University of Southern California

Greys Sosic
Green Is Good
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Since the beginning of this century, numerous changes have occurred in our environment—weather oscillations have become more extreme, food sources have become scarcer, and energy has become more expensive. We caused many of these changes, directly or indirectly, and we should try to reverse them (or at least slow them down) by reducing our impact on the environment. We can start with our personal lives—we can recycle more, bring reusable bags to the grocery store, buy fish from sustainable sources certified by Marine Stewardship Council, use environment-friendly household cleaning supplies, detergents, and cosmetics, and the list goes on. If possible, we should then expand these efforts to our workplace; this is becoming easier nowadays, as most companies today are trying to make their supply chains greener and are encouraging such initiatives.

I, too, was guilty of having many environment-unfriendly habits—among other things, I used to purchase bottled water, operate energy-inefficient appliances, and use disposable plastic bags. However, while I was changing my personal lifestyle, I realized that I can do much more by taking advantage of my position as a teacher and a researcher at USC Marshall, one of the top business schools in the US. As a teacher, I can foster awareness among the students; as a researcher, I can increase the benefits that businesses can get from green efforts.

I joined Marshall in 2002 and, among other things, started teaching an MBA class in supply chain management. As the business environment is continuously changing, I continuously update the content of the class so as to introduce relevant topics and new developments. In 2008, after realizing that most companies had increased green efforts across different dimensions of their supply chains, I decided to include a case on Wal-Mart’s sustainability strategy and expose my students to some of the sustainability issues facing today’s companies. The case discusses Wal-Mart efforts in assuring sustainability of its seafood supply, reducing the level of hazardous materials in the electronics equipment, introducing organic cotton in is clothing lines, etc. While the case analysis engages students, I now realize that the case brings a somewhat limited view of possible improvements that firms can make in greening their supply chains—it concentrates on a single company from retail sector and its efforts in working with its suppliers. In order to expose our students to a broader spectrum of issues relevant for a firm that tries to run an environmentally responsible business, I have developed an entirely new class that aims to examine the different challenges and opportunities that such firms face and discuss different approaches that companies in various industries have tried. The class will be offered in the Fall 2011, and titled IOM 599—Sustainable Supply Chains. I hope that Marshall students will realize its relevance in today’s business world. A second new class I am teaching—Sourcing and Supplier Management (IOM 599), addresses environmental and social issues that emerge in relationships between suppliers and producers.

My research work is mostly concerned with cooperation and competition in supply chains. When thinking about possible activities within green supply chains in which collaboration could benefit all parties involved if appropriate incentive schemes are being implemented, recycling emerged as a natural choice. I have recently started working on a project that looks at reduction in recycling costs when the manufacturers cooperate in take-back efforts; I have also started another one, which analyzes benefits that can be obtained when manufacturers cooperate by sharing their recyclability technologies and efforts. While this research is still in early stages, I hope that its results could have some practical implications and motivate increased sustainability efforts in today’s markets.