Five Key Lessons

Environmental Economics 141: Economics of Supply Chain

hands sorting berries in a factory

At each stage of a supply chain—research, product development, processing, distribution, and retailing to consumers—bringing products to market affects the environment, climate change, food security, and more. Taught by Professor David Zilberman, this course offers a background in supply chains using examples from environmental and agrifood sectors.

  1. Commercialize innovation; establish supply chains
    New products disrupt existing supply chains and create new ones. Plant-based meat alternatives, for example, draw on scientific research for product development and require specific ingredients that need to be sourced. As meat alternatives capture more market share, the traditional meat-production industry must adapt to compete. 
  2. Consumer demand can drive innovation
    Whether it be calling for ethical production of palm oil to reduce deforestation or being willing to pay more for sustainably grown produce, buyers who are increasingly concerned about the environment can affect supply chains in big ways. 
  3. Policy can, too
    Companies often lack incentives to tackle climate change, but targeted government policy can open up market opportunities. Biofuel mandates led to the development of supply chains for ethanol, and California’s high fuel-economy standards stimulated widespread advancements in electric-vehicle technology. 
  4. Public-private collaboration is essential
    Public research discoveries lead to new product development and industry growth. Society benefits from the engagement of academics in innovation and from resulting career opportunities in agricultural and natural resources sectors. 
  5. Sustainable development is more than a trending term
    For companies aiming to improve human well-being without causing further damage to the natural world, supply chains must actually incorporate environmentally friendly practices. Specific actions include enhancing efficiency in production or adopting more sustainable sourcing.