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Previous group research topics

Participants have the opportunity to undertake group research into a thematic area of personal and professional relevance to them. The following themes were explored by previous cohorts:

Jaguar Land Rover Aluminium Value Chain Case Study

To improve the environmental performance of its vehicles, Jaguar Land Rover needed to innovate and incorporate aluminium into their design and manufacture. Using the REALCAR closed-loop value chain project as a case study,  this group captured the lessons learned in the creation of new materials and systems generating net positive value across a range of stakeholders. The project demonstrates the transferable skills required to create circular supply chains and how other commodities and sectors can accelerate progress towards a circular economy.

Read the full report here. 

Building Sustainable Supply Chains

Organisations are increasingly reaching beyond their own activities and focusing on their supply chains in order to reduce costs, minimise environmental impacts, and improve societal outcomes for the communities in which they operate. This project group examined the strategic and/or operational issues around managing and developing sustainable supply chains. Themes for investigation by the group included: 

How can we make more sustainable products? How can we instil sustainability both a) internally and b) into our suppliers? How to encourage supplier collaboration and transparency? How can we measure, monitor and develop the sustainability performance of our suppliers? How do we integrate sustainability into our procurement decision-making? How to identify and manage the risks of suppliers violating social and environmental standards? How should we react to gross violations of these standards by a supplier? How to balance collaboration and competition with industry peers to achieve sustainability goals.  

Exploring Past, Present and Future Ethical Trade Models and Tools

Supply chain human rights issues continue to make the headlines. Even in industries like apparel, it seems we are far from solutions despite significant investments to address these issues since the 1990s. Technological trends suggest that in the next several years we will enter an age of “hyper-transparency” in upstream and downstream supply chains with lower cost technologies like smart phones creating new communication platforms for workers and communities in the global south. 

This brave new world is empowering to some stakeholders and creates much needed transparency and thus accountability. However, it may be of concern to others. New engagement processes will be required as information loops exponentially pick up pace and brands lose control of their message and engagement strategies. In response to this evolution, every corporate executive should be asking themselves the following questions: 

What is the story behind our product or service? Are we proud of that story? Would my customer be proud of that story? Do we own the story or do others own it for us? 

Addressing supply chain human rights issues is not easy and there is still a large number of “free riders” in the industry that invest little or nothing in ethical trade. However, there is much to be learned from the mistakes of the past and opportunities to leverage that learning. Unfortunately, the Rana Plaza tragedy in Bangladesh was a stark reminder that social auditing has produced limited results so why do so many companies across sectors rely on it and continue to spend resources? 

This project group did a post-mortem on the ethical trade model and tools. The group analysed what has worked, what has not and explored new ways forward to improve supplier social performance in global value chains.  

Changing the Collective Business Model of the Industry – Challenges and Opportunities

New business models are required to address global sustainability challenges.  Across industries radically different business model paradigms are needed that move away from pure profit maximisation through satisfying customer needs, to multi-stakeholder value creation and in particular, creating positive value for society and the environment.

Examples of sustainable business models archetypes include: Maximise material and energy efficiency; Closing resource loops; Substitute with renewables and natural processes; Deliver functionality rather than ownership; Adopt a stewardship role; Encourage sufficiency; Seek inclusive value creation and Re-purpose the business for society/environment (adapted from Bocken et al., 2014). 

What should radical sustainable business model change look like in particular industries? How does a collective move towards a new business model relate to issues such as the prisoner’s dilemma: who moves first and how will others react? How can businesses mobilise their value chain, even though suppliers and logistics providers may need to be quite different in future business models? What are the opportunities for collaboration? 

Business Case for Responsible Sourcing?

When asked for their sustainability credentials or improvement commitments, suppliers often discuss charging more for their goods or services in return. This project group considered: 

How can this tension be managed? What are the business benefits of running a supply business and its multi-tier supply chain more sustainably when it's normally the buyer’s brand that bears the reputational risk? How can social or human rights improvements be quantified in a similar way to environmental efficiencies? 

A great answer to this will unlock significant traction with CPOs and enable engagement with procurement colleagues to improve sustainability. 

Stakeholder Engagement & Cross-Sector Partnerships

This project group examined the question of stakeholder engagement and building collaborative cross-sector partnerships in value chains. Given the multiplicity of actors involved in global value chains, no one actor alone can drive transformative change. But how can different actors from different parts of the value chain and different geographic regions work together along the supply chain to create change, including firms, civil society actors, trade unions, governmental actors and intergovernmental institutions? How can firms effectively engage their stakeholders? How do firms engage social movement and advocacy groups and turn contestation into collaboration? Where is the boundary between collaboration and co-optation? What does multi-stakeholder governance mean and how can it made effective? When can partnerships be a catalyst to change?