Jason’s Supply Chain Strategy to Save Us All

How can we sustain and already over-harvested planet as population grows?

Convince just 100 companies to go sustainable, companies that are industry leaders, and the rest of the market will follow suit, protecting the planet our consumption has already outgrown.

Jason Clay is an expert on identifying global trends and issues, as well as supply chain management. As a global community, we have a supply chain problem. With population skyrocketing, we find that we will be forced to create more, using less.

Clay and his organization, WWF (World Wildlife Fund) have identified 15 key commodities in 35 critical areas of the world, that are in need global attention. Each of these commodities represents a threat to habitat or resources in one of the 35 critical areas of the world. The commodities are items such as palm oil, cotton, biofuels, sugarcane, salmon, shrimp tuna, etc. All of which, if they can be sustainably harvested, can turn the tide in the critical areas from which they are taken.

Palm Oil Sustainability

Photo: Reuters: Zainal Abd Halim

The problem arises; how do you create this sustainability? The 15 commodities represent approximately 6.9 billion consumers, speaking roughly 300-400 major languages. Change at the consumer side would be a daunting task indeed. Further up the chain, we have 1.5 billion producers. Still not much hope there. However, looking further up the line, we learn that 300-500 companies control 70% or more of trade for these 15 significant commodities. According to Clay, now we have numbers we can work with. In fact, only 100 companies control 25% of the trade of all 15 of those commodities, if these companies all demanded sustainable products, they’d pull 40-50% of production along with them.

Clay saw that certain companies have their hands in many of the 15 significant commodities, and that is where he focused his attention. Six years ago, he brought eight corporations to the table to discuss salmon farming. There were many competitors sitting at the round table, even corporations that were suing each other, but they represented 60% of the salmon production worldwide. This week, Clay has announced globally verified standards for salmon aquaculture as a direct result of these roundtable discussions.

Salmon Fisheries

Salmon is one of 15 critical global commodities

Change is possible. Many people know Mars is in the chocolate business. On any given cocoa plantation, 20% of the plants produce 80% of the crop. So Mars began sequencing the DNA of cocoa plants to find out what makes them effective producers and drought resistant. A result of this research, which Mars also has placed into the public domain for the entire industry to use, Mars can now produce 320 times as much cocoa on 40% of the land.

As these top companies slowly step into sustainability, the industry around them shifts to follow. Cargil is looking into ways to double palm oil production without chopping a single tree. Cargil also supplies 50% of the palm oil to China. In China, consumers and producers don’t need to worry about where there palm oil is coming from, that 50% they get is all sustainable, because sustainability has been addressed much further up the chain, pre-consumer.

Jason Clay story was the feature of a Ted talk this Aguust, and is available below:

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