Edition 128, December 2023

A Report on RLA's 2nd Leadership Summit

By Cathy Roberson, Reverse Logistics Association

This event is for senior level members to come together to discuss the state of our industry, get the thought leaders and decision makers to interact, make plans for more returns research, and create ideas on what RLA can do to help members and the industry move forward.

A sold-out RLA Leadership Summit was held in Atlanta from September 6-7. During the second annual event, a number of announcements were made. Perhaps the biggest was Tony Sciarrotta announcing that the National Retail Federation (NRF) acquired the Reverse Logistics Association (RLA).

"Joining NRF is an exciting opportunity for RLA and our members," said RLA Executive Director Tony Sciarrotta. "NRF recognizes reverse logistics as the backbone of the circular economy and understands how it plays a vital role in broader sustainability initiatives for the retail industry. Through this partnership, RLA will continue to reach industries investing in the circular economy and enhance NRF's long-term commitment to retail's supply chain and sustainability efforts."

In the press release, NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said, "NRF has a long history of convening supply chain professionals to collaborate and develop resources that improve the retail industry. Retailers understand the importance of sustainability practices and the environmental, economic, social, and consumer benefits that accompany them. As consumer demand for sustainable offerings continues to increase, RLA's reverse logistics expertise will help our members to 'close the loop' and accelerate the emergence of the circular economy."

It was also announced that Professor Glenn Richy of Auburn University would join RLA's board. Robert Glenn Richey, Jr. is the Harbert Eminent Scholar in supply chain management and research director at the Center for Supply Chain Innovation at Auburn University. His role is to help advance supply chain management research and outreach at the Auburn University Harbert College of Business. Richey engages in industry-based research and enjoys building research and student relationships between academia and practice. In addition to his formal education, Richey has an executive certificate in international business from the University of South Carolina. Before entering academia, Richey worked for ten years in managerial positions across several functional areas, including procurement, sales, retail consulting, finishing/manufacturing, warehousing, and logistics/supply chain operations for two companies: Scott Paper Co. and Genuine Parts Company's S.P. Richards Division.

In addition, our keynote speaker for RLA's conference was announced – John Paul DeJoria. DeJoria is an entrepreneur, self-made billionaire, and philanthropist best known as a co-founder of the Paul Mitchell line of hair products and The Patrón Spirits Company. "We feel that success unshared is a failure and giving back is part of business," DeJoria told CNBC in 2016. The CNBC article notes that Patron Tequila is bottled in recycled glass. The company also filters the distillage created in the tequila-making process for fertilizer.
(Source: Billionaire John Paul DeJoria: This type of success is really just failure, CNBC, July 6, 2016)

Throughout the Summit, there were several presentations, including a retailers' roundtable with Desiree Paoli, Kimberley Allison, Akin Shah, and Blenda Buettgenbach; Head of Supply Chain Sustainability at Cisco; Jack Allen's presentation on circularity and an update on research initiatives including CEO of RecirQ, Rich Bulger, providing an overview of his upcoming book, Going Circular.

After the presentations, RLA members, Home Depot and Encompass, graciously provided tours of their returns facilities in the Atlanta area.

We look forward to hosting our third Leadership Summit next year. Stay tuned for more!

Cathy Roberson

Cathy has over 20 years within the supply chain market including eleven years with UPS where she spent most of her time on competitive and market analysis for the Supply Chain Solutions subsidiary. After UPS, Cathy spent several years with various supply chain consulting firms focusing on market research before starting her own supply chain market research firm, Logistics Trends & Insights. Prior to UPS, Cathy worked at an e-commerce consulting start-up and at several libraries as a reference librarian. Cathy also writes for Air Cargo World magazine and other publications and is a frequent speaker at various supply chain conferences.