Schulich launches supply chain research centre

The new centre will conduct research and share best practices with multiple business sectors, including grocery

York University’s Schulich School of Business is launching a research centre that will explore how to best create and secure sustainable supply chains in the face of challenges like climate change, digital transformation and pandemics.

The George Weston Ltd. Centre for Sustainable Supply Chains will conduct research and share supply chain best practices with multiple business sectors, including grocery, while also developing what it describes as the next generation of “responsible industry leaders.”

The Centre furthers a longstanding relationship between Schulich and George Weston Ltd., which has previously partnered with the school on executive education programs. It is a result of Schulich’s Leading Change Campaign, the university’s most comprehensive fundraising and alumni engagement campaign, which raised more than $65 million.

The Centre had been in development prior to the arrival of COVID-19 in Canada, but the pandemic has further underscored the importance of developing sustainable supply chains that are both efficient and agile, said David Johnston, the Centre’s director as well as a professor of operations management and information systems, and director of Schulich’s Master of Supply
Chain Management program, a one-year program that graduated its first class in June.

Even prior to the pandemic, there was considerable focus on how to create supply chains that addressed the Triple Bottom Line of people, the planet and profit, said Johnston. A key question for companies going forward, he said, would be on how to remain profitable while also addressing increasingly important questions around factors like food insecurity, climate change mitigation and health and safety.

“I think the key challenge for any research and education centre focused on sustainable supply chains is showing decision-makers in organizations how to make tough trade-offs,” said Johnston. Food companies, for example, will need to address sustainable food production while at the same time balancing it with concerns about reducing packaging and ensuring that
consumers have ready access to safe and nutritious food.

“It’s a little more than getting stuff on the shelves, making sure it’s cheap and being happy when you earn some margin on top of that,” said Johnston. “It’s a little bit of a different world that we’re in.”

Johnston called the study of supply chains a “rising tide” throughout business programs over the past quarter-century, exacerbated by the rise of the global marketplace that has created the need for a comprehensive understanding of supply chain management.

Modern businesses are often forced to deal with a sprawling network of producers, manufacturers, retailers, wholesalers and distributors possessing different cultures and different ways of doing business, he said.

“It’s a very complicated mosaic that a business strategist has to deal with, and the topic has become not only more top of mind, because of the problems and opportunities, but it also has a higher profile senior decision-makers,” he said. “It starts rising to the top of organizations and they start thinking they need the institutional support to improve the capability of managers to manage these complex supply chains.”

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds