A new direction

Dear Readers,

After an extended hiatus, I am back with new energy and ideas for this newsletter. However, before I launch into new posts, I wanted to send a brief note about a few changes I’m making.

Supply Chain Weekly started as a newsletter that compiled links to other articles and community events then morphed into standalone articles centered around recent events in global supply chains. In parallel, I was writing in-depth articles (at a Substack called Manifold) on the corporate profit motive, the evolution of and risks in freight transportation systems, and global satellite systems.

From now on, I will merge these two efforts and be more clear about the focus of my research and writing. Specifically, I will be focused on supply chain sustainability and name the new merged newsletter/blog Sustainable Supply Chains.

I will post at Sustainable Supply Chains (kellenbetts.substack.com) three days a week, give or take. On Fridays, I will post shorter newsletters centered around recent events in a style similar to the most recent posts at SCW, including The State of InfrastructureEntangled in ChinaMomentum on Rails and Clogged Canals, and Frozen Pipes and Systemic Risks. On Sundays and Wednesdays, I will post more in-depth articles on topics less tied to recent news and more similar to the Manifold articles mentioned above.

My writing at Sustainable Supply Chains builds on my work at the MIT Center for Transportation & Logistics, where I recently helped produce the 2021 State of Supply Chain Sustainability and work on other sustainability-focused projects.

I am also writing a book on the subject. Some of my writing here is extracted from that effort when I feel there is material that can stand on its own as a newsletter/blog post without decoupling it from the context it came from in the book. As a subscriber you are getting a preview of that project and I will update you on my progress.

Both SCW and Manifold were free and open to the public (I briefly tested a paid subscription with Manifold but quickly opened it back up and refunded paid subscriptions). Sustainable Supply Chains will be free for SCW, Manifold and new subscribers as well. On September 1, 2021 I will introduce a new paid subscription tier at $5 per month to help support and build a community around this effort. The Friday newsletter and one of the in-depth articles each week will remain free indefinitely.

Before launching into new posts, I also want to provide some structure to the space that Sustainable Supply Chains will explore. Both “sustainability” and “supply chain” can be vague concepts at times. In some companies, supply chain refers to logistics and warehouse operations, while in others it encompasses planning, sourcing, production, and other areas of the value chain — sometimes referred to as the SCOR model.

The lens I will bring at Sustainable Supply Chains is even broader than the classic SCOR model. It will encompass everything from materials extracted from the biosphere through end-consumers, reverse flows of products and materials, and the connections these activities have with other areas of the economy, including energy, financial markets, digital networks, policies and institutions, and other topics.

This lens will be focused on the social, economic, and environmental sustainability of supply chains. Many focus on environmental sustainability — often even more narrowly on climate change — and I will spend significant effort exploring the topic. However, I will spend just as much effort on economic sustainability and the many dimensions of social sustainability, including employee welfare and safety, fair pay and fair trade, human rights protection, local community impacts, and supplier diversity, equity, and inclusion.

I will embrace the complexity of this space in unapologetically quantitative, empirical, and philosophical ways. My approach will be more Vaclav Smil1 and David Roberts2 than McKinsey and Accenture. This will disappoint those who look for simple frameworks and models rather than a complex argument and careful recounting of historical, demographic, energetic, economic, and environmental variables, processes, and outcomes. [1]

My overarching goal is to explore supply chain sustainability from the more immediate to the outer reaches of the space. This manifold encompasses many of the most critical problems facing humanity in the coming decades.

I also hope to create a community of people passionate about understanding this space and building more sustainable supply chains. Please share your knowledge and insights while showing mutual respect and support.

Join me!


Help others discover Sustainable Supply Chains by sharing it with friends and colleagues!

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1

Smil, Vaclav (2021). Grand Transitions: How the Modern World Was Made. New York: Oxford, 2021.

2

Roberts, David (2021). Volts: a newsletter about clean energy and politics. https://www.volts.wtf/about