The butterfly effect and the Intelligent Supply Chain How small steps can lead to major change

Author: Louis Roy, founder and CEO of OPTEL , January 2021


Most of us are familiar with the butterfly effect, the idea that a butterfly flapping its wings in one part of the world can cause a tornado in another. The analogy teaches us that one small, seemingly insignificant action at the local level can cause major disruption on a global scale.


Science has proven the growing impact of human activity on our climate and our environment. Sea levels and air temperatures are rising, soil is being spoiled, ground water is becoming polluted or disappearing, and we are left wondering what influence we can possibly have in the face of such changes.


Think of the transformation we have witnessed in our world over the past decades, from the invention of electricity to the first smartphone, from a social-media platform created in a garage that now influences the behavior of billions to the growing capabilities of artificial intelligence.


All these innovations began with a single idea, a single step, a single flapping of wings.


So how can we as individuals produce our own butterfly effect to help the planet recover from the devastation of climate change and become more sustainable? An even greater challenge facing corporations – which are simply teams of individuals pursuing a common mission – is how we can do so while continuing our professional obligation to increase shareholder value.


Like the advances in technology we continue to see every day, a company is always created from a single idea, combined with the desire and will to fulfill a need. Today, our planet needs us to reduce our impact on the ecosystem and to effect change that will ensure a greater future for our children and our children’s children.


In the linear economy of the 1980s, consumer demand was so large that operational optimization was unimportant. Shareholders were happy with the growth, and we were blind to the environmental impact or our operations.


In the 2000s, globalization applied pressure on companies to perform better, become leaner, reduce human error and waste in the manufacturing process, and satisfy the increasing demands of shareholders.


Companies began adopting Kaizen, 5S and other methods and tools to improve their operations, and everyone sought to become a “black belt” in these systems. But we were still putting profit before people and the planet.


Science has since taught us that our activities are destroying the planet, and good sense has taught us that the status quo is unsustainable. Does that mean that we must now focus only on the environment at the expense of shareholder value? Not at all.


The technological advances of recent years have given us the opportunity to become black belts in the Intelligent Supply Chain®, which holds the key to maintaining corporate profitability while protecting the planet.



Supply chain intelligence, fueled by traceability technologies, helps reduce waste, increase operational efficiency, save energy, lower our carbon footprint and, most importantly for today’s businesses, understand the evolving needs of our customers through the collection and analysis of business intelligence in real time.


Profit and sustainability are not mutually exclusive. The Intelligent Supply Chain® provides the tools to meet the expectations of shareholders while taking greater care of the environment. Like a butterfly flapping its wings and effecting major change halfway around the world, it is a platform to create true sustainability for business and, most importantly, for the planet.

By working together toward a more intelligent supply chain, we can provide a better life for our children and our shareholders’ children. We can give the gift of global sustainability by being the butterfly.