Upskilling Supply Chain Professionals for a Sustainable Future

By ASCM CEO Abe Eshkenazi, CSCP, CPA, CAE

This week, I attended the GreenBiz 20 conference, which enables sustainability-focused professionals to explore business trends and develop recommendations for better organizational accountability and reporting. Those of us who participated in the supply chain track identified a number of tactics for aligning sustainability goals with supply chain activities. Two key strategies were enhanced cross-training and ongoing professional development.

Indeed, as global supply chains contend with extreme social, economic and ecological change, investing in our people becomes ever-more crucial. As World Economic Forum (WEF) President Børge Brende writes, “Valuing human capital not only serves to equip individuals with the knowledge and skills to respond to systemic shifts, it also empowers them to take part in creating a more equal, inclusive and sustainable world.”

According to the WEF’s Future of Jobs Report, 75 million jobs in 20 major economies will be displaced by 2022. Meanwhile, as many as 133 million new roles will emerge to meet the demands of this ongoing transformation.

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These points are underpinned by PwC’s 23rd Annual Global CEO Survey, which reveals the opinions of about 1,600 chief executives from 83 countries. Two central themes that surfaced from the research were upskilling and climate change.

According to the report, the key forces driving the upskilling imperative include automation, less availability of talent, reduced mobility of skilled labor and the aging workforce. “One reality is clear,” the report states, “increases in automation, changes in demographics and new regulations will make it much harder for organisations to attract and retain the skilled talent they need to keep pace with the speed of technological change. They will have to grow their own future workforce.”

Importantly, the CEOs who have embraced upskilling report benefits including stronger corporate culture and employee engagement, greater ability to attract and retain workers, heightened levels of innovation, and enhanced productivity.

“Our current approach can’t continue,” Siemens U.S. CEO Barbara Humpton told PwC. “We don’t have nearly enough qualified applicants to hire because of the technical knowledge required. So we’re going to be training a lot of non-engineers to do jobs engineers would have done in the past.”

The CEOs surveyed also recognize the risk and opportunity of climate change, noting that related initiatives can lead to significant new product and service opportunities, as well as reputational advantages and financial incentives. A recent CNN article validates these findings, reporting that asset-management superpower BlackRock is putting sustainability “at the center of its approach to investing.” The firm currently oversees $7 trillion in investments, but soon will abandon any holdings considered to be a sustainability risk.

“Awareness is rapidly changing, and I believe we are on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance,” CEO Larry Fink stated in his January 2020 letter to CEOs.

The potential of our people

Today’s investments in talent set our supply chain organizations on an equal, inclusive and sustainable path to the future. At ASCM, we are here to support you in this effort, with a wide array of professional development programs, including APICS certifications and a body of knowledge that has been the global standard in supply chain learning and development for more than 60 years.

Companies around the world recognize the APICS Certified in Production and Inventory Management; Certified Supply Chain Professional; and Certified in Logistics, Transportation and Distribution designations. These credentials offer forward-looking, transformational education that will position your employees for ongoing success. Learn more about how you can cultivate and support your workforce with this essential learning and development.

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