As a scholar focused on the teaching and research of Supply Chain Management (SCM) concepts, I never shy away from an opportunity to leverage a good SCM metaphor. So, here goes.

First, let’s define this dynamic and exciting business concept. SCM is all about getting products and services to the marketplace. As I often tell my friends, “everything we buy and consume has a supply chain associated with it,” consisting of the companies, activities, processes, relationships, and logistics that are involved in bringing that product to the market. 

So, SCM is the complex and interconnected oversight and management of the people and processes that culminate in a product or service. 

In fact, one of my favorite TED Talks involves a story of a researcher who desired to express gratitude to everyone responsible for his daily cup of coffee. The result was a complex journey of international travel and interpersonal exchange to thank over 1,000 people! 

As the speaker comes to realize, something as seemingly mundane as a cup of coffee requires an integrated “web” of manufacturing and logistics processes, technologies, and (most importantly) people that are busy at work behind-the-scenes, and often doing so thanklessly.

So, here I sit in Helsinki, Finland as a Fulbright-Hanken Distinguished Chair in Business and Economics. What I’m most excited about during my Fulbright experience is the ability to explore SCM through a different lens. 

Instead of a sole focus on commercial logistics and SCM, the Hanken Supply Chain Management and Social Responsibility (SCM&SR) faculty and student group emphasize the humanitarian and social responsibility aspects of SCM. For example, much of the research produced by the Hanken group investigates the logistics of disaster relief and recovery efforts, and how SCM can be used for humanitarian aid. Further, when exploring commercial logistics and SCM, the Hanken scholars often do so with a keen emphasis on corporate social responsibility and sustainability. 

While these areas have not traditionally been a focus of my work, I have begun to become much more concerned about the human and social responsibility impacts of contemporary SCM activities. So, my time here provides a wonderful opportunity to work alongside, and collaborate with, a group of scholars who have a proven track record of success in researching and publishing these topics.  And I get the opportunity to do so in the beautiful country of Finland.  For all these things, I am immensely grateful.

Speaking of gratitude: this brings me back to my favorite TED Talk.

It has taken quite a journey to get here, dare I even say that my opportunities and experiences as a Fulbright Scholar required a “supply chain” to come to fruition. 

While I am in Finland to partner with colleagues at Hanken, I am also inspired by the interdisciplinary ideas that emerge when engaging in social dialogue with other Fulbright Scholars in Finland from other academic areas.

Making this happen most certainly required an interconnected team of people and processes working together to bring such an amazing academic exchange to reality. With inspiration from the TedX speaker, I would like to express my gratitude to some of the people in my “Fulbright Supply Chain.” 

I am grateful for the entire Fulbright Finland Foundation team, especially Karoliina Kokko, for the various aspects and levels of support. I appreciate the care with which you execute and facilitate global academic discovery and exchange. 

Likewise, I am grateful for the “Finland Fulbright Scholars Family”. Even before I arrived, I was welcomed into this family of students and scholars. Perhaps most noteworthy has been the sparks of insight and academic exchange that have occurred when we get together. 

While I am in Finland to partner with colleagues at Hanken, I am also inspired by the interdisciplinary ideas that emerge when engaging in social dialogue with other Fulbright Scholars in Finland from other academic areas. We are from what might seem to be disparate and radically different disciplines, yet our common interest in Finnish culture and issues links us together in ways that allow for academic overlap. 

And, lastly, where would I be without the Hanken family? I am deeply grateful for the entire Hanken SCM&SR community of scholars, especially Diego Vega, Gyöngyi Kovács, Marianne Dingstad Campier, Anna Aminoff, Sarah Schiffling, and Kieto Mahaniah, for serving as hosts and thought partners during this experience.  

As with any supply chain, there are most likely more people and processes involved than one can easily acknowledge. The Ted Talk makes that particularly clear.  And, we also know that SCM activities and partners are quite dynamic, changing in response to market conditions and new opportunities.

I am not only grateful for all those that have participated in my “Fulbright Supply Chain” to-date, but I also welcome with gratitude those people, places, and processes to come. This has been a life-changing experience thus far, and the future of it is surely to be a humbling supply chain journey.

Headshot of Terry Esper
Terry Esper
2023–24 Fulbright-Hanken Distinguished Chair in Business and Economics; Professor, The Ohio State University

Dr. Terry L. Esper is Professor of Logistics at the Ohio State University. He is also 2023-24 Fulbright-Hanken Distinguished Chair in Business and Economics.