We interviewed EADA Alumnus Rafael Salgado Tourinho, who graduated from the International MBA in 2005. He is currently the Supply Chain Director for Supply Chain Excellence at E.ON, one of the largest operators of European energy networks and energy-related infrastructure, as well as a provider of advanced customer solutions for more than 50 million customers. In the following interview, Rafael tells us about his commitment to developing a sustainable supply chain that creates value for customers and innovation in the green economy.
How have you committed to contributing to a better world?
My commitment is the same as the company’s and that is to improve people’s lives. In my specific role in supply chain, my purpose is to create a sustainable supply chain. Many people believe that is a contradiction, with the classic procurement approach of saying, ‘we need to buy cheaper, we need to buy more aggressively’. Many people tend to believe that these two things do not fit together. I believe, however, that they do and they need to. If you really want to have a cost beneficial approach when it comes to supply chain, you need to be sustainable now and you need to be innovative as well. My personal commitment is therefore to develop a sustainable supply chain that creates value for E.ON and for our customers.
What does it mean for you to work for a company committed to sustainability like E.ON?
Firstly, it makes me feel very proud. And secondly, it makes me even more committed to creating this footprint which impacts positively on people’s lives. I think the path that E.ON decided to take many years ago of pursuing this energy transition by firstly investing in renewables, and secondly becoming greener and investing in sustainability is something that from my personal perspective coincides with what I have wanted to do for a long time. It not only makes me even more committed to my personal belief that it is possible to develop sustainable supply chains in large companies, but it also has taught me a lot.
How important is innovation in the green economy?
If you want to have a green economy, you need to invest heavily in innovation. Unless companies seriously understand that innovation departments are the enabler to make this transition to a green economy, they won’t move forward. Hydrogen exploration is one example and we saw the dialogue exchanges from COP 26 about how to reduce carbon emissions. If companies do not start focussing on innovation development, they won’t be able to cope with the targets that they have been given.
What advice would you give future leaders in order to be more committed to the challenges you have mentioned?
Find out what you stand for, try to find a company that is aligned with your beliefs and make it happen. Think big, be brave, and make it happen.
Do you think these are the main qualities of a sustainable and responsible leader today?
Yes. If sustainability forms part of the DNA of the company or organisation, I am quite sure that you will be able to influence the impact on the bottom line, which comes from the procurement supply chain perspective. It will also have an impact on the top line because investors are increasingly searching for companies that invest in sustainability. I strongly believe that sustainability will become a knockout criterion for investors who will decide which suppliers they want to do business with.
How did the master’s program at EADA help you to achieve your goals?
It helped me a lot. Much of what I experienced at EADA created an impact on my personal life. Whenever you have a pragmatic approach, a real case study of a real company in front of you, and you exchange different opinions with your classmates or colleagues, it boosts different ways of thinking and innovative approaches. It is something that I still use nowadays. EADA was also the bridge to one of my very first jobs in procurement. First, I joined a company here in Spain, which then led me to further opportunities in Germany, and finally I joined JUNG where I currently work. However, it all started here at EADA.
How would you define the concept of business with a purpose?
Purpose for me is defining what you stand for and the kind of footprint you want to leave in society. In business, knowing what you stand for will lead to finding out your set of values. Then it is about translating that into the footprint you want to leave.
What is your next challenge in terms of purpose?
I have one personal and strong purpose, which is to reach excellence. In terms of professional purpose, one of the key challenges is to make people aware that a strong supply chain can be sustainable and that in the future, we will be mainly driven by innovation. In many cases, it is not about sitting down with a supplier and negotiating 5% here or there. You can get to a point where you kill the supply and it’s simply not healthy economically speaking. It is important to develop innovative solutions to work with the suppliers that will create an impact on society. However, in order to do so we need to jointly invest in innovation.
How did the master’s programme at EADA help you achieve your goals?
It helped me a lot. Much of what I experienced at EADA created an impact on my personal life. Whenever you have a pragmatic approach, a real case study of a real company in front of you, and you exchange different opinions with your classmates or colleagues, it boosts different ways of thinking and innovative approaches. It is something that I still use nowadays. EADA was also the bridge to my first job in procurement. First, I joined a company here in Spain, which then led me to further opportunities in Germany, where finally I joined E.ON. However, it all started here at EADA.
When we talk about innovation here at EADA, we talk about turning complexity into simplexity. Do you agree with this?
Yes. Innovation is the ability to do something that generates an even better result but in a different way to how it has been done previously. At work, I always ask if there is a way to make a tower in a different way; that will be more sustainable, less costly, and will generate a bigger impact on the people living around this tower. It is not only about deploying new technologies but also about considering the entire process from end to end. It is about doing things in a different way that will generate a potential economic benefit.
Finally, where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
I would like to be on the board of directors of a company, which focuses on developing sustainable supply chains by linking customer needs to the very beginning of the supply chain.