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How Green is the Supply Chain

How Green is the Supply Chain

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Published by: Chowdhury Golam Kibria on Dec 22, 2010
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How Green is the Supply Chain?: Practice and Research
 
Joseph Sarkis
Graduate School of ManagementClark University950 Main StreetWorcester, MA 01610-1477Phone: 508/793-7659Fax: 508/793-8822Email: jsarkis@clarku.edu August 1999
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 How Green is the Supply Chain?: Practice and ResearchI
NTRODUCTION
 
The issue of greening supply chains is critical for the successful implementation of industrial ecosystems and industrial ecology. In fact, Bloemhof-Ruward, et al., (1995) haveargued that waste and emissions caused by the supply chain have become the main sources of serious environmental problems including global warming and acid rain. Organizations have anumber of reasons for implementing these green supply chain policies, from reactive regulatoryreasons, to proactive strategic and competitive advantage reasons. From an overallenvironmental and organizational perspective, it is important to understand the situation andwhat issues exist in this field of study.The presentation of the state of the “debate”, practice, and research for this topic can becarried out at many levels and in many fields. The novelty of this topic makes it difficult to trulydetermine contradictory and conflicting issues that could be considered true “debates”.Alternatively, when little is known, then everything is debatable. We will present some of thedebates that do occur, but much of this paper will focus on a review of research and practice andsome missing and loose links that need to be further investigated, evaluated or tightened. In away, the article serves the dual purpose of presenting the state of the art as well as the state of thedebate.Since systems thinking perpetuates this area of thought, presenting the issues within asystems perspective seems to be a suitable approach. That is, looking at the supply chain that iscomposed of activities or elements that have outputs serving as inputs to other activities andelements with feed back included. We shall also look at the overall system, abstracting the groupof elements to a higher level analysis.For the purposes of this discussion, the supply chain “system” includes Purchasing andIn-bound Logistics, Production, Distribution (Outbound Logistics & Marketing), and ReverseLogistics. Below, we shall see that other definitions exist as well. The first three categories arepart of the well-known value chain concept espoused by strategic thinkers such as Porter (1985).The last functional element, Reverse Logistics, is one of the more recent areas of focus by supplychain researchers. Figure 1 brings these factors together and will be described later. Thisdefinition also brings us to one of the first points of discussion and debate faced by green supply
 
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chain research. Exactly, what is the green supply chain? After a brief discussion concerning thedefinition of supply chain management and green supply chains, the discussion and presentationof issues turns to our four defined areas. Some practices, research, and evolving issues arediscussed for each of them. Then, an integrative look at the whole system and common issueswill be presented. What the future may look like and some possible emerging debates will alsobe presented.
D
EFINITIONS
 Supply Chains and Supply Chain Management
The concept of supply chains and supply chain management is a relatively recentmanagerial principle. The topic and field has evolved from a number sources includingpurchasing, marketing (distribution channels), logistics, and operations management. The issuesinclude management of inventory, customer-supplier relationships, delivery time, productdevelopment, and purchasing, just to name a few.A recent textbook on supply chain management (Handfield and Nichols, 1999) hasprovided the following definition for a supply chain:“The supply chain encompasses all activities associated with the flow and transformation of goods from raw materials (extraction), through the end user, as well as associated informationflows. Material and information flow both up and down the supply chain.” (pg. 2).In this description, the supply chain is considered to be a linear process. The circular andsystemic philosophy of “ecosystem” thinking (Shrivastava, 1995) is not explicitly included.Thus, from this textbook perspective, the integration of the full cyclical supply chain is notconsidered central to its definition. Few textbooks seem to diverge from this definition. Thissmall example is exemplary of common wisdom among this relatively new field. Developmentsin greening supply chains have yet to diffuse through the general literature. Even though this isrelatively anecdotal speculation, integration of greening supply chains into academic orpedagogical study has yet to be fully realized. Practice in this area seems to be as sporadic anddiverse as the field of study, with green supply chains poorly and/or erratically practiced andinvestigated.
Green Supply Chain Management – What is it?
“Green supply refers to the way in which innovations in supply chain management and industrialpurchasing may be considered in the context of the environment” (Green et al., 1996 188).

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