- Ecological context and European sovereignty: a common observation concerning the problem of supply chains
- A better transparency of supply chains implies the development of new skills
- Traceability and neo-economy: example of the textile industry
- LCA and European regulations in the context of supply chain transformation
- The new professions of the transition: focus on supply chain and responsible purchasing professions
- Student training: a social issue
As the imperative for more sustainability and green best practices grows, the need for transformation of corporate supply chains is becoming more pressing. This necessary paradigm shift implies the development of new professions and skills focused on sustainability. In the coming years, new business areas are expected to emerge, such as sustainability strategy, eco-design, green logistics and impact procurement. A lot of new jobs that do not exist yet and that will soon be essential in companies! The challenge is clear: to anticipate tomorrow's world, it is urgent to analyze these new needs to prepare the future actors of the economy to evolve in this new world!
Ecological context and European sovereignty: a common observation concerning the problem of supply chains
A better transparency of supply chains implies the development of new skills
This need for transparency, also favored by European consumers, is creating a new part of the economy. CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) is often mentioned, and although this trend is relatively recent, the entire economy is adapting to this new constraint. From in-house employees to specialized consultants, the number of people working directly on CSR issues is constantly increasing. In industry, the entire subject of procurement could be integrated into a more global CSR cluster, given its importance in the overall ecological balance of companies. Almost all procurement and import issues are directly applicable to a CSR strategy: employee well-being (suppliers), eco-design, traceability, etc. Furthermore, in order to achieve CSR objectives, the need for training will be immense. If we want to get away from green-washing practices as much as possible, by building a more rational and responsible economy, each employee will have to be able to evaluate and understand the different ecological impacts linked to his industry. Although it seems obvious to all of us, like learning a foreign language, ecology has many false friends. It is sometimes less ecological to drive an electric car or to buy made in Europe, because it is necessary to analyze a set of vast criteria and sub-criteria to apprehend the global impact of a manufactured product. And this great complexity will have to be learned and understood by the decision-makers and actors of the neo-economy.
Traceability and neo-economy: example of the textile industry
The textile industry is a good example of how difficult it is to transform our industries. Changing the paradigm is, for example, what new fashion brands specializing in upcycling (making clothes from existing materials) are trying to do. Upcycling has the huge advantage of recreating a manufacturing cycle without producing raw materials, which are largely the first item in the industry's carbon footprint (if we consider the raw material from cultivation to processing and transportation). Nevertheless, from a transformation point of view, whether it is for sovereign or CSR purposes, the use of existing materials implies an even more difficult traceability; yet this traceability remains necessary: in order to be able to correctly optimize the reuse of materials, or to be able to ensure the origin and the composition.
Azala: a concrete example
All of this complex data requires significant documentation (and sometimes investigation). It requires additional human and intellectual resources compared to a traditional industry.
LCA and European regulations in the context of supply chain transformation
The European Union (EU) has implemented several measures to promote the transformation of supply chains, and a key aspect of this legislation is the use of life cycle assessment (LCA), which is a method of evaluating the environmental impacts of a product, process or service over its entire life cycle, from raw material extraction to disposal.
LCA is used in several European directives, such as the Ecodesign Directive, which sets minimum environmental performance requirements for energy-related products. The directive requires manufacturers to consider the environmental impacts of their products throughout their life cycle, including raw material use, energy consumption and disposal. Companies are required to conduct an LCA to identify and assess the environmental impacts of their products and design them to minimize those impacts. Many other directives, such as the Circular Economy Directive, include progressive constraints aimed at making economic models more in line with the challenges of ecological transition.
All these different European directives integrating LCA or other related regulations will force companies to transform their procurement methods from within. Logically, this transformation will have to rely on new skills, some of which are still in their infancy...
The new professions of the transition: focus on supply chain and responsible purchasing professions
The new positive constraint of LCA is directly correlated to the need to train "responsible buyers" (sustainable procurement) specialized in the implementation of new sourcing methods with suppliers. In addition to traditional purchasing criteria (price, quality, availability, etc.), new environmental concepts are introduced. In order to minimize the risk of green-washing, common environmental criteria must be defined. For example, there are criteria ranging from the ecological footprint of the raw material to the energy used in production. Logically, it is all the criteria that allow the final ecological footprint of a manufactured product to be reduced that must be made explicit and considered (cf. Lucie label).
The element that focuses attention is the energy footprint, since a majority of extra-European supplies still rely on fossil fuel-based production.
The job of responsible buyer is thus taking all its importance and the profiles able to answer these stakes are more and more sought after. More and more large groups are indexing bonus or stock option payments to the carbon trajectory. As a result, the demand from companies for these rare profiles is constantly increasing, as evidenced by the creation of higher education establishments specializing in the new professions of the ecological transition.
Other professions are coming to complete that of responsible buyer, such as supply chain consultants specialized in sustainable supply chains. This neo-specialist helps companies to transform their supply chain by promoting sustainability and finding methods to reduce the ecological and social footprint of companies. The means of action are wide: sustainability audit, waste reduction, energy mix analysis, recycling or the implementation of "sustainable marketing" by encouraging consumers to favor products from "clean" supply chains.
The example of Ecoalf, a Spanish clothing company, perfectly illustrates the importance of these new activities. By optimizing and shrinking its supply chain, Ecoalf has built a business cycle based on recycling and the use of green energy. The company has also implemented sustainability management methods to monitor its environmental footprint at every stage of its value chain.
Student training: a social issue
The integration of environmental issues into economic activities is an urgent necessity, as it is essential to ensure a sustainable future for future generations. According to the International Energy Agency's "World Energy Outlook" report, accelerating the energy transition is necessary to achieve the goals of the Paris climate agreement, which aims to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by 55-60% by 2030. To achieve these numbers, the use of decarbonized energy is necessary, as well as actions to reduce waste in production chains. Therefore, today's students, once trained on these issues, will be at the forefront of this energy and post-globalization challenge.
Case study examples include examining European companies that have improved supply chain traceability through the use of software to monitor the origin and energy intensity of materials. Students can also explore how companies can integrate renewable energy sources, such as solar panels or heat recovery systems, into their operations. In addition, they will explore the different strategies employed to create more sustainable, low-carbon supply chains.
KLIMA graduates will be equipped with a thorough understanding of sustainability regulations and initiatives, as well as best practices for implementing sustainable business strategies.
In summary, supply chain transformation has become a critical issue for the environment and European sovereignty. Current trends show that transparency and traceability of supply chains are becoming increasingly important for consumers, companies and regulators. The textile industry is a case in point, with the rise of new careers related to product transparency and traceability.
Similarly, European regulations on product life cycle and cost-benefit analysis are encouraging companies to adopt more sustainable, low-carbon models. In doing so, they are paving the way for new transition-related careers, particularly in supply chain and procurement.
Finally, it is important to note that educating students about environmental issues is a critical societal issue. By encouraging future leaders to understand supply chain levers, more sustainable procurement, and develop the skills to address these issues, we can strengthen our ability to transform business models and accelerate the transition to a more decarbonized, resource-efficient, and sustainable economy.