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March 30, 2012

White House taps MSU expert for supply chain panel

EAST LANSING, Mich. — The head of Michigan State University's renowned supply chain program traveled to the White House March 30 to discuss ways of making the nation’s supply chains more sustainable.

David Closs, chairperson of the Department of Supply Chain Management, was invited by the U.S. General Services Administration to participate in the dialogue with about 50 experts from the government, business, nonprofit and academic sectors.

Friday’s dialogue is the first step in a government effort that ultimately could lead to new policies to guide supply chain operations and environmental practices.

With 35 years of experience in supply chain research, Closs is on the cutting edge of viewing the supply chain from a larger perspective. Essentially, he argues, a sustainable supply chain involves more than just being environmentally friendly. It also should include ethical practices, knowledgeable workers and good economics.

“My argument is that supply chain managers have to broaden their perspective,” Closs said. “If you’re really going to have a sustainable supply chain you have to balance these four dimensions.”

Security also has become a key part of supply chain management as companies deal with natural disasters, terrorism events and other problems that can make shipping their products a challenge.

As a result, many firms are moving away from using a single supplier and turning to multiple vendors, with a strong focus on using local suppliers, Closs said.

MSU’s supply chain program – ranked No. 1 for undergraduates and No. 2 for graduates by U.S. News & World Report – is known for focusing on the entire supply chain, from commodity raw materials, to the point the product is consumed, and even the recycling process.

That perspective could benefit the panel’s discussion of the nation’s largest supply chains – which include Wal-Mart and the federal government – because it’s important to make sure there is no breakdown along the chain, Closs said.

“You don’t want to make a choice that makes one organization sustainable but results in significant issues for other supply chain partners,” Closs said. “The whole supply chain needs to be considered.”

At the meeting, Closs will join professors from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the universities of Virginia and Maryland.

Also scheduled to participate are representatives from Dow Chemical Co., General Electric Co., IBM, Con-Agra Foods Inc. and Coca-Cola Co. – all companies that are actively involved in supply chain and sustainability practices through the Broad College of Business or the School of Packaging at MSU.

The Department of Supply Chain Management is located within the Broad College of Business.


Michigan State University has been working to advance the common good in uncommon ways for more than 150 years. One of the top research universities in the world, MSU focuses its vast resources on creating solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges, while providing life-changing opportunities to a diverse and inclusive academic community through more than 200 programs of study in 17 degree-granting colleges.