Supply chain management: three pillars for every sustainability leader
December 13, 2022
By Lindsay Kuczera
Dr. Donna Palumbo-Miele was introduced to the supply chain and entrepreneurship early in life by her immigrant parents. She valued that time spent learning about supply chains and customer service, which ultimately has led to her own success.
Donna is an Associate Professor of Practice and teaches courses focused on corporate social responsibility (CSR) at Virginia Tech’s Master of Natural Resources (Online) program. Her career in supply chain management began in a consulting capacity with Ernst & Young, where she helped organizations advance their supply chain technology. She also gained experience in logistics, sourcing, and procurement for the e-commerce, retail, and entertainment industries. It was during this time that Donna saw the potential for suppliers to be environmental stewards through partnership and collaboration. Now, as the founder, president, and chief operating officer of Concordia Supply Chain Group LLC, Donna supports diverse suppliers as they advance their work and strategies in ESG.
How we build sustainable supply chains
Sustainability plays a key role in supply chains, especially as climate change takes the center stage of conversations. By taking a holistic view and applying a sustainability lens, we give those in the profession the opportunity to make positive impacts to our environment. “As leaders in this space, it is our responsibility to make informed, sustainable decisions and foster an environment to educate others in the opportunities,” Donna said. Some of those sustainable decisions involve lowering facility or transport emissions by using renewable energy, reducing water use, or improving product packaging to sustainable materials, for example.
Further, sustainability is on many corporate agendas. Increasingly, CEOs are placing supply chain management and sustainability as strategic business priorities, and investors are becoming increasingly more interested in the actions companies are taking to be more sustainable. With the use of data, companies can make sound business decisions and be kept accountable for actions they take. The more visibility and transparency there is in the supply chain, the more likely environmentally-positive decisions will be made.
The three pillars of sustainability
Donna offers students insight into responsible supply chain management in an MNR course called Sustainable Purchasing and Supply Chains. This course focuses on corporate social responsibility and the three pillars of sustainability: environmental, social, and governance. Students are exposed to concepts that are important to sustainability and our global economy while reducing risk in the supply chain. Additionally, group work provides collaboration and conversation among diverse perspectives on topics such as circular economy, waste reduction, and systems thinking.
By prioritizing these three pillars in supply chain management, industry professionals can become sustainability leaders. “We can all be environmental stewards for the greater good. Using these tenets provides opportunity for improved productivity and efficiency, reduced carbon footprint, and cost savings. Further, with visibility, there is greater opportunity for risk mitigation and resilience,” Donna said.
So, what’s a person to do?
In order to meet the environmental challenges we are facing in today's economy through smart, sustainable business, Donna suggests gaining knowledge in how to practice sustainable decisions as an individual, as a family, as a company, and as a community. Making sustainability a business strategy is important, and using metrics, data, and reporting to stay agile and accountable is vital.
Donna leaves us with wise words about getting started in this industry. “Be curious. Engage your network. If you are seeking to advance your knowledge, ask others. People with similar passions are likely to help and share their insight.”
Dr. Donna Palumbo-Miele is Founder and CEO of Concordia Supply Chain Group LLC, a WBENC-certified supply chain management consulting firm she founded in 2020, providing startups to Fortune 500 clients with solutions in business process outsourcing, strategic sourcing, supplier relationship management, supplier diversity, and supply chain sustainability. Prior, Donna held an executive level position in Global Procurement for Bloomberg L.P. in New York City and roles of increasing responsibility in supply chain disciplines at Johnson & Johnson and The Walt Disney Company. Donna is a board officer for The Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals and is a member of the Women’s Forum of New York. Donna earned her bachelor’s degree in Business Logistics and a minor in Management Information Systems from The Pennsylvania State University, a Master of Business Administration from The University of Tampa, and her doctorate degree in Organizational Leadership with a minor in Human Resources from Nova Southeastern University.
Donna has been published in the Journal of Purchasing and Supply Management and has been recognized for her impact as a Top 10 Woman in Supply Chain by Warner Communications, Women in Supply Chain Honoree by The Pennsylvania State University’s Smeal College of Business, and one of the recipients of the 2021 and 2022 Women in Supply Chain award from Supply & Demand Chain Executive honors.