Three Jevons Paradoxes for the Future of Sustainable Supply Chain Management – and One Way to Resolve Them All

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Three Jevons Paradoxes for the Future of Sustainable Supply Chain Management – and One Way to Resolve Them All

by David Correll
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Three Jevons Paradoxes for the Future of #Sustainable #SupplyChain Management || http://3bl.me/4d23h2 via @CSRwire

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Dr. Correll is a professor of Operations Management at Clark University’s Graduate School of Management

Summary

This blog is part of our series on Supply Chain Sustainability. For more articles, visit CSRwire.

Monday, March 23, 2015 - 12:30pm

CAMPAIGN: Supply Chain Sustainability

CONTENT: Blog

In Economics, a “Jevons Paradox” has two parts. First, improvements in a technology (say, an engine) cause that technology to use resources (say, fuel) more efficiently. This seems all well and good, until you meet the second part.  In the second part of a classic Jevons Paradox, people consume more of the resource as a result of the new, more efficient technology — because, hey, why not right?  Now we can afford it! Therein lies the paradox: in attempting to conserve resources, sometimes our technological advances end up making them less costly, and thereby increasing their consumption by the general public – the exact opposite of the intended effect. 19th century Economist William Stanley Jevons first described this phenomenon in his observations of coal consumption in England following the introduction of the steam engine.

A Jevons Paradox is a funny —and maddening— bit of social science that has played out again and again throughout world history. Now, it is one that portends real changes for sustainable supply chain management in 2015 and beyond. Technological advancements are conspiring to force business sustainability and supply chain management thinkers to meaningfully ask ourselves an important question: why did we start pursuing business sustainability in the first place? After all, when oil and gas are cheap; as developments in advanced and additive manufacturing erode the sustainability spillover effect of localism; and as we look ahead to re-imagining our supply chains in the emerging and asset-less, “sharing economy”: what happens to the purported link between “going green and saving green” that has undergirded business sustainability thinking since at least the 1980s?  In a future with less linkage between sustainability and profitability, what is the enduring business rationale for supply chain sustainability? 

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Dr. Correll is a professor of Operations Management at Clark University’s Graduate School of Management in Worcester, Massachusetts.  As a consultant, Dave has worked in and with conventional and alternative energy startups and federal regulators.  His current teaching and research interests include sustainability, operations management, supply chain management, and the philosophy of science. Tweet him at @DrDavidCorrell.

Keywords: Responsible Business & Employee Engagement | CSRwire | Innovation & Technology | Supply Chain Sustainability | blog | supply chain | sustainability

CAMPAIGN: Supply Chain Sustainability

CONTENT: Blog