Sustainable solutions to climate change are nowhere near simple, traversing science, business, culture, and beyond. From organizational strategy to supply chain operations, management stands out as a critical link between people searching for answers in every industry and academic sector. Interdisciplinary by nature, management research is uncovering new ways to solve a complex global problem.
Over the past three years, the Delve podcast has tackled numerous management arenas, but during the past year, the podcast concentrated its inquiry into how the pandemic has shed new light on global issues, such as climate change, healthcare, and the world of work. As heatwaves increase around the world and weather patterns become even more unpredictable, top researchers at the McGill Desautels Faculty of Management offer novel solutions to the climate crisis—solutions that link multiple industries, regulatory bodies, leaders, entrepreneurs, workers, and consumers. Because the only way forward is together.
How can management research contribute to mitigating climate change? By providing insights on management change and how to implement it, including organizational strategy, policy implications, and regulatory shifts that help rebalance society and support sustainability.
The “New Normal” Delve podcast series, hosted and produced by journalist Dave Kaufman and featuring Desautels professors, tackles the issue of climate change from a post-pandemic perspective. Three key episodes dive into:
- How to slow down fast fashion’s environmental impact through regulatory change, industry compliance, and consumer awareness.
- How sustainability-focused supply chain management could decrease the environmental impact of supply chain greenhouse gas emissions.
- How small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) have a big role to play in the climate sustainability picture.
With 10% of all global and greenhouse gas emissions caused by clothing and footwear production alone—more than all maritime shipping and flights combined—the fashion industry is due for an overhaul. What does a truly sustainable fashion industry model look like?
In episode 9 of the second season of The “New Normal,” Desautels operations management Professor Javad Nasiry discusses the environmental impact of the fast fashion industry and what can be done to lessen its carbon footprint. Nasiry examines initiatives already underway and whether they have made a measurable difference, delving into the question of what an alternative to today’s fast fashion would look like and if it could make the industry more sustainable.
“The reason that these business models are successful is because customers have a willingness to pay for these styles and products, but of course, the waste side is not really taken into account,” explains Nasiry. “A holistic solution to the problem of waste needs to take into account which part of the supply chain you are trying to focus on, and also the consequences of the solutions that you are developing in one part of the entire supply chain.”
As the fast fashion industry illustrates, businesses’ supply chains stand out as a major source of carbon emissions: a typical company’s supply chain carbon emissions are on average 5.5 times that of direct emissions, including from facilities and company vehicles. Reducing this environmental impact hinges on public pressure and government regulation.
In episode 3 of the second season of Delve‘s The “New Normal” podcast series, Desautels operations management Professor Sanjith Gopalakrishnan discusses how supply chain management can help mitigate the environmental impact caused by supply chain greenhouse gas emissions.
While increased consumer awareness and consumers making more informed and sustainable choices represent the first part of the puzzle, the second makes up a much bigger piece, says Gopalakrishnan. “While we should be looking further at the share of consumer or consumption emissions that Canada contributes, we should also look at historical responsibility or share of historic emissions,” he explains.
Since supply chains today are truly global, the problem of global coordination also needs to be tackled globally: “A carbon tax in one country is, of course, helpful but does little in mitigating supply chain emissions in the absence of a global carbon tax.”
“Sustainability is often a source of innovation and good business ideas,” says Desautels strategy and organization Professor Dror Etzion. “The question is not whether people are aware and believe that climate sustainability is an issue, but whether they’re comfortable in engaging with it wearing the hat of a business owner.”
In episode 2 of the second season of The “New Normal,” Etzion illustrates the power of a “peer-to-peer inspiration model of change” for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), a diverse and competitive community of entrepreneurs. He also outlines the technologies that are helping SMEs thrive and how the McGill-founded PIVOT action research project and online social platform is encouraging SMEs to take climate action today and for the future.
“Maybe we can inspire SMEs to act not by wielding the carrots and sticks of government policy, but rather by creating a social community, a place where they interact with each other, ask each other questions, motivate each other, discover inspiration and stories from each other, as opposed to having the government impose upon them what to do,” explains Etzion. “There is substantial research that shows that the people that SMEs and entrepreneurs listen to the most are their peers.”