@ Supply Chain Management


Cow manure is Green and Walmart has me “Cowabunga”!!

Just who is buying this bullshit is another story. I am not one to use profanity lightly but the profane doesn’t do this latest piece of ludicrousness any justice. What drove me batty is this news item from Walmart: Wal-Mart exec foresees eco-ratings for all.

Among the many firms of this world, Walmart is perhaps one of the few who can really drive such a program and we all know that.

"We see this as a universal-this is not a U.S. standard," Wal-Mart Stores Inc. President and CEO Mike Duke told a gathering of more than 1,500 suppliers, nonprofit groups and company staffers at the giant retailer’s headquarters .

"Across the world, this standard would work across all retailers, all suppliers."

Some time ago, I had blogged on this very topic in Wal-Mart Boss says he will press suppliers in race to go green.

Fortunately for us, some research from AMR places an upper bound on the marginal cost we’re willing to pay for an eco-friendly product vs. a non eco-friendly product.

C. Britt Beemer, chairman of America’s Research Group, which surveys shoppers across the country, said shoppers won’t be willing to pay any more than 10 percent more for something that is eco-friendly.

One eye-brow raised so far. That was so last year dude. Here I’m paring my grocery bill down to the last penny. 10% – fat chance?

"Suppliers are going to have to absorb the cost increases," retail industry consultant Burt P Flickinger III said Wednesday.

Two eye-brow raised now. But not batty yet.

What drove me positively batty was this piece at the very end which was supposed to be an illustration of how a focus on the development of a sustainability program would ultimately result in greater production efficiency, actually lowering costs.

However, Wal-Mart focused Thursday on the possibility that development of the sustainability program would ultimately result in greater production efficiency, actually lowering costs.

One example provided was a private-label sour cream sold only at Wal-Mart. A video told of how electricity generated by burning methane from the manure of cows at a dairy farm in upstate New York was being used to reduce energy costs at the farm.

What an excellent idea – I mean who can find fault with reusing manure. Well, anyone thinking green might for one. For example,

Rearing cattle produces more greenhouse gases than driving cars, UN report warns

Some highlights from the report,

Cattle-rearing generates more global warming greenhouse gases, as measured in CO2 equivalent, than transportation

“The environmental costs per unit of livestock production must be cut by one half, just to avoid the level of damage worsening beyond its present level,” it warns.

When emissions from land use and land use change are included, the livestock sector accounts for 9 per cent of CO2 deriving from human-related activities, but produces a much larger share of even more harmful greenhouse gases. It generates 65 per cent of human-related nitrous oxide, which has 296 times the Global Warming Potential (GWP) of CO2. Most of this comes from manure.

Apparently, among the many ways a cow contributes to global warming – belching and not flatulence is the more important one.

Now, please calculate the marginal increase/decrease in cost of the end product (sour cream) given:

1. The number of cows on the dairy farm and carbon costs of the feed

2. Belching and flatulence (in litres) per cow per day converted into greenhouse gases emissions

3. Manure recycling that reduces electricity consumption

Is the savings from (3)*number of cows/day +(1)*consumption/per cow even remotely close to that from (2) recovered per cow? Does this even compute? This kind of hand waving is precisely what gets me batty. If you’re serious about solving a problem – full credit to you. It’s the “I’m also solving the problem in however miniscule a way” that gets my goat.

And to pick an example where in, the principal player i.e. a cow innocently belches to the low stratosphere greenhouse gases, the amount of which is comparable to our own transportation emissions and publicize the miniscule change denoted by a gain in self sufficiency at the production farm as proof of some concerted shift to sustainability is just downright goofy.

I suspect the green supply chain has entered the faltering stage. And I think that I know just know the stab in the back that will consign it into its casket – that’s yet another green thing – the greenback. As long as the dollar remained the undisputed reserve currency, Walmart (and likewise many firms here) possessed the leverage to force this on offshore suppliers. The dollar is in the process of being killed by the US government itself and with it will go much of the implicit leverage.

I find it all very ironic that on the one hand the government kills the greenback (this has been quite a consistent policy over the past few administrations) and on the other hand thinks that it can legislate sustainability dogma into practice.

Category: Personal Observations, Supply Chain Management, Supply Chain News


One Response

  1. Googleuh says:

    Not bad article, but I really miss that you didn’t express your opinion, but ok you just have different approach

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July 2009