Jul 9, 2022
by Jon Dweck

How Supply Chain Saves the World: Episode 02 - Sustainability Leadership: If not me, who? by Jon Dweck



“If not me, who? And if not now, when?”

This is a rallying call. When it comes to sustainability, I don’t want to look back at the end of my career and think, “I should and could have done something”. Do you?

People across all supply chain functions must recognise the potential they have to help save the world from environmental disaster. We design, source, plan, make and deliver products and so – if not us, who is better qualified? Most people in the world feel powerless to directly impact this crisis. Supply chain people CAN. It feels to me like the biggest responsibility of our lifetimes and we are in danger of letting it pass us by.

And surely NOW is the time to step up and act otherwise it will be too late.

In Episode 2, alongside Rebecca Morley (www.rebeccamorley.co.uk), I explored why supply chain professionals struggle to find their voice and what they can do to up their game. Rebecca is an ex-supply chain leader from RB and Danone and now a successful leadership coach – so she is perfectly positioned for this debate.

Below is a summary of our conversation – first the ISSUES and then some great SOLUTIONS


· Your business doesn’t value supply chain highly enough

If your supply chain function is not valued as highly as other functions such as sales, marketing and finance, this makes it hard to find your voice. But this is changing rapidly so you need to step up to new expectations. But why wait for others to champion your importance? Do it yourself.

· Doing what you are told and wanting an easy life

If you position a group of people as less important than others, what happens to those people? It can beat the fight out of you. It can stop you from asking why and from saying no. It can make you do what you are told and get back in your box. Now isn’t the time for an easy life. It’s time to break the box.

· Lack of broader business understanding

In your box, what matters to you is not what matters to others. It is too easy for supply chain people to be internally focused. It is harder for you to add value to the rest of your business if you don’t truly understand your company’s strategy and the challenges and opportunities facing it outside of supply chain.

· Even supply chain functions are divided

To move forward on broad supply chain issues such as sustainability, we need to connect our own house first. If manufacturing, planning, logistics, procurement and R&D are working to separate agendas, how can we expect to add true value to the broader organisation?

· Supply Chain can’t speak the language of the business

Most commercial people don’t care about or even understand your balanced scorecard. Why should they? It’s not their language. If you are English and want to influence a room full of Italian people, you better learn Italian, or you’ll end up sitting in the corner nodding and smiling!

· Influencing skills are in short supply

The leaders in your organisation place a high value on influencing skills such as storytelling. The ability to appeal to the emotions of your audience is roughly 6 times more important than appealing to the logic of an argument. Donald wouldn’t be in power otherwise. This doesn’t always sit as a comfortable truth to those in supply chain, but Aristotle wasn’t wrong…

· Creativity and agenda-setting not valued in supply chain

In supply chain we grow up maintaining standards and ensuring processes are adhered to. We solve problems when they arise. That doesn’t teach us to ASK the questions and propose novel solutions, while our colleagues in commercial functions have grown up thinking this way.

· We don’t like celebrating success

Supply chain people usually value down-to-earth, quiet personal satisfaction over behaviours that we often see as boasting, bragging and arrogance. But that doesn’t enable us to adequately celebrate our successes and raise our team profile within our organisations.

· But EVERYONE struggles with leading

Every leader will at times struggle to lead in the best way, regardless of their background. Confidence can rise and fall, as can motivation levels. Keeping other people in mind all the time is hard work and it can sometimes feel like a thankless task. You are not alone!


So, there are the challenges but, how do we overcome them? Here are some great ideas to come out of my discussion with Rebecca:

1) Find your purpose and get motivated

Anyone seeking to improve and change any specific behaviour needs to find the motivation to do so because it is not easy. Surely helping to save the world is motivation enough.

2) Propose a cross-functional meeting to discuss the sustainability agenda

Invite people from different functions for an informal meeting to talk about what your organisation can do to influence their strategy from within. How are people feeling about what your organisation does? What fears do they have about the impact of a sustainability agenda? What ideas do they have? Why wait for marketing people to do that? What data and insights do they have that makes them more qualified than you?

3) Make speaking to other functions a part of your job

Walk, Talk, Email. Your first choice when interacting with another function should be to walk over to that function and chat. If that doesn’t work, call them. Only if that doesn’t work should you email them. Imagine all of the additional business insights you’ll get by following this single simple rule.

4) Have a healthy disrespect for hierarchy

Speak truth to Power. Stop waiting for permission to speak. If you think you have something of value to say, say it to the person you believe has most power to influence your agenda. The worst they can do is say no and then at least you don’t die wondering.

5) Seek a mentor from outside of supply chain

If you want to learn the way broader business works and how to communicate with them, having a mentor outside of supply chain is a great start. It will really help to broaden your horizons and your vocabulary. Seek to understand the broader language of the business from them, as well as the broader challenges.

6) Visit customers and suppliers more often

There is a huge danger that supply chain people become internally focused. You need a strategy to help break out of that cycle. The most productive external meetings can be those without any clear agenda…

7) Invite commercial people to visit your facilities

Get somebody from sales to visit a factory. Get a marketing guy to visit a warehouse. Get a finance guy to visit your R&D facility. Invite them as your guests and treat them like royalty. You’ll notice a marked difference in attitude towards you as a result.

8) Ban excuses and only allow choices

“No excuses, only choices”. Burn the book of excuses you have built to explain why something went wrong after the event. Only allow proactive discussion of what might go wrong in advance. Offer your business stakeholders choices proactively. Your proactivity will raise your credibility far more than a mistake will reduce it.

9) Have a clear agenda when approaching a cross-functional meeting

Your first question in preparation for a meeting is not “what do I want to say?” but “what do I want the outcome to be?”. Ask yourself what you want your audience to Think, Feel and Do as a result of the meeting. Build all your comments, data and questions around those three goals and tailor your language to that of the audience.

10) Implement visual management tools

A great way to start celebrating the success of your team is to adopt visual management tools. If you aren’t sure where to start, you may find inspiration within your manufacturing facility.

11) Listen to the podcast and join our community

This list doesn’t do the topic justice. Jump onto the podcast for more context. If enough people are interested, we’d love to follow up this episode with a networking event for those interested. Sound like something you’d be interested in? Contact me at jon.dweck@pod-talent.com to register your interest.

What is coming next?


In episode 3 I am jumping straight into the recycling debate as I go on a tour of one of the biggest waste management facilities in the UK to show those responsible for the manufacture of waste what is actually going on. That is followed by a fascinating conversation with Adam Read – Government Waste Policy Advisor Director of External Affairs for Suez Waste Management.