Q&A with Janet Salem: Keynote speaker at ASCI2021

Janet Salem has over 13 years of experience working in circular economy and sustainability at the United Nations. She has been selected by the ASCI2021 Advisory Board to deliver the keynote address at the ASCI annual conference in February 2021, as part of the Continuous Professional Development Program. Below is an edited Q&A between Salem and ASCI.

ASCI: How does a university graduate from New South Wales end up working with the United Nations?

Janet Salem: I’m surprised myself. It was quite unintentional but I studied an environmental engineering degree at the University of New South Wales and I took an interest in environmental accounting relevant for supply chains. This involved looking at techniques like life cycle assessment which look at the environmental impacts behind a product, including not only the company that directly making the products but the company that makes the components of the packaging and transports and behind that, making the materials and then further back, the one extracting raw materials from the environment.

Then, as part of the degree, I completed an internship with the UN global program to promote these techniques. While doing that internship I worked on a proposal on a science policy interface on the sustainable use of natural resources.

A couple of years down the track that proposal was successful and so I went back to work on that in the EU and environment programme in Paris and stayed there working on synthesizing what science has to say about sustainable resource management and how we have to bridge the gap between scientists and what policy makers are doing towards sustainability.

The opportunity came up around eight years ago to apply some of this knowledge in policy support to governments in the Asia-Pacific region and so I have spent the last eight years looking at how we can support individual governments and regional processes to develop security and sustainable resource management.

Very recently I joined a new program looking at the circular economy. The focus is on plastics in Southeast Asia and am very excited about this new role and looking at how technologies can help monitor plastics and how solutions can prevent plastic waste from reaching our oceans in the first place.

ASCI: Can you briefly explain the premise behind the Decade of Action and what are the main sustainability goals?

Janet Salem: The UN sustainable development goals were adopted in 2015 and they’re considered a transformative agenda for the world to shift towards a sustainable future. The reason that they’re so transformative is that they really apply to all countries equally.

We used to have the Millennium development goals which are very focused on poverty eradication. That’s evolved and the sustainable development goals under the Decade of Action, or the Global Goals so they are called, apply to all countries. It’s said that now every country is a developing country because they also include environmental sustainability, clean industries, the state of the cities, climate action, protecting nature, and life below water. It’s looking at gender and it’s looking at health so you really have this cross-cutting agenda that all countries now need to work on in order to develop the kind of future that I think everyone would want to live in.

ASCI: As the first keynote of ASCI2021, what can delegates expect to hear from your  address?

Janet Salem: My address will cover concrete examples that show supply chain approaches that can support the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. There are 17 different goals but you can’t address one at a time so I’ll be getting case studies from the private sector and demonstrating how they cross over a few different goals.

There is a limit to what governments can do to deliver these goals. Actually, all the production-consumption activities are with the private sector and I think that companies that take a supply chain approach have the most potential and the most responsibility to support the sustainable development goals because they can leverage that entire supply chain and one company can actually mobilise a number of companies to get on the same page.

These cases will also bring in that circular economy approach because it’s it is an environmental framework that has to have a supply chain approach. We’re looking at how do we move from that linear take/make/deliver/waste economy approach to a circular economy approach.

With a circular economy approach you really need to break down those silos and work together. A product that can be re-used and set at a higher value and spun off into a different sector is amazing but makes the supply chain quite long and complex. I’ll address the kinds of discussions that need to be going on between different members of a supply chain in order to reduce the amount of waste that’s generated.

ASCIL What are you most looking forward to hearing at the conference?

Janet Salem: I’m particularly interested to see how industry partners with really complex supply chains are adapting to disruptions in supply chain availability and also how they’re looking at sustainability. Companies on the program like Food Buy, Kimberly-Clark or Metcash who are dealing with a lot of packaging materials and now they’re matching requirements and expectations as packaging becomes more sustainable. Also looking down the supply chain at the ban on exports of plastic waste to other countries and whether these companies have developed domestic solutions for plastic packaging waste.

I’m also quite interested in hearing from the Navy Centre for Innovation because it’s really great to see multiple types of stakeholders collaborating towards a common purpose of innovation and sustainability.

Lastly, I’m keen to see the commended, highly commended and winner of the Sustainability Award at the Awards Dinner on the evening of the first day. I think there is a lot of exciting work on sustainability in Australia that isn’t really well known outside of Australia. Working for the UN in Asia-Pacific, we always looking for good examples of what we can share globally.

Time is running out to secure your early bird tickets for ASCI2021. For more information and to book go to http://www.asci-2021.com.au/.

supply chain

Supply chain vision in the Decade For Action

ASCI2021 promises to demonstrate how the Australian supply chain and others around the globe have weathered COVID-19 and provide insights to their future resilience.

If any images comes to define the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it may be the sight of normally well-stocked supermarket shelves emptied of consumer goods from pasta and flour, to toilet paper and hand sanitiser.

While panic buying was an irrational response to the nature of the COVID-19 threat – there was no chance of Australia running out of many of these items – what the rush on supermarkets and other stores did demonstrate was the finely calibrated nature of Australia’s supply chains. To meet the needs of consumers for fresh goods at any time of the year and to avoid overwhelming storage spaces, Australia’s supply chain managers have been working to ensure that products are ready just in time, and ready to be plucked from the shelves at a customer’s whim.

The massive increase in demand due to panic buying brought to light the fragility of this system. In addition, as international flights were grounded, Australia’s ability to export its world-renowned fresh produce was immediately curtailed.

What this did was bring the role of the supply chain manager, and the people who enable the links in the chain to connect, out of the back-office and into the public spotlight. Monique Fenech, head of sales and marketing at the Australasian Supply Chain Institute (ASCI), has seen this firsthand.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has really brought supply chain management to the forefront of people’s minds. We’re starting to talk about supply chain as an essential service, which has never been the case before.”

In a way by virtue of its success, the complexity of Australia’s supply chain has not often been on view to customers, however the critical role of the professionals in this field has never been more in demand as trade routes recalibrate and new markets are being identified.

“Supply chain management rolls off people’s tongues, they’re all talking about it from a consumer standpoint. But even more impact has been made within organisations because supply chain managers have been brought into the boardroom to fix this problem, look at these outages, look at these delays, look at these increased prices. Executive are asking, ‘We don’t have access to our air freight like we used to, what are we going to do?’ So that’s really changed the internal profile of supply chain management within the organisation,” said Fenech.

While the scale and magnitude of the current crisis may be beyond what was planned for at the beginning of 2020, Fenech counters that dealing with these kinds of issues, whether they be due to a pandemic or other cause, is actually the bread and butter of the profession.

“This situation is business as usual for our supply chain managers; they deal with risk on a day-to-day basis. A good example of that is where perhaps they might have a dual sourcing strategy in place already because for some, not all, supply chains that would be considered best practice, so they would already have set in place some business continuity strategies,” Fenech said.

The next step will be for companies to reset their risk management plans and contingency procedures to account for the ongoing restrictions and the likelihood of another pandemic happening again. This reality calls for supply chains to not simply return to a pre-COVID-19 status, but rather learn from the experience of the pandemic and bounce back more resilient than ever.

“As opposed to going back to the way things were, it’s about bringing all of the political, economic, geographic, and social impacts that affect our supply chains into the mix using really smart technologies such as artificial intelligence to give us a better idea of where our supply chains are vulnerable and how we can improve them in the new decade,” said Fenech.

This next decade will be the focus of the ASCI’s conference, ASCI2021, to be held on the 23rd and 24th of February at the William Inglis Hotel in Sydney. The conference’s theme is “Supply Chain Vision In The Decade For Action”, adapting the United Nation’s priority of the same name for the supply chain industry. Janet Salem, economic affairs officer, circular economy at the United Nations will deliver an international keynote highlighting the theme’s application for supply chain managers.

One area that Fenech sees as improving based on the experience during COVID-19 is the connection and collaboration between suppliers, something that the conference will highlight.

“Deepening the collaboration that we have with our suppliers is only going to make the supply chain more efficient and also more robust. Once that trust is there and the collaboration is there, the visibility inevitably becomes greater, and that is the end goal for a supply chain manager – to have complete visibility across the end-to-end supply chain and sometimes it takes something like a catastrophe to bring you closer to your supplier.”

DELIVERING BEST PRACTICE IN SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT
For the past 60 years, ASCI has been working with the supply chain management industry to grow the career profile of supply chain management.

“Back in the early days, inventory management was a new career and we travelled to the US to find some global standards that we could use in Australia. We’re applying that same technique now to global end to end supply chain standards and in order to do that we’re looking at global compliance and global regulation and bringing that down to the level that we need to communicate to members,” said Fenech.

In Australia, ASCI provides best practice knowledge to build the standards of supply chain management.

“We call that our Professional Accreditation Scheme. Just like lawyers, engineers, and accountants, they have professional accreditation bodies that they belong to and they are registered within a professional accreditation scheme as well. That proves that they can practice within that field and they’ve proven their knowledge in that field,” said Fenech.

“We’ve never had anything like this in supply chain management in Australia so now is really good time to address it, considering the complexities of the end- to-end supply chain have been made so apparent through COVID-19.”

To assist its members in adapting to the disruptions of COVID-19, ASCI is conducting research and benchmarking global best practice so that Australian supply chains can come out of the pandemic more resilient that ever.

“Currently, ASCI is working with the University of Melbourne on a risk survey, to see how we’ve been redefining risk and that will be a really important part of our conference on day two where we will be presenting those findings for the first time and giving our supply chain managers who are delegates at that conference a first look in as to what they need to be doing to reset their business continuity plans.”

While discussions were held at the beginning of the pandemic to understand whether the conference’s theme should change to focus directly on the events of the past six months, the advisory board ultimately decided that the theme of “Supply Chain Vision In The Decade For Action” encompassed the ongoing challenges that supply chains would face into the future.

“If companies don’t change the way they do things and put their supply chains front and centre of their operational efficiency, then they’re just not going to survive in the new era,” said Fenech.

Over the two days of the conference, ASCI has assembled a panel of local and international supply chain leaders, who will share their insights from a range of sectors. These include the medical, industrial, defence, and fast-moving consumer goods sectors, as well as the transport and logistics sector.

On February 25, delegates will be able to tour the under-construction Western Sydney Airport site, the core of the future Aerotropolis and new logistics hub for Western Sydney. Attendees can participate in a panel discussion with local councils, moderated by Amanda Brisot, general manager Western Sydney Business Connection.

With multiple streams on each day, Fenech highlights that it is worth businesses bringing multiple attendees.

“Supply chain managers should think about bringing a few members of their team because there are certainly different experiences that each of their team members could have throughout the two-day conference. Team- members can come together afterwards to share key learnings across those functions.”

Streams on day one will cover procurement, operations management, and logistics management, while on day two streams encompass systems and technology, supply chain management, and the future supply chain management workforce.

“There are some great stories in there from Metcash, for example, about how COVID-19 brought about some great opportunity for them to work with Woolworths and Coles,” said Fenech.

ASCI2021 will also host the 28th ASCI awards’ dinner, and with so much upheaval during the past year, Fenech expects some engaging stories to come out of the awards. “It will be one of the best because we want to see where excellence exists, where excellence has been demonstrated through these really tough times, and often it’s during tough times that innovation really does
push through.”

For more information, to book tickets, and view the full program go to: http://www.asci-2021.com.au/.

ASCI offers discounted registration to ASCI2021

With coronavirus (COVID-19) representing one of the largest disruptions to supply chains the world has faced since the era of globalisation, taking an informed view to the future of local and international trade will be key for the decades ahead.

The Australasian Supply Chain Institute (ASCI) is focusing its 2021 conference and awards on these long term challenges, under the theme of the United Nations’ Decade for Action.

Taking stock of the task that supply chain organisations and managers have faced since the beginning of 2020, the conference, to be held on Tuesday 23 and Wednesday 24 February at the William Inglis Hotel in Sydney, will take a look back at a tumultuous 2020, and see what challenges lie ahead.

With international trade already beginning to rebound, especially for countries trading with China and other East Asian countries, being ahead of the trends in the sector will be key. Furthermore, the re-routing of international supply chains has seen rail take on an expanded role, with continental rail services competing with shipping and air cargo.

At the same time, the ongoing challenges of climate change, resilience, and building a circular economy, will continue to have an impact on the way that goods are exchanged across Australia and New Zealand and around the world.

Until July 31, ASCI is offering a discount on standard registration, with a saving of up to $400. This covers access to the conference and its speakers’ depth of expertise, as well as networking opportunities. At the conference, ASCI will also present the industry awards for supply chain excellence at a gala dinner.

There is also the opportunity to get an insight into the smart supply chians of the future, with a tour and a moderated panel discussion focusing on the opportunities that Western Sydney Airport will bring to the Sydney Basin and wider region. This will be held on February 25.

For more information and to book tickets click here: https://www.asci-2021.com.au/