeholders demand more responsible action, there is even greater benefit for business leaders to focus on corporate social responsibility. Short-term cost-cutting via unethical or unsustainable means will prove less effective than long-term sustainable management.”

Educating current and future leaders

Beyond the Supply and Value Chain Center, sustainability is a key focus at Loyola’s Quinlan School of Business. In 2019, Financial Times recognized Quinlan for global leadership in social purpose →

”Sustainable and responsible leadership is infused in the curriculum here, and it’s also brought in by students who understand its importance,” says Haney. “In one class, every group working on a case study brought back recommendations that included a responsible or sustainable business component. That wasn’t a requirement of the project, but all the students recognized the importance and value of sustainability and ethics on their own.”

Students also have the opportunity to take courses specifically focused on sustainable business practices. For example, Quinlan’s Sustainability Management minor includes courses on sustainable supply chains.

“It gives a sense of hope for the future that students are already focusing on being responsible in their actions,” says Haney.

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