Environmental and social issues are at the forefront of many organizations’ strategic plans. Given the significant industry needs and the rapid pace of change, now is an excellent time for academic researchers to engage industrial partners in supply chain sustainability research.
So said Kevin Dooley, a Distinguished Professor of Supply Chain Management at Arizona State University, in his Oct. 20, 2022, lecture. Six times a year, CARISCA invites top supply chain scholars and leaders such as Dooley to deliver presentations. These Distinguished Lectures give faculty and students access to inspiring role models, the latest ideas and approaches in supply chain research, and practical guidance for conducting and publishing research.
In addition to his faculty position, Dooley is chief scientist for The Sustainability Consortium (TSC), a global nonprofit organization transforming the consumer goods industry to deliver more sustainable consumer products. In this role, he leads a research team that works with over 100 of the world’s largest retailers and manufacturers to develop tools that measure and track progress on critical product sustainability issues.
“We have a strong philosophy and a differentiating philosophy that all consumer products have to be made more sustainable,” Dooley said. “And how do we do this? We do this through market mechanisms.
“We recognize the power of buying by a retailer. Their purchasing power and procurement processes are a place where we can put in sustainability as a requirement and as a desirable.”
In his presentation, Dooley outlined the topical research questions that define supply chain sustainability and its unique dimensions of industrial engagement. Using The Sustainability Consortium as an example, he demonstrated how universities are well positioned to drive pre-competitive collaboration and innovation.
“Companies in society need our expertise and skills to address sustainability issues,” Dooley said. “Even when they have the expertise in house, they don’t have the time to go deep. We have the time to go deep and, honestly, get a better sense, a broader sense, of what is actually happening in practice than they may have the opportunity to.”
Unlike “business bubbles” such as total quality management and lean manufacturing, sustainability is a hot topic that is unlikely to peak and then fade away, Dooley said. He believes it is a great field for academics to pursue, and one that excites students.
“Universities are trusted by corporations. We are trusted by NGOs, and for that reason we can not only be designers of solutions, but we can be mediators and conveners as well,” Dooley said.
“If we can work with a group of companies within the supply chain, with a group of companies who are competitors, this is where real impact can occur. And I think that it’s a niche that is not often enough taken advantage of in universities.”
Dooley said his life as an academic researcher gained new meaning when he joined the team at TSC. That team includes top scholars and practitioners from a variety of fields who have come together to make a difference.
“The ability to create impact certainly is personally satisfying, but it really wasn’t until I gave up my ego to the ego of the team, so to say, that I really got deep satisfaction,” he said. “Being part of a cross-functional, highly diverse team, it’s been the most satisfying experience that I’ve had in my research career.”
About the speaker:
Kevin Dooley has published more than 100 research articles and provided training or consultation for over 200 companies in the areas of sustainability, supply chain management, quality, and technology and innovation.
Among his many career honors are having a paper named to the “Research Implications Hall of Fame,” being identified as the 8th most “impactful” business faculty in the world, and managing a research project cited as one of the “Top Ten World Changing Ideas.”
Dooley holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in industrial engineering and a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Illinois.