What new idea or innovation is having the most significant impact on the
I think life cycle approaches will bring about great strides in product and
supply chain innovation as this approach becomes more widely adopted. While
we have had efforts to reduce certain impacts in particular life cycle
stages, this more holistic approach will help us grapple with the more
complex problems that await us.
What's something that most people just don't understand about your area of
Most people are largely unaware of the life cycle of the products they
purchase, and their environmental and social impacts. They worry about the
packaging and whether it's recyclable, which is good, but are unaware of the
effects related to the product's supply chain, from raw material extraction
to manufacturing to distribution and retailing.
What's an emerging trend that you think will shake up the sustainability
Progressive manufacturers and retailers in some ways have taken over the
regulatory activities of government institutions. It¹s a race to the top.
Smart companies know that the next competitive landscape is about being more
What's a sustainability trend that you wish would go away?
Climate change skepticism. It's frustrating that a small minority can have
such negatively influence on our ability to make progress. And if you don't
believe in climate change, do you also not believe in peak oil? Either way,
we're in for some big changes.
What's an idea you became fascinated with but that ended up taking you off
I tell my graduate students there is a reason that "research" is spelled
"re-search." I've had many research projects that haven't come to fruition,
but they're all useful in developing future ideas.
Who are three people or organizations that you would put in a Hall of Fame
for your field?
The World Wildlife Fund because they work so effectively to help communities develop the capacity to
be more sustainable. The United Nations Environment Programme because they bring about convergence on
environmental standards across the globe. And the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change because of the attention they
have brought to climate change and the need to act now.
What other field or occupation did you consider going into?
Before I started college I wanted to be an astronomer, but engineering
seemed more practical. I picked industrial engineering because the
connection between technology and people sounded most interesting, and that
interaction still drives my interests.
What website or app most helps you do your job on a daily basis?
I use Environmental Leader, a news aggregation site that gives me a summary
of relevant business and sustainability news on a daily basis. I also have
Google Alerts set for "climate change" and "Greenland"; I track Greenland
because that's where we can see the physical, cultural, and economic impacts
of climate change at a dramatic scale.
What song's been stuck in your head lately?
"Hell Yes," by Beck.