Its an interesting pairing, politics and supply chain. But President Clinton, speaking at AMR Researchs annual Supply Chain Executive Conference here May 31 to June 2, discussed both topics, weaving stories of cutting costs for AIDS medication and building coalitions to fight poverty into the overall tapestry of managing supply.
"I like what you do," said Clinton, to an audience brimming with Republican-leaning supply chain executives.
"Ive spent most of my life trying to help people make connections, which is what you do for a living."
The point of Clintons address at this years AMR conference, titled "Making Money + Saving the World," is that the world should move to an integrated community, one where there is shared opportunity for participation, shared responsibility and shared values.
Inherent in that is a responsibility for people in positions of power (for example, major corporations that negotiate vast supply chains) to influence changes in the way markets are organized and the way goods and services are distributed, to positively effect change.
Clinton speaks from post-presidential experience. In 2005 he founded the Clinton Global Initiative, a nonpartisan organization whose mission is to bring together world leaders in politics, religion, business, education and the community to tackle world issues, among them climate change, disease and poverty.
"The main thing we did [at CGI] was shift from people should give more money to making money go further," said Clinton.
"We went from paying $500 per year per person for AIDS drugs, to $135 per year. We said [to drug companies] shift to a high volume, low margin strategy and in return we will give you prompt payment."
As a result of CGIs efforts to revamp the AIDS drug supply chain, over 50 countries have signed up for its AIDS medication program and over 25 percent of the people who need AIDS medication are getting it, Clinton said.
Clintons group is also addressing medication distribution issues with a plan to help governments set up health networks.
"You cant just drop this medicine into the woods someplace and expect people to take it," he said. "[Distribution] is a complicated thing to undertake."
The goal of CGI is to bring together, talk about issues, and get commitments for change, Clinton said.
During its first summit in 2005, participants—heads of state, actors, CEOs of big companies—were asked to sign at least one commitment outlining actions they would take in a specific area of focus.
Promises ranged from a $100 million pledge to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa, to 100 volunteer hours donated to an interfaith youth group.
And the list, it seems, keeps growing. After President Clintons address at this years AMR conference, for example, Tony Friscia, AMR Researchs president and CEO, donated a two-year commitment to provide supply chain expertise and technology assistance to CGI.
Its exactly the kind of commitment Clinton is looking for.
"[Managing] the supply chain can really create a huge number of jobs," he said, giving the example of using the supply chain to solve agricultural issues around the world.
"The biggest problem is sub-Saharan Africa is not farm subsidies, its poor market conditions. I got Starbucks to agree to buy coffee in Africa. They had to do that by improving the supply chain."
Even with the goal of altruism, there is money to be made, according to Clinton.
He pointed to several growth areas including clean energy (biofuels) and health care, areas where supply chain professionals can "do right and do well," said Clinton.
"If I was 25 years old, had an MBA and didnt want to go into politics, I would go into clean energy and make a million bucks."