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Smeal Launches New Sustainable Supply Chain course

Image credit: H2AD

It has been estimated that 98% of the resources extracted to make the things we use everyday is wasted. After years of educating students to create and manage efficient supply chain, how is this possible? There has to be a better way.

In Cradle to Cradle Bill McDonough and Michael Braungart estimate that, in the U.S., a million pounds of material resource is extracted to make 2,000 pounds of good (at 9% efficiency) and within two weeks most of what started has been wasted.

This is what Paul Hawken originally called the "take make waste" economic model.

We must move to what has been called a "borrow use return" model that mirrors natural systems. In a forest, there is no such thing as waste. There are just flows of materials and molecules serving one function, then another and then another.

I am excited to announce a new course exploring these ideas this semester in Sustainable Supply Chain Management. It is being taught by one of our pre-eminent sustainability research faculty, Dr. Daniel Guide, Smeal Chaired Professor of Operations & Supply Chain Management. One

of the most important and exciting ideas to emerge from this field is closed loop supply chains a key component to the larger circular economy concept. Recently, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation has become a global leader in promoting research and development of the circular economy concept. Worth checking out!

Dan and I have worked together on an Executive Education program called "Building a Sustainable Supply Chain" which is offered twice a year (next offering is May 8-10). He is a cool guy, former Navy Seal with some crazy stories, and has a refreshingly straightforward approach.

A related initiative also being completed this semester is the first installment in a new Smeal Sustainability Knowledge Center. This will be a website with information by students for students about how each Smeal major is connected to sustainability. The first site is on sustainable supply chain management. We expect to publish it this spring. If you'd like to be a design partner and provide feedback, let me know.

To close for today, a short 2 min video from The Guardian which places the circular economy in context.

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