April 6, 2023 By IBM Consulting 3 min read

Sustainability may be an overused and sometimes vague buzzword, but it’s an essential requirement for every part of a business, across customer relations and the regulatory environment, as well as for society. Oracle and IBM are two global leaders in sustainability, helping companies eliminate waste, make their supply chains more efficient and monitor equipment to make sure it’s performing at an optimal level.

Where sustainable supply chain operations are headed in 2023 (and beyond)

At Oracle CloudWorld in November 2022, Anna Visneski, an Oracle TV correspondent, talked to supply chain and sustainability experts from IBM and Oracle to get a read on the future of supply chain operations.

“Working in supply chain, and especially in logistics, you get exposed to a lot of the key areas where sustainability will make a difference,” says Joan Lim, Senior Manager of Product Marketing at Oracle. “We’re not talking about it enough. We’re not raising enough awareness. And it’s just so crucial now in everyday life to know about sustainability and better yet, to practice it.”

Rob Cushman, Global Leader in Sustainability and Supply Chain at IBM, agrees. “Sustainability is really the thread connecting everything that we’re doing in supply chain these days,” he says. “When we’re working with our clients, we are always asking how we can drive business change that incorporates sustainability and how to enable those changes with a new technology platform in the cloud.”

It’s no surprise that sustainability and logistics have become hot topics in the last two years amid massive economic disruptions that have spurred a re-evaluation of traditional supply chain models. So, what is IBM doing today that’s different from four or five years ago?

“There are some really exciting things that are changing in supply chain,” Cushman says. “We are focused on getting our clients to think about their transformation to a new supply chain model that’s much more sustainable as part of the journey that they’re going on to the cloud.”

Cushman sees more companies using data and investing in machine learning and artificial intelligence to drive “really radical changes” in business outcomes. “What we’ve learned is that we just can’t afford to not think about sustainability,” he says. “The pandemic proved that.”

Oracle and IBM: Harnessing synergies

For both Cushman and Lim, sustainability goes beyond a “passion project,” and they share the goal of shaping a better future. Oracle’s Lim says that listening to customers is the key to understanding where their business models are headed. We then “drive that change through the partnership with IBM and Oracle.” For IBM’s Cushman, 2022 was the year when a “big pivot happened” and most business leaders finally came to the realization that sustainability was imperative.

Companies today need to start thinking differently about their supply chains, and sustainable practices need to be designed into products right from the start, Cushman says. The design process is where 80% of the costs are committed and where 80% of the long-term sustainability impacts lie.

Sustainability also requires businesses to consider the entire lifecycle of a product, including how to bring products back into the business supply chain—or partner’s supply chain—in an end-to-end circular way. “We’ve got to go back to basics,” Cushman says. “We need to challenge all the assumptions in our product and supply chains and bake that into how we move things forward.”

Oracle’s Lim adds that one of the best ways to move ahead is to harness existing data to optimize the supply chain to drive sustainability. Companies can “start by just looking at their data, analyzing it and focusing on the various functional areas of the business where they can work towards achieving a business goal,” she says.

Beyond planning for sustainability, it is crucial to “execute on it,” Lim says. For most companies, that will mean making sure every person is held accountable for each part of the initiative. “It’s not something one person can do alone,” she adds. “It’s really a company effort.”

Learn how to embed sustainability across your supply chain

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