As the media builds up to the Policy fest on Global warming in Copenhagen; T L has been trawling through the inspirational story of a place that is doing something about it – Las Gaviotas, Columbia.

A house at Las Gaviotas, Colombia

Since the 1940s Columbia has been ravaged by the struggle between Government forces and FARC (Las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia). Yet, despite the violence, Columbia has a highly educated and literate population; fertile farmland producing more than a hundred exportable crops and, a wide range of manufacturing industries such as textiles, electrical goods, chemicals and transport equipment. Perhaps more significantly, Columbia is the home of an inspirational working model of how communities can build sustainable low carbon futures.  (more…)

Have you ever wondered about how Italian ice cream was invented – before electricity? Or, the significance of eggs at Easter? Ice cream reaches back in time to the Egyptians; the Mughals and 5th century Greeks with their snow mixed with honey and fruit. And hens always laid their eggs from April to June when their body clock said so. For most of recorded history, eggs were a springtime crop and, that’s where it starts.

Where am I going with this? The perishable supply chain combines technology to conquer borders and distance but we need to understand the dislocation involved in local communities and the environment itself. For example, as the Indian middle class grows so too does the demand for quality fruits and vegetables. Recently, in Delhi, I met with a company that is developing an impressive network of orchards up in the foothills of the Himalayas. This will take time so, there are plans to source apples and other quality fruits from … Chile.   (more…)

McKinsey have published an important insight into increasing the energy efficiency of supply chains. Starting from the fact that 15 million barrels of oil per day – that’s 20% of total production – is used to move things around globally, the study highlights six levers that can make significant impacts on energy efficiency. See: McKinsey (August 2009).

The levers work within three oil price scenarios and focus supply chain set up (from increasing value densities; reducing transport distances and switching modes) to the transport assets themselves (improve design and technology; maximise usage and improve infrastructure).

The levers are well documented. However, several issues remain untouched and the report would be improved by considering: (more…)

Back in soviet times when the economy was fixated on heavy industrial goods consumer items reached their market by word of mouth and demand aggregated to prioritise supply below the radar of the State. Cuba with its vast underground of unlicensed products and services either pilfered from the State or, brought in from outside works in the same way. And like so many other informal markets all over the developing and emerging world, word-of-mouth or, to use a buzz word from the textbooks, viral marketing drives demand and pulls the product to market.

Cuban cars and the digital bazaar has transformed this en la calle (street based) market into a digital bazaar for a broad range of goods from housing to cars to classified ads. revolico, meaning disarray, has become one of the top 3 web sites in Cuba with over 1.5 million page views per month and over 100,000 ads placed in the last two months. (more…)

“Only when the villages prosper”, said Mahatma Gandhi, “can India truly prosper”. Amidst the bustle of the big cities and the drive to transform the Young Republic of India into a global superpower it is easy to forget the villages role in the growth narrative.  And yet, the world’s largest democracy cannot ignore the needs of those vital voters who live in the 500,000 villages working the land or, marooned in lives on less than a $2 a day. These are the roots of “inclusive growth”.

Back in the 1970’s Ramachandran, an entrepreneur from Chennai, set up the NAESEY (New Era Association of educated Self-Employed Youth) Project as a Charitable Foundation aimed at offering training on basic skills for the youth in the villages of Tamil Nadu, Southern India. Ramachandran is the Chancellor of AMET University, India’s first Maritime University, and the funding for NAESEY is generated from profits from his various business ventures. So far, over 150,000 have benefited from this initiative; many of them on three month training courses geared to increase skills capacity in rural areas, generate sustainable small business ventures and promote self esteem.

As recent posts illustrate, Transformational Logistics is looking for ideas all along the supply chain to improve connectivity between rural areas and, wider markets. Working with T L sponsors Archomai and the support of Ramachandran, Dr Graham Hamilton of York St John University flew to Tamil Nadu with colleagues to study village realities through the eyes of the NAESEY project.

Dr Hamilton visiting a NEASEY project brick production site

Dr Graham Hamilton visiting a NEASEY project brick production site in Tamil Nadu

Dr Hamilton and his team lived and travelled amongst the villages of Tamil Nadu where NAESEY is active. The scheme works from 58 centres across Tamil Nadu offering free industrial training on core skills such as computers; craft skills such as tailoring and embroidery and, much needed skills on radio, tv and mobile phone mechanisms. NAESEY offers free training for up to three months and structures courses in learning centres set up to serve and increase the skills capacity of local villagers. Other projects are on the go from mushroom cultivation to brick kilns .

Dr Hamilton and his team travelled the villages with the hugely enthusiastic and committed Vasu, the Coordinator of the NAESEY Programme. They ate, slept and worked alongside the trainers and had open access to trainees on courses from embroidery to computers.  

With Vasu in a Tamil Nadu village

With Vasu in a Tamil Nadu village


NEASEY pays particular attention to training for women. (more…)

Sixty years after the United Nations signed the Declaration of Human Rights, meetings were held in Paris during December 2008 between UN officials and Business Leaders to explore ways to widen the scope of the Human Rights agenda.

In an interview with France 24 Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland (1990-97); former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997-2002) and now leader of the Realizing Rights Group focussed on ethical globalisation initiatives, spoke of broadening the Human Rights agenda to include fair trade; the plight of children in the workplace; the empowerment of women in political and business circles and above all Action Against Poverty. Logistics and the Supply Chain figure in each of these issues.

Celebrating the fact that over 230 companies worldwide have become involved in this initiative, Mary Robinson said: “I am encouraged to see more and more companies taking a public stand on human rights. This is yet another sign that human rights are becoming part of the mainstream business agenda.” (more…)

Text books are fond of linear supply chains that move in a logical flow from concept to consumer; cow to fridge (dairy); from a sketch to the clothes rack (textiles) and, from a bauxite mine to the fridge (coke). Process mapping takes us from raw materials to manufacture and, through various modes of transport to the retail outlet or, even the on line store. And yet, for many products such neat moves are far from reality as each step fragments into a multiplicity of interdependent actors – formal and informal. Take traditional carpets or rugs – from loom to room.

Carpet weaving

Carpet weaving


In other words, 4,300 children die of diahorrea every day – which is second only to pneumonia and more than deaths from measles, malaria and HIV combined. The trouble is that Jumbo Jets falling out of the skies and photo opportunities at the opening of new schools or healthcare centres have more PR clout than opening a safe toilet or, being the patron of an anti-open defecation campaign in some obscure village in Bangladesh or elsewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa. Behavioural change is much tougher than buildings but it is the only route to sustainable transformations … (more…)

At least 35 per cent, or $400 billion worth of goods, that are sourced from China could shift to countries such as India, Thailand, Vietnam among others over the next 10 years, according to a study by US-based retail and supply chain solutions firm DCB and Company. (more…)

In 2004 Mark Warschauer (University of California) published research that focussed less on infrastructure and more on the ability to use equipment. There are many other examples of this area of research and these insights open up a major debate on the skills within the labour pool of any economy and given the scale of the workforce in any emerging economy skills becomes a major issue in all business connectivity and, logistics.