When I discuss technological innovation in global supply chains with people who do not share my enthusiasm for the topic I often get the reaction; “No one wakes up thinking about innovation in supply chains.” Obviously, they are exaggerating, but I know what they mean; For a long time supply chains have been relegated to the very distant background. That is changing, and I think it is changing faster than we realize – if we are willing to take a long enough view.
This Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll conducted between July 9 and August 5, 2019 offers some pointers to the change in attitudes that is occuring. The poll was conducted on a “random national sample” of 2,293 adults age 18, as well as 629 teenagers ages 13-17.
In this article, I discuss the data from the poll that I feel is most closely tied to the innovation we will see occuring in global supply chains as time progresses. I encourage you to read through the results of the poll yourself, perhaps you’ll reach conclusions that differ from mine. If so, please let me know. I am ignoring questions and data of a political nature.
Climate change is important
Among adults, 64% responded that climate change is more important, with 35% saying it is extremely important and 29% saying it is very important. Among teenagers, 61% responded that climate change is more important, with 34% saying it is extremely important and 26% saying it is very important.
The poll asked respondents about renewable energy. Among adults, 62% responded that renewable energy is more important. With 28% saying that renewable energy is extremely important and 34% saying it is very important. Among teenagers, 57% responded that renewable energy is more important, with 27% saying it is extremely important and 30% saying it is very important.
Human activity is causing climate change
Among adults, 79% responded yes, while 86% of teenagers responded yes. Among these respondents, 55% of adults and 54% of teens are very certain that human activity is causing climate change. Overall, out of all respondents, 43% of adults and 46% of teens respectively, are very certain that human activity is causing climate change.
Climate change is not accurately portrayed in the news
When asked about portrayals of climate change in the news, 75% of adults responded that such portrayals are either generally correct or generally underestimated. For teenagers the proportion that think such portrayals are either generally correct or generally underestimated is 78%. Among teens, 63% said their views on climate change are based on what they have read or heard, while 36% have views developed out of personal experience and observation.
The major contributors to global warming and climate change
When asked about the major contributors to global warming and climate change, 62% of teens said driving cars and trucks, 61% said burning fossil fuels for heat and electricity, 62% said cutting down forests, and 57% said plastic bottles and bags.
Consumer attitudes will be the driving force for innovation – fear, anger, and motivation (FAM)
When asked about how the issue of climate change makes them feel, 50% of adults and 52% of teens said it makes them feel angry, 53% and 57% respectively said it makes them feel afraid, and 54% and 54% respectively said it makes them feel motivated.
If the trends in weather patterns and severe weather events continue, this fear, anger, and motivation is what will drive innovation in supply chains between now and 2050. Politicians will not want to find out how an anxiety-ridden electorate will react if they do not implement policies and regulations designed to address climate change based on what we know today. Corporate executives who do not adopt believable and substantive sustainability practices will risk putting their firms at a competitive disadvantage compared to peers.
My analysis and this prediction has serious shortcomings
For one thing, this poll was conducted in the United States, on a relatively small sample of people. That said, the effects of climate change are being felt all over the world. My hunch is that the results of this poll reflect attitudes around the world more than one would expect. As an example, Quartz reports that one of India’s largest coal mining states says it will not build new coal power plants, making it the second Indian state to make such a declaration. Although the decision has not been passed into legislation and could be reversed in the future, it’s an early sign that times and attitudes are changing around the world.
Also, I am not suggesting that the shift in attitudes that will propel innovation in supply chains will happen overnight. It has taken us a long time to get to this point, the attitudes and behaviors that have brought us here will not be reversed overnight. However, once humanity’s collective will to survive kicks in, I foresee an irreversible tide of cultural and social forces that will birth technological and economic movements to accelerate work towards stemming, and reversing climate change; The generation of people ascending to positions of political and corporate leadership today do not want to leave a world that is inhospitable to their children – some of whom are in their teenage years now.
When asked, 37% of adults and 42% of teenagers said that reducing the negative effects of global warming and climate change would require major sacrifices. Also, 71% of adults and 78% of teenagers said that technological advances will be able to reduce most of the negative effects of climate change.
Can we afford anything but sacrifice and optimism?