CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly
November 11, 2019
Forward Thinking

Attention, supply chain professionals: The world's problems cannot be solved without your help

Supply chain organizations should work with governments and nonprofit groups to feed the world, heal the sick, save the planet, and make money too, says a new report from the research group SCM World and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

With their recent report "Mobilising the Supply Chain Community to Solve Global Challenges: Engaging the Private Sector," the research group SCM World and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have issued a call to action to members of the supply chain community.

The report suggests that the largest problems facing the world today—how to provide food and health care to all and how to make the world more environmentally sustainable—cannot be solved without help from supply chain experts. As David Sarley, senior program officer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation writes in the foreword to the report, "While we are increasingly seeing the emergence of the technology, tools, and products needed to make a difference, we need a community of partners to implement and ensure these products are available at the last mile."

Report author Barry Blake, vice president of research for SCM World, argues that the foundation to solving these systemic problems is forming "shared value" collaborative partnerships among the private sector, the public sector (for example, development groups and nongovernmental organizations), and government. Blake borrows the term "Golden Triangle" from Coca-Cola Co., which uses it to describe these kinds of partnerships. These partnerships are necessary, according to Blake, because "no standalone organization has the resource capacity, the full suite of capabilities, or the means and motivation to independently tackle these challenges."

The private sector supply chain community does not have to be involved in these types of partnerships just out of the goodness of its heart, says Blake; there are also commercial reasons to be involved. These shared-value engagements can open up new markets, provide innovative research and development opportunities, and serve to develop the next-generation of supply chain leaders, he explains.

The report provides several case studies of shared-value partnerships. For example, Coca-Cola has set up 100 portable retail kiosks in rural villages across Africa. Made out of converted shipping containers, these stores also act as distribution centers as well as village centers, providing power, Internet connectivity, access to clean water, and refrigerated storage for vaccines and other medicines. Coca-Cola relied on government and nongovernmental organizations to provide information about local communities and how to tap into local manufacturing resources for the kiosks.

The report acknowledges that creating a shared-value collaborative partnership is not easy. To help organizations that are interested in organizing and participating in this type of initiative, it details the roles that each of the three parts of the Golden Triangle plays and identifies potential barriers to success, such as a lack of trust between the various groups. It also suggests next steps and outlines motivating factors.

The report can be downloaded from SCM World's website. The paper joins a pool of publications that emphasize the importance of public-private partnerships, including "Delivering in a Moving World" from the World Food Programme and "The Economic Development Role of Regional Logistics Hubs: A Cross-Country Study of Interorganizational Governance Models," by Yemisi A. Bolumole, David J. Closs, and Frederick A. Rodammer of Michigan State University, which won the Bernard J. La Londe Best Paper Award at CSCMP's 2016 Annual Conference.

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