When I was 18, I was introduced to environmental science and was so taken by what we were doing to nature that it was counterintuitive to enable humans to thrive. From then on, I have been on a mission to make businesses a force for good. To create a world that works for everyone. 

One of these problems that I am passionate about solving is climate change. Climate change demands innovative solutions, and one untapped opportunity lies within the very arteries of our global economy: the supply chain.

Accounting for over 60% of global emissions, these complex networks often go overlooked as a source of significant environmental and social impact. Recognizing this gap, I wanted to empower professionals to unlock the potential of decarbonization, especially in the complex world of supply chains. 

As an environmental scientist and economist with over two decades of experience in corporate sustainability, I have witnessed firsthand the immense impact and opportunity that supply chains have on our planet and society. These are some of my biggest learnings from my deep expertise in this field:

  • Work with suppliers worldwide across the full value chain of a hard-to-abate industry: As one of the core team members who negotiated around the use of alternative fuel sources for the aviation industry, I worked with start-ups, aircraft manufacturers, engine suppliers, and the oil majors. This is allowing the sector to potentially reduce its emissions by as much as 80% yearly, depending on the source used (around 500 million metric tonnes of CO2e is equivalent to ~50% of emissions from electricity use in the US). Part of this effort involved identifying sources that did not exacerbate food security and deforestation. Today, 15 years after we began this initiative, nearly every major airline in the world has a similar program. Talk about creating scalable change!
  • Engage with small and medium-sized businesses globally to implement actions that align with their long-term business goals: In partnership with my hospitality procurement directors, we not only developed ways to work with suppliers who met our sustainability criteria but also introduced and educated our other existing suppliers to implement these practices into their own operations. While the emissions saved from each supplier was relatively tiny (around 2,000 metric tons of CO2e per year), our hope was they were able to scale this further into their full business, benefitting not only our hotels but also their other clients. Remember you are creating change not only for your own supply chain but for others as well, making it more economical for your suppliers.
  • Speaking the suppliers’ language, work with suppliers to utilize alternative and/or renewable energy sources: As part of a team effort with the procurement teams, we educated and discussed with factories to undergo lifecycle assessments and energy audits (because the cheapest energy saved is one that is never used!) and then invest, install and implement using renewable energy into their operations. In total, this effort saved an average of 15% on energy costs and around 1,500 metric tons of CO2e per year. Imagine what that number looks like if we get 100s of factories to embrace these efforts. 

Throughout my career, I have been happily surprised by the response of players across the supply chain on their willingness to implement these actions. While it started off as doing the right thing, through the years, with increased regulations and retailer requirements - which levels the playing field for suppliers, and offers effective incentives - whether it is through cost savings, ensuring a resilient and stable business and transitioning to a better business model - there are lots of reasons now than ever before for suppliers to be part of this effort. In some cases it is no longer a “good to have”, it’s become an entry ticket not only to break into new markets/clients but also to maintain existing ones. Isn’t that a win-win?

I designed the Supply Chain Decarbonization course with Terra.do to equip you with the knowledge and tools necessary to become an advocate within your organization and ally with your supply chain partners. 

Whether you are a supply chain or procurement professional, a sustainability specialist, or an environmental consultant, this program offers valuable insights and practical skills. We delve into life cycle analysis, exploring the environmental footprint of products and services across their entire lifecycle. You will gain expertise in building climate-resilient supply chains, implementing sustainable procurement practices, and effectively engaging stakeholders in collaborative climate action.

Through interactive case studies and assignments, you will gain hands-on experience in developing and implementing climate action roadmaps for real companies. This immersive learning journey culminates in a project where you design a customized plan that integrates sustainable practices with stakeholder motivations and measures the environmental impact of supply chain operations.

This course is not merely about acquiring knowledge; it is about driving tangible outcomes. By participating, you will become equipped to navigate the complexities of supply chains, forge strategic partnerships, and contribute to a more sustainable future. Join me on this crucial journey and discover the power you hold to decarbonize the supply chain and become part of the solution to climate change.

Written by Janice Lao