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Sustainability key to efficient operations

Canada
National Post
22/11/2010
Huw Evans

Most businesses understand that sustainability should be part of their core operations, yet few understand how crucial it is to the bottom line. Athabasca University's Dr. Anshuman Khare has spent his career researching and explaining how sustainability, waste reduction, ethics and corporate responsibility should be a key component to any business.

In light of the global recession, outsourcing to Third World countries is a prime example.

"Instead of creating wealth, outsourcing jobs t0 developing countries has frequently had the opposite effect”, says Dr. Khare, a professor of operations management. "Developed countries still have the highest level of purchasing power, but if you're not creating jobs in them, that spending power is reduced and no matter if you've saved money in the short term by moving production to Africa or Asia, if you don't have demand for your products or services it becomes harder to operate your business and it is more prone to collapse”.

Dr. Khare points out that an outsourcing strategy can be derailed by other economic realties.

"Quality issues, such as recalls, can harm your reputation and cost you more in the long term than if you simply kept production at home. Standards are generally more lax in developing countries and you no longer have full control over manufacturing or service providing process”, he says.

Dr. Khare has taught and worked in India, Japan and Germany, published five books and written more than 125 research papers, as well as receiving the Craig Cunningham Memorial Award for Teaching Excellence, and his classes cover every aspect of sustainability. The professor doesn't shy from controversial topics, including climate change, a hot-button issue in Alberta where Athabasca is based.

"Climate change is controversial, but any steps an organization can take to reduce its impact on the environment is a positive one”, he says.

While finishing up his post-doctorate research at Ryukoku University in Kyoto, Japan, Dr. Khare's research focused on responsible manufacturing and limiting waste in the automotive industry.

"The automobile business is one industry that's made tremendous strides in waste reduction over the last 15 years”, he says. "And I think, particularly in Europe and Japan, by working with legislators to meet environmental targets, we've seen the biggest improvement in terms of sustainability.

"We've seen this scenario frequently played out over the last several years; but I think if this last recession has shown us anything it has been the chance to rethink business strategy away from a purely profit-driven approach and towards a more balanced one where corporate responsibility, ethics, environmental impact and long-term sustainability have a key role”.

It's this balanced approach that Dr. Khare stresses in the classroom. After graduating with an MBA from the University of Allahabad, he worked at the International Airports Authority of India, based in Delhi, where he discovered that a balanced, sustainable approach was crucial to successful airport management.

"India is a very densely populated country and as the point of entry and exit, an airport has to be able to sustain the handling large volumes of people and freight. The most effective way to maximize revenue is from increasing those volumes, but in order to make it work, a key ingredient is to improve the quality of life for passengers — reducing the time it takes for check-ins, security, immigration and boarding.

"If you have a streamlined process that's more efficient, the airport can handle greater volumes and you have more passengers and more aircraft, which increases revenue. But the only way you can really implement a successful strategy is by becoming part of the process -- in my case being a passenger and seeing first hand how it works”.

Dr. Khare uses his airport experience as a case study for his Athabasca students.

"The Operations Management course is essentially unstructured”, he says. "We place emphasis on spurring innovation as a core ingredient to sustainable business models. Our students come from all walks of life and they bring their own experiences and ideas with them. That's the great thing about this course: I learn as much from them as they learn from me. Together it helps foster not only a greater level of learning but also solid relationships, both on a professional and personal level.

"Being a recognized academic is great, but to me, the ultimate reward is that 10 years after a student graduated from your program, you're still regularly in touch with them ... that's the most rewarding aspect of all”.

El contenido de las noticias que se presentan en esta sección es responsabilidad directa de las agencias emisoras de noticias y no necesariamente reflejan la posición del Gobierno de México en este u otros temas relacionados.

    

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