It all started when my colleague Shishir sent out a white paper to me and our sustainability expert Sriraman from our Healthcare practice. What was a forward on digital payments soon steamrolled into a lively discussion around sustainability, rethinking supply chain and green technology.
Sriraman was of the opinion that mere point to point interventions in creating a green supply chain was counterproductive.
For example, while Electric vehicles (EVs) are considered to be more environmentally friendly and proven to produce lower emissions, the actual footprint when compared to a gas-powered vehicle is not as low as one would expect – the footprint associated with mining, manufacturing and end of life recycling of EV batteries is huge, not to mention if EVs are also being charged with electricity that is not clean. So while EVs are definitely the way to go in mitigating pollution in line with the agenda as per the Paris agreement, vehicle manufacturers also have the responsibility of thinking green across their supply chain. EVs store energy in large batteries which are made of rare earth elements (REE) like lithium, nickel, graphite etc which exist below the surface of the earth and depend on extremely polluting mining ecosystem.
Another example, gaining debate is the sustainability quotient of crypto currencies. Amid the concerns over the rapidly increasing use of fossil fuels for bitcoin mining and the significant energy consumption of crypto mining machines and countries shutting them down altogether (esp. if the energy is not clean) – now we have a new trend called green crypto, which is another story 🙂 . This one actually reminded me of the famous novel by Richard Llwellyn around the gradual disintegration of an entire community when a mining operation opens up in a tiny village.
Organizations traversing up and down supply chains across industries deal with the same challenge. A well-intentioned individual action or assertion aimed to a greener business can create a long string of unanticipated consequences that collectively dwarf the benefits.
Instead, organizations throughout the supply chain, should take a holistic approach to sustainability and pursue a far broader and more responsible set of actions. These may include innovations in production processes, the development of fundamentally different relationships with business partners that can evolve into new service models, and even collaboration with multiple companies to create new industry structures.
Net net – the end-to-end chain and the after-shelf life, whether physical or digital, needs to be sustainable (not just from an environment perspective) and consistent. Sustainability needs to be managed as a core operational issue. Not only should organizations be looking to elevate adjacencies in a sustainable manner, but the extended supply chain has to be constantly evaluated to ensure green isn’t just lip service, but an ongoing initiative that has far reaching impact on the world we live in.
While the solution is far more complex, alternatives does not mean necessarily lower footprint as the entire chain needs to be clean.
Maybe the answer lies in consuming less and therefore producing less. Or somewhere in between.
So, while Shishir sparked a lively discussion on what’s possible, what’s doable and what’s achievable, the solution was all pointing in the same direction.
The choice is now. The valley stopped being green a long time ago.
CMO, Marlabs Inc.