Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Ursula Project: Unified Rating System, Universal Lifecycle Assessment

In the reading, “2016 Future Supply Chain,” we were introduced to new concepts of measuring a SC apart from successfully meeting customer demand. These new measures included energy use, CO2 emissions, traffic congestion, security compliance and infrastructure simplification. Most of these measures help the bottom line of a company; however, I stumbled upon an initiative that seeks to aggregate such measurements in order to make them transparent and available to the public. In this way the “true” cost of a given product will be known. It is called the Ursula Project (http://www.ursulaproject.org/).

They have created a system that weighs a given product, capital asset, environmental asset, etc. through a system of internal weights and what they call “intelligent social voting,” basically crowd sourcing for inputs to give a score. The system incorporates environmental, social, economic, political and technological factors. This means that it is similar to the internal rating system that Herman Miller created for their eco-friendly chairs but applicable to any product. Personally, I am skeptical of anything that involves crowd sourcing for votes but it appears to be balanced with other concrete measures. Unfortunately they don't yet have publicized weights for products since it still a new, but I think it is a great idea as it would allow a consumer to evaluate a product by more measures than just the price.

If you designed your own rating system and gave weights to a measure, what would be most important to you? Environmental, economic, social, political, or technological?

If you saw a score on a product in a grocery store would you pay attention? Or would the price influence your decision more? For example, say you are at a store and you see two types of apples: one that had a low score (indicating that it had a larger carbon footprint or came from a country where there was political turmoil etc.) and another type that was more expensive but had a high score. Which would you buy?

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