Thomas Mak CPA, Group Supply Chain Management and Sustainability Director, Jardine Restaurant Group, on the approach to making supply chains more sustainable, and how businesses can benefit from accountants and supply chain professionals collaborating
What are the three biggest lessons in your career so far?
Firstly, people are always the core of every business. No matter how good the intention or objective of an initiative is, if your team or stakeholders do not genuinely agree with it, the results of that initiative will not be good. Secondly, how you communicate with people, in terms of tone, approach or medium, is the key to achieving your desired outcome. Lastly, always exercise professional scepticism as an accountant. For example, during the stage when businesses often re-examine a signed contract, it’s important to play devil’s advocate to ensure key arrangements such as the break or exit clause are crystal clear.
What attracted you to the role?
With the group’s presence across multiple markets in Asia, it is challenging to connect the dots within the supply chain. The efforts made not only impact the business financially, but also socially and environmentally impact the communities in which we all work and live. The process of building a sustainable and resilient supply chain is like building something with Lego blocks, which come in different shapes and sizes like the different stakeholders along the value chain, and I find the process exciting. By looking after supply chain and sustainability at the same time as part of my role, I’m able to make a significant impact on the day-to-day business for the company’s sustainable development.
In what ways has your CPA qualification helped you in your career?
Being sensitive to numbers has definitely helped in my career. My CPA qualification and background has given me a solid foundation to rationalize numbers. The debit and credit double-entry system logic always helps to put things into balance. Aside from the hard skills, the qualification helps when it comes to mindset and discipline. Being detail-minded and prudent when taking risks has helped me to make the best decisions throughout my career.
In what ways can accountants and supply chain professionals collaborate to bring about greater good for society?
From the sustainability viewpoint, operational data is critical to measuring and tracking development under environmental, social and governance reporting, and that opens up an opportunity for the two teams to work together. Sustainability is a big topic, and it is a new economic model that is transforming the linear value chain to a circularity model. This change costs investment and time, and requires blending the number skills that accountants have with the knowlege of supply chain professionals, for example on flow of materials optimization, to financially and sustainably achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
How have you managed the challenges that supply chain teams currently face?
First and foremost, by staying positive! A positive and can-do mindset is the key to embracing all types of challenges. Also, it’s important to work closely with suppliers, and to genuinely treat them as your partners. With such rapid changes, close collaboration helps to weather the storm. Lastly, stay agile and creative. As a large food and beverage group, there are a lot of standard operating procedures and practices from the past. I constantly challenge the status quo and think of new ways to resolve issues by applying design thinking – it can be a tough process, but it provides us with solutions when traditional methods are not applicable.