Stumped by business jargon
March 29, 2019 11:04 AM   Subscribe

I'm on deadline, editing a commentary for a general-interest publication, and the first sentence includes a phrase that's damn near opaque to me: "cascading value chain."

I've asked the author, but he's so familiar with the term that it's hard for him to explain it, if that makes any sense.

My profuse thanks in advance to anyone who can provide clarification.
posted by virago to Writing & Language (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Can you give more of the sentence, for context?
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:16 AM on March 29


Is there any chance this has to do with supply chains or value chains?

Even if it doesn't my take on it would be that through X measures or reasons, there are improvements in X values [efficiency, sustainability, profitability, etc.] that affect each level of the [sales, manufacturing, supply chain, business, etc.] process.

Here's one example of this type of term being used.
posted by sardonyx at 11:20 AM on March 29


Depending on the context, I think this basically means something like... things proceed from the beginning to the end through a step-by-step process (the "chain"). Each step ads some amount of value to the end result (the "value"). These values add on each other, so that step 2 adds value on top of step 1, and step 3 adds value on top of step 2 ("the cascade"). Does that make sense in the context?
posted by brainmouse at 11:21 AM on March 29


Sorry, if you need a definition of value chains, that's a different story. Here's a good take. Also, MeMail sent.
posted by sardonyx at 11:22 AM on March 29


For context, here's the sentence (slightly redacted because Reasons):
Missing from the ongoing conversation we are having about the proposed development of these projects is an acknowledgment of the cascading value chains they would create.
posted by virago at 11:23 AM on March 29 [1 favorite]


OK - I did some searching, and the phrase "cascading value chain" didn't come up much but it almost always seemed to be used in reference to wood manufacturing. In a couple places it was used in the same context as the phrase "cascade utilisation," which got me a lot more hits.

Here's an article explaining that concept. Basically, it seems to mean a feedback loop in which the byproducts from one manufacturing process are used to make another product, and then the byproducts of THAT product are used for something else, etc, leading to greater efficiencies.

If this isn't a manufacturing context, I would guess he's using the phrase sort of metaphorically, saying that Project X will also have a positive effect on Projects Y and Z and so forth.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:24 AM on March 29


Oh, that's easy - it just means that doing thing A would cause other things - B & C - to make money (or some other definition of "value", but like...money). I immediately thought of the pitches for sports stadium funding - if we build this stadium, it will cause the area to add restaurants and workers and those business would generate taxes and they would hire people with wages who would buy more things and create more jobs.
posted by brainmouse at 11:29 AM on March 29 [3 favorites]


Okay, that's a bit more helpful.

What it's trying to say is that when writing about/thinking about this new project, the people involved are missing an important component. They aren't thinking about the consequences of what this project will mean for all the levels of people and businesses that are involved with it. This means everything from getting raw materials to manufacturers to setting up logistics networks to ship produced goods to getting the goods into the hands of the ultimate buyer. It could also mean off-shoots to the main supply chain network such as subsidiary businesses (think the automotive industry when a major plant shuts down, all of the smaller supporting parts and tooling companies find their businesses affected as well).
posted by sardonyx at 11:32 AM on March 29 [2 favorites]


They aren't thinking about the consequences of what this project will mean for all the levels of people and businesses that are involved with it.

I don't think this is quite right. My sense is that it's more specifically saying "the people involved aren't thinking about the long-term positive effects these projects could create down the line" (whether those positive effects are for a business, an industry, a cause, etc isn't clear from that one sentence).
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:35 AM on March 29 [2 favorites]


I don't think this is quite right. My sense is that it's more specifically saying "the people involved aren't thinking about the long-term positive effects these projects could create down the line" (whether those positive effects are for a business, an industry, a cause, etc isn't clear from that one sentence).

The opacity is catching, but now I'm the one spreading it. Sorry about that!

The positive effects would be generated (according to this commentator) by a new industry and would have an impact on the regional economy.
posted by virago at 11:39 AM on March 29 [1 favorite]


This sounds related to the multiplier effect in economics: If you spend $100,000 to build a house, the resulting increase in overall economic activity is much larger, because the workers hired will go and buy stuff and hire people, and the companies they buy from will purchase more supplies, and so on.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 11:39 AM on March 29 [2 favorites]


The positive effects would be generated (according to this commentator) by a new industry and would have an impact on the regional economy.

Oh, ok! So he is basically talking about positive externalities - "the positive effects an activity imposes on unrelated third parties."
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:41 AM on March 29 [2 favorites]


If it helps, I'm a general reader and would assume "cascading value chain" meant exactly what showbiz_liz said and would not stumble over the phrase at all or think it jargony.
posted by lazuli at 11:42 AM on March 29 [1 favorite]


And if I were editing this, I think I'd go with something like "missing from the conversation... is an acknowledgment of the cascading benefits these projects would bring to the regional economy."
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:44 AM on March 29 [6 favorites]


This sentence makes much more sense to me when I (mentally) reframe it as a discussion of positive externalities (a concept familiar to me from grad school in public policy).

Much appreciation to showbiz_liz for sending me down the right path (and for the editing suggestion); Mr.Know-it-some and lazuli also said things that made me think.

I knew you all would come through!

Marking this resolved.
posted by virago at 11:59 AM on March 29 [4 favorites]


cascading value chain cumulative benefit
posted by mississippi at 10:12 AM on April 3


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