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Navigating Sustainability in Supply Chain (Jack Allen)

Published: Reading time: 5 mino9 Solutions The Digital Brain Platform
o9 SolutionsThe Digital Brain Platform

Supply chain sustainability trailblazer Jack Allen shares insights from his career in sustainability, risk, and supply chain.

The Necessary Path Forward for Sustainability and Supply Chain Collaboration

To build a successful partnership between sustainability and supply chain, Jack Allen emphasizes the need to understand the importance of supply chain in achieving sustainability goals. In particular, he notes that supply chain is often the second biggest problem, after the power that customers take to run products. To achieve sustainability goals, companies must build a partnership with their supply chain and work together to address issues such as human rights, modern slavery, and pollution. Allen emphasizes that supply chain sustainability is a practice that is gaining strength, and companies must focus on building a strong partnership with their supply chain to achieve sustainability goals.

"We can't be successful without supply chain. So, we have to build a partnership. And that's why supply chain has such a strong sustainability practice."

Jack Allen -
Head of Supply Chain Sustainability, Circular Economy,
Security, Risk, and Resiliency for Cisco Supply Chain

Managing Risk and Relationships

Jack Allen notes that sustainability risks are often not well understood by companies. Many companies think that sustainability risks are too large for their corporation to tackle, or that they are not risks at all. However, Allen argues that there are a whole series of risks that can be understood and quantified, and a path forward can be taken. For example, human rights violations pose two risks: regulatory risk and brand risk. By understanding and quantifying these risks, companies can make affirmative decisions on how to address them.

"Rather than shying away from the problem or thinking that nothing can be done about it, I think that more and more progressive companies have decided, yes, we need to understand the risks, we need to value the risks, we need to make decisions about risks, we need to quantify the risks."

To manage risk and deliver success, Jack Allen emphasizes the need to maintain a historical and balanced perspective on technology. While digital disruption is a driving force in the industry, there is a risk in becoming too wedded to the latest technology without considering its long-term impact. Instead, companies must pay attention to the skills necessary for success, such as problem-solving, communication, and relationship management.

"You need to maintain a historical perspective and a balanced perspective about technology, and what is technology for technology's sake, versus what is actually useful technology and try and see the future of the technology."

Digital Transformation and Innovation

According to Jack Allen, digital disruption is still going on and will continue to accelerate. He notes that disruption is not something that is taught in school, but it should be. Companies must recognize and deal with disruption strategically, recognizing that the world is constantly changing. Additionally, Allen emphasizes that sustainability is a huge business opportunity and a transforming force.

"Sustainability is already transforming the world, but wait until just wait, we're just getting started."

In terms of innovations in the industry, Allen notes that sustainability is a key area of focus. Additionally, he believes that cybersecurity is a critical skill that needs to be taught in universities. Companies must design systems to be cyber secure, and operational processes must be designed with cybersecurity in mind. Finally, Allen notes that the importance of relationships and managing those relationships is a crucial skill that is often overlooked.

"The importance of relationships, the importance of managing those relationships, the importance of building credibility, the importance of dealing with human beings, those kinds of skills, right? So, you know, I think there's probably a miss. But education needs to be disrupted digitally."

Skills Necessary for Success

In terms of skills necessary for success in the industry, Jack Allen notes that there are several different classes of skills, including tactical, operational, and strategic skills. At an operational level, Allen believes that cybersecurity is a crucial skill that is not being taught enough in universities. At a strategic level, he believes that education should focus on teaching students how to learn, how to analyze problems, and how to communicate and sell ideas to stakeholders. Finally, Allen notes that the ability to adapt to change is a crucial skill, as the industry is constantly evolving.

"I think that moving, connecting the future, and moving to the future has always been a very successful career move, right? Because you're asking about career benefits and those kinds of things."

The Takeaways

  • 1.

    Building a partnership between sustainability and supply chain is crucial for achieving sustainability goals.
  • 2.

    Sustainability risks can be understood, quantified, and addressed by companies.
  • 3.

    Balancing technology with risk management is important for delivering success.
  • 4.

    Cybersecurity is a critical skill that needs to be taught in universities.
  • 5.

    Sustainability is a huge business opportunity and a transforming force.
  • 6.

    Education needs to focus on teaching critical skills such as relationship management, adaptability, and sustainability.

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About the author

o9 Solutions The Digital Brain Platform

o9 Solutions

The Digital Brain Platform

o9 Solutions is a leading AI-powered platform for integrated business planning and decision-making for the enterprise. Whether it is driving demand, aligning demand and supply, or optimizing commercial initiatives, any planning process can be made faster and smarter with o9’s AI-powered digital solutions. o9 brings together technology innovations—such as graph-based enterprise modeling, big data analytics, advanced algorithms for scenario planning, collaborative portals, easy-to-use interfaces and cloud-based delivery—into one platform.


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