Executives Convene to Discuss Management of Global Supply Chains in an Era of Trade Wars

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Executives from five major corporations discussed global supply chain strategies and how companies can survive and prosper in a trade war at a Sept. 26 summit hosted by the Global Business Initiative at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business.

Panelists included Jeannine D’Onofrio, executive vice president, Tommy Hilfiger North America; Chris Froah, vice president, head of global integrated business planning and demand planning, Estée Lauder; Johan Gott, principal, A.T. Kearney; Steve Lamar, executive vice president, American Apparel & Footwear Association; and John Paszterko, senior operations manager, Amazon. The discussion was moderated by Ricardo Ernst, Baratta Chair in Global Business and director, Global Business Initiative.

Panelists discussed how the current trade wars affect industries differently. “Our consumers are interested in where our products are made, so tariffs are definitely a concern,” said Froah.

On the effects of the current trade wars, Pazterko noted those who lose the most with tariffs. “Mom and pop businesses are at most risk as they cannot shift inventory when these events occur.”

Lamar also reminded the audience that “not all companies have the wherewithal to survive these kind of shocks.”

In terms of advice for companies on how to survive during difficult times, Pazterko added that companies must “start with the consumer and work your way up,” while D’Onofrio emphasized “the need to always have people first on your mind,” and Froah advised students to “have an intellectual curiosity to find solutions.”

Speakers ended the talk with a discussion on the lessons that the current trade wars present.

“We have an opportunity to learn how to navigate tariffs and other kinds of shocks and be better equipped to protect our consumers,” said Gott.

Froah added that supply chain is a changing field.

“I love what I do because managing our supply chains presents to me new exciting challenges every day,” said Froah.

Finally, D’Onofrio mentioned automation and diversification to highlight that “supply chain is about evolution, it never stays still.”

Among attendees was Michael Bianco (B’21) who found the panel enlightening in terms of the value of diversification. 

“I learned first-hand from executives how diversification truly helps a company during a trade war and how those firms with supply chains in one single country will be affected the most by these events,” said Bianco. 

Created in 2015, the Global Summits Series offers insights on global management issues and perspectives on specific topics affecting key industries, in combination with networking opportunities for the Georgetown community. 

To learn more about the Global Business Initiative, visit https://msb.georgetown.edu/faculty-home/research-centers/global-business-initiative/.