Tag Archives: sustainability

3 Mega-trends In Procurement You Need To Understand Before 2019

What are the key mega-trends procurement pros need to get their heads around before 2019?

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1. Co-Creation –  Using collective efforts to bring the best value

Since the very beginning of my career in Procurement competition was a key.  Competition helps procurement drive down prices using quotations, tenders, e-auctions or other tools.

And, of course,  it is much easier to negotiate contract terms and conditions with  if you have alternative sources.

Striving to establish, at least,  dual sourcing for every product helps you to decrease supply related risks.

But with greater experience I started to see that competition has its limits,  that RFQ’s and tenders were not bringing the desired effect.  This was particularly apparent for certain groups of products with limited supply possibilities and higher complexity.

I learned that for such segments a more efficient strategy is to cooperate with your key suppliers.

Cooperation is about alignment and harmonising performance, goals and strategies.  The very first step should be about aligning performance and KPI’s. Then you align the goals, including price reduction. At this point, the strategies of both companies should be aligned.

So cooperation is the alignment and harmonisation between two parties: the procurement organisation and the vendors.

But is cooperation and competition with suppliers enough in the modern world?   My simple answer is no. Procurement of tomorrow is about more than delivering goods, reducing prices and mitigating risks. The future of procurement is creating value for the final customer. And so the new buzz-word coming in 2019 is Co-Creation.

Co-creation is about developing and delivering products, services or systems using the common efforts of all interested parties.

2. Digitalisation

In my consultancy work I meet ten to twenty Procurement and supply chain organisations every year. It’s a big privilege to meet so many great people, and work in a variety of industries and businesses.

But one thing that surprises me is the fact that the majority of organisations are not making procurement decisions based on  complex benchmarking or performance indicators.

In fact, the majority of organisations in Europe and North America are making Procurement decisions based entirely on  cost reduction. Whatever has been discussed before quotation is ignored and whatever might happen after is neglected.

“Give me the best price: here and now! And you get the business…” – is still the driving force for many procurement organisations.

Of course, this approach is beneficial in the short term. But on a strategic level it will not work.  In the era of big data this approach is a crime. I know that digitisation and fact-based Procurement decisions may not sound like a mega trend for many readers. But before you skip this point – answer one simple question. Do you really include performance evaluation and risk analysis in all your Procurement decisions?

3. Sustainability: Part of our new reality

Sustainable procurement is not a new term.

The United Nations definition says that sustainable procurement practices are the ones that integrate requirements, specifications and criteria that are compatible and in favor of the protection of the environment, of social progress and in support of economic development, namely by seeking resource efficiency, improving the quality of products and services and ultimately optimising costs.

It might look a little complicated at first glance, but it is quite a straight forward definition.

More and more countries are shifting towards sustainable procurement; improving national procurement policies and procedures. But the true leaders in this shift to sustainable procurement are the international corporations. Using their massive purchasing power, they are able to make real impact to ecological, technological or social standards across entire industries.

Some companies use the sustainability messages for marketing of their products or services, creating positive buzz and media attention to their brand. Many more develop their sustainability agenda for mitigating or preventing risks within supply chain.

One thing that I can say for sure; sustainability is becoming part of a new reality for procurement organisations. It is not a buzzword anymore, it is an expectation customers. People are beginning to understand that low prices should not be achieved by unethical or unsustainable means.

So what can you do to introduce sustainability to your Procurement agenda?

Start by investigating in more sustainable sources and raw materials. Look around your industry or category to identify the best practices and get some inspiration.  I guarantee that you will find great cases of good environmental, social and sustainability impact for any area and any category.

Of course you should also include sustainability parameters to your RFI/RFQ evaluation criteria.

Another great idea would be to involve some measurable indicators for your sustainability progress. For example, carbon emissions, water footprint, share of renewable energy used for manufacturing or recycled materials used for products.

And remember: responsible sourcing is more profitable in a long term!

5 Organisations That Are Fighting Plastic

The war against plastic is not all doom and gloom. Thankfully, the world’s biggest corporations are waking up to the reality that big change has to happen… and soon!

In last week’s Procurious blog we explored the threats currently facing The Great Barrier Reef – reporting on the eight million tons of plastic that enters our oceans every year and the prediction that by 2050 there will more plastic in the ocean than fish.

It’s hard not to be horrified by some of the images emerging that demonstrate the impact of plastics on our oceans, our beaches and  our wildlife. No one could forget, for example, Justin Hofman’s photograph of a seahorse clinging to a discarded cotton bud – a  painfully stark image.

Last month National Geographic launched their new initiative, Planet or Plastic – the focus of their June publication and a multiyear effort to raise awareness about the global plastic waste crisis and encourage readers to take the pledge to help reduce single-use plastics.

“More than 5 trillion pieces of plastic are already floating in our oceans.”

National Geographic, Planet or Plastic 

It can seem like a hopeless situation. But, as their campaign highlights, there is so much you can do both as an individual and as part of your organisation to impart real change.

And the situation is looking hopeful. Across the globe, the biggest corporations are waking up to the reality that big change has to happen with regard to their use of plastics. More and more of our restaurants, bars, theatres and cinemas are removing plastic straws from the offering and a number of big supermarkets have promised to make all plastic packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. 

Today, as we approach World Ocean’s Day on 8th June,  we’ve highlighted a handful of corporations who are doing some inspiring work to tackle plastic pollution.

Their inspiring campaigns prove that solving the plastics problem is both a challenge and an opportunity for organisations to lead the way in finding innovative solutions.

1. Pret a Manger

Pret a Manger is consistently recognised for its efforts towards sustainable, socially conscious. The organisation is well known for offering all of its unsold produce to homeless people and recently introduced a 50p discount for customers bringing in there own reusable cups.

In October 2017 Pret a Manger’s CEO, Clive Schlee, penned a blog for the sandwich shop’s website entitled “What if Pret stopped selling plastic water bottles?”

Schlee explains that Pret a Manger are striving to make it as easy as possible for customers to use fewer plastic bottles “All of our Veggie Pret and Manchester shops will now be encouraging customers to fill up their bottles for free using new filtered water stations. These shops will also start selling reusable plastic bottles alongside our regular water bottles, so the choice is clear.”

In February 2018 Pret a Manger announced they would be trialling a 10p cash back scheme for plastic bottles.

The company will add 10p to the cost of its plastic bottles which will be refunded to customers when they bring the bottle back. Any unclaimed deposits will be invested in their sustainability work.

Pret a Manger have also pledged to make all their plastic packaging use by 2025 100 per cent recyclable, reusable or compostable.

2. Whole Foods

Supermarket chain Whole Foods has been backing the no-plastics horse for some time.

In 2008 they made the switch from plastic to paper bags in all of their stores and they have consistently committed to reducing plastics by offering biodegradable alternatives for plates, cutlery and other food takeout items.

At some or all of their stores, Whole Foods are doing the following:

  • Using reusable dishes and flatware in dining areas
  • Reclaimed wood, bricks and other materials in construction
  • Printing and packaging using recycled paper and water- or vegetable-based
  • Collection bins for batteries, printer cartridges, cell phones, corks, plastic bags and toothbrushes
  • Composting to decrease landfill waste

3. Timberland

Last year, Timberland unveiled a line of products developed with Thread’s Ground to Good™ fabric, harvested from plastic bottles littering the streets and landfills of Haiti.

To date, over 1300 Haitians have collected and recycled 765, 280 plastic bottles.

“At Timberland, we’re constantly seeking innovative ways to create both social and environmental value, and are excited to continue making a difference in Haiti and in all the communities where we live, work and explore,” said Colleen Vien, sustainability director for Timberland. “Our collaboration with Thread has proven to be a meaningful way for us to grow our work in Haiti and generate social value for the people behind our products. We’ve embraced the opportunity to share their unique stories with our consumers, because this collection is about so much more than a boot. A Timberland X Thread boot represents real change – it helps create jobs, restore communities and build futures.”

4. Sky

Sky launched Sky Ocean Rescue in 2017 to shine a spotlight on the issues affecting ocean health, find innovative solutions to the problem of ocean plastics, and inspire people to make small everyday changes that collectively make a huge difference.

Partnering with WWF, Sky have committed £25 million to help find innovative solutions to reduce plastics and pledged to eliminate all single-use plastics from their operations, products and supply chain by 2020.

They’re also running a successful online campaign to encourage consumers to #PassonPlastic

5. Dell

In December 2017 Dell announced that it would be launching the world’s first commercial-scale, ocean-bound plastics supply chain, which takes ocean-bound plastics and repurposes it for their packaging.

“When Dell uses plastics from the beach, shorelines, waterways and coastal areas, we bring them back into the economy and stop them from breaking down and becoming part of a bigger problem.

It gives us an affordable resource, creates jobs for the recyclers, provides a template for others to follow and helps put a dent in the vast problem of plastics entering the ocean.”

In partnership with The Lonely Whale Foundation, Dell have helped convene Next Wave, an open-source initiative that brings leading technology and consumer-focused companies together to develop a commercial-scale ocean-bound plastics and nylon supply chain.

The group anticipates that they will divert more than 3 million pounds of plastic and nylon-based fishing gear from entering the ocean within 5 years – the equivalent of keeping 66 million water bottles from washing out to sea.

We’d love to know what your organisation is doing to reduce the use of plastics. Tell us in the comments below!

Procure with Purpose

Procurious have partnered with SAP Ariba to create a global online group – Procure with Purpose.

Through Procure with Purpose, we’re shining a light on the biggest issues – from Modern Slavery; to Minority Owned Business; and from Social Enterprises; to Environmental Sustainability.

Click here to enroll and gain access to  all future Procure with Purpose events including exclusive content, online events and regular webinars.  

Can Procurement Help Turn This Sea Turtle’s Frown Upside Down?

Think saving The Great Barrier Reef is out of your hands or entirely irrelevant to you? Think again! Climate change is everyone’s problem and we can all make a difference; down to the last procurement pro!

If you’re lucky enough to have travelled to the coast of Queensland, Australia and visited The Great Barrier Reef, you’ll agree that it is a true wonder to behold.

At 2,300km long it is the largest living thing on earth (roughly the size of Italy or the equivalent of 70 million football fields) and home to an incredible range of wildlife from dozens of species of fish, to sea turtles, to dolphins and so much more.

“It is one of the greatest, and most splendid natural treasures that the world possesses.”- Sir David Attenborough

But it’s under serious threat from a number of environmental factors and it’s everyone’s job to save it; not least procurement’s. We caught up with Anna Marsden, Managing Director – Great Barrier Reef Foundation to learn more about what’s at stake and what we, as professionals, can do to help.

Three factors threatening the Great Barrier Reef

  1. Climate Change

Tropical sea surface temperatures have risen by 0.4–0.5 °C since the late 19th century. In unnaturally warm conditions coral becomes stressed and agitated, leading it to expel the algae that gives it its colour and eventually bleaching. Whilst bleached coral is not yet dead, it is an indicator of severe stress. And if the sea temperature is consistently high for longer than 30 days; it will eventually die. “Look in your garden on a hot day or even a hot week” explains Anna.  “Your plants will start to wilt and eventually, if the temperatures don’t decline, they will perish.” The effect that extreme heat has on a coral reef is much the same.

“Other ways we are seeing climate change playing out is in extreme weather. In recent years there have been more Category 5 cyclones than ever before which are hugely damaging; destroying and weakening the reef’s structure.”

“The reef has always had natural foes and challenges, but this is the first time it’s at such a scale” Anna explains.

  1. Water Quality

Declining water quality is recognised as one of the most significant threats to the long-term health and resilience of the Great Barrier Reef. 

“So much waste washes into our oceans – extra soil, extra fertiliser etc which is making it extremely dirty. And nothing grows well in dirt!” Anna asserts. “Whilst bad water quality itself isn’t a life-ending challenge for the Great Barrier Reef, it does reduce the resilience of the system and, on top of everything else going on, it’s a big problem.”

  1. The Crown-of-Thorns Starfish

Increasing sediment, nutrients and contaminants entering coastal waters has been linked to outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish, a species which, Anna jokes, “belong in an alien movie!”

“They munch on the coral, each one managing to consume a dinner plate’s worth of it every couple of days. Excess nutrients from sugar cane farms amplifies their breeding patterns.”

Why should procurement teams care?

‘At what price?’ a recent Deloitte report, which investigated the economic, social and icon value of the Great Barrier Reef estimated  its worth at $56 billion; taking into account tourism, fishing, marine science and research. The study also calculated that the reef has resulted in the employment of over 64,000 Australians between 2015–16.

So it’s undeniable that there is real, and huge, value in the Great Barrier Reef – it’s genuinely worth salvaging.

But it can also be usefully thought of as the, slightly harrowing, poster-child for climate change. It’s understandably difficult for procurement professionals around the world to understand the impact their actions are having in terms of climate change and the polluting of our oceans. But the sorts of changes and damages reported by the Great Barrier Reef foundation are mirrored across the world’s oceans.

Take plastic pollution as an example; eight million tons of plastic enter our oceans each year and it’s predicted that by 2050, there will more plastic in the ocean than fish.

What can businesses do?

“Ultimately we need to start moving faster towards a renewable energy environment,” explains Anna. “There’s no single cause in this and there are roles that all businesses can play”

Fortunately, a number of big corporations are helping to provide innovative solutions to protecting the Great Barrier Reef.

“At present divers are hand-shooting crown of thorns starfish with a saline solution, which is an extremely slow process.”

But a robot being developed through a Great Barrier Reef Foundation project partnership with Google and the Queensland University of Technology, aptly named ‘RangerBot’ has the capability to do the work of 50 divers per day. It works 24/7 and can function in choppy waters. “One day soon we’ll be able to drop six of them into an infested area and come back to collect them only when their work of culling the starfish in that area is done!”

Another inspiring example of corporations doing good for the Reef is Rio Tinto’s RTM Wakmatha vessel that has been dubbed the ‘ship of opportunity’.  Rio Tinto invested in a laboratory on their ship which collects vital data as the ship travels along the Queensland coast in the ordinary course of business. This data is used to gain insights as to how ocean chemistry is changing across reef habitats.

Another cool tech solution is a polymer-based sun shield that hangs together in the water for about two days after deployment, forming an umbrella and cutting out 30 per cent of UV light to protect the coral. Made of calcium carbonate, the sun shield is 100 per cent biodegradable and is absorbed back into the system once it has dissolved.

What can YOU do?

As hard as it is to know how to effect real change, there are small things we as individuals can do, and encourage our organisations to do. Banning single-use plastic bags, cycling to work or using keep-cups are all small and immediate positive changes we can make.

Further to that, procurement pros should ask themselves – what can I do with the purchasing power in our company?

As Anna points out, “climate change is about our relationship with the planet. We all make decisions that drive it, we all have a role to play in this.”

“One of our corporate partners is Cleanaway – Australia’s leading waste management, recycling and industrial services company.”

Cleanaway work with big businesses to ensure sustainability is as the core of waste-sorting and encourage the adoption of reusable resources.

About the Great Barrier Reef Foundation

The Great Barrier Reef Foundation exists to ensure a Great Barrier Reef for future generations. We seek out the solutions and innovations that will also benefit coral reefs globally as they tackle the same threats and challenges facing the world’s largest coral reef.

“Our focus in the short term is on boosting the resilience of the Reef to allow it to bounce back from major challenges as a result of a changing climate and declining water quality. We’re buying the Reef time while the world works to meet the conditions of the Paris Agreement.”

Read more here. 


Procure with Purpose

Procurious have partnered with SAP Ariba to create a global online group – Procure with Purpose.

Through Procure with Purpose, we’re shining a light on the biggest issues – from Modern Slavery; to Minority Owned Business; and from Social Enterprises; to Environmental Sustainability.

Last month’s webinar on modern slavery,  Procurement Unchained, will soon be made available on-demand via the Procure with Purpose group on Procurious. Click here to enroll and gain access to this and all subsequent Procure with Purpose events. 

Procurement with Purpose: Beyond the Bottom Line

How can you embrace the notion of procurement with purpose authentically and in ways that are consistent with your core beliefs and ideals?

Sustainability improves the bottom line, and companies can do good while doing well.

In fact, research shows that purpose-driven companies with strong performance in environmental, social, and governance outperform the market by 4.8 per cent. But this is not “new” news.

So what is different now that makes purpose more vitally important? It comes down to transparency and trust.

In many segments of life, trust is at an all-time low. The swarm of misinformation, slanted stories and editorials, and paid reviews have continued to foster these low levels of trust. This presents a unique challenge to companies.

How do companies and we as leaders embrace the notion of purpose authentically?

How do we do so in ways that are consistent with our core beliefs and ideals?

How do we “walk the walk” and not just talk the talk?

In the past, business leaders might have defined their goals as “increasing profits for shareholders and owners.” Now leading companies are beginning to recognise that this is only part of the equation. They see the bigger picture and are taking on a higher mission to make the world a better place to live and work. They are finding new ways to solve the world’s most pressing challenges. Gaining (or regaining) trust will happen through transparent action that demonstrates a commitment to creating a more purpose driven business environment.

Purchasing with Purpose

Those of us in procurement have a unique opportunity to lead the way. With increasing frequency, companies are redefining their supply chains and buying from suppliers who support, for example, people with disabilities or are female led. Companies want to know that no forced labor is being used by their suppliers, and their supplier’s suppliers, and all the way back up the value stream. Procurement is in the unique position to address these issues and have an incredible impact.

Collectively, the Global 2000 spend $12 trillion on goods and services annually. By tying their purchases to purposes, these companies can take a stand and drive ethical behavior across the supply chain. And technology exists to make this possible. The key is to get started. Business networks, for instance, provide transparency and insights into supply chains that enable companies to ensure they are acting in responsible ways.

Take SAP Ariba, the world’s largest business network. Leveraging historical and real-time purchasing data, supplier intelligence, and network insights, along with data and services from third parties like Made in a Free World, procurement can shine a light on materials, regions, and suppliers to ensure they are meeting the organisation’s standards.

Through a link between SAP Ariba Discovery, a global business matching service, and the ConnXus Database, buyers can tap a wider pool of minority, woman, LGBT and veteran-owned businesses and enable global supply chains that are more responsible, sustainable and inclusive. Extending our network even more, we’ve partnered with Nicole Verkindt, founder of OMX, to help our customers analyse the economic impact of their spend in industries such as international defense, aerospace, oil & gas, mining, automotive and construction industries.

But it doesn’t stop there. SAP Ariba is a sponsor of the UN Global Compact’s Decent Work in Global Supply Chain Action Platform. The UN developed the Action Platforms to accelerate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Action Platforms offer a systematic solution to sustainable development challenges through new fostering innovation, developing new financial models, and identifying sustainable solutions across a range of issues. As a Platform Sponsor for the Decent Work and Global Supply Chain Action Platform, SAP Ariba has deepened our commitment to driving purpose across the global supply chain.

Procurement professionals will always be responsible for doing more with less and for delivering value to our organizations. And we can do even more than that.

There’s real power in purpose. It inspires us. It moves us. It enables us to reimagine and to reinvent what is possible and to achieve great things. It is also one of the greatest challenges issued to business leaders today. Join us in taking it up. Together, we can make a difference.

Sign up for #FeeltheLove on 14th February – the first Procurious and SAP Ariba Procure with Purpose webinar .

Can You #FeeltheLove This Valentine’s Day…?

As a procurement professional, cutting costs is the very least you can do! Procure with purpose and start driving change world-wide…

tomertu/Shutterstock.com

Our webinar,  Feel The Love takes place at 3pm GMT /10am EST  on 14th February 2018. Register your attendance for FREE here. 

NEWSFLASH: Being world-class today doesn’t mean being the best in the world. It means helping the world run better.

In 2018, you should be working beyond cost savings and process efficiencies. You should be committed to making a positive impact on the communities in which you operate by eradicating slave labor, creating ethical and sustainable supply chains and levelling the playing field for all.

Thanks to the awesome power of social media and our interconnected world it’s easier than ever before to make that happen. But the challenge procurement pros still face is kick-starting, and measuring the impact of, their purpose-led work.

This Valentine’s Day, SAP Ariba and Procurious present #FeeltheLove – the first Procure with Purpose webinar.

What can I expect from the Feel the Love webinar?

We’ll be discussing…

  • What is Procuring with Purpose?
  • Why should professionals care about purpose-led procurement?
  • What are the small things that you can do immediately to drive big outcomes?
  • How do you measure and report social impact to the CFO?
  • The procurement teams who are already getting it right!
  • How can businesses ensure that economic growth is always accompanied by a respect for human rights?
  • Our vision for using the power of social media to drive purpose-led procurement around the world

Who are the guest speakers?

Tania Seary – Founder, Procurious

A true procurement entrepreneur, Tania is the Founding Chairman of Procurious, The Faculty and The Source. Throughout her career, Tania has been wholly committed to raising the profile of the procurement profession and connecting its leaders.

After finishing her MBA at Pennsylvania State University, Tania became one of Alcoa’s first global commodity managers.

In 2016, Tania was recognised by IBM as a #NewWaytoEngage Futurist and named “Influencer of the Year” by Supply Chain Dive. She hosts regular procurement webinars, and presents at high-profile events around the world.

Pat McCarthy – SVP and GM, SAP Ariba North America

As head of SAP Ariba’s North American business, Pat McCarthy is responsible for driving sales performance, the go-to-market strategy and overall operations of the field organization across the U.S. and Canada.Since joining SAP in 2005, he has held a number of executive roles successfully leading Net New, Mobility, and Database &Technology teams throughout the U.S.

Immediately prior to his current post, Pat served as chief operating officer for the Midwest region of the U.S., overseeing the consistent execution of sales strategies, operations and the region’s go-to-market initiatives.

Pat graduated from Elmhurst College, sits on the board of Chicago Tech Academy, a charter non-profit for Chicago high school students, and supports global charitable endeavours through Kiva.

Nicole Verkindt – Founder and CEO, The OMX

Nicole Verkindt is the Founder & CEO of Canadian technology company, OMX (theomx.com).

She is passionate about the role that data and networks can play in connecting diverse supply chains and analysing and improving the exact impacts from procurements.

The platform is the only one in the world that manages obligations companies have to invest in local businesses. OMX is an online marketplace to help companies diversify their procurement by providing opportunities through the platform that smartly matches to suppliers.

Nicole is a commentator on CBC and columnist for Vanguard magazine focusing on technology and business news and was a “Dragon” on Next Gen Dragon’s Den, which is dedicated to early stage technology businesses. She was named Canada’s national woman entrepreneur of the year in 2017.

Peter Holbrook – CEO, Social Enterprise UK 

Peter Holbrook became CEO of Social Enterprise UK in January 2010.

Social Enterprise UK is the national trade body for social enterprise and represents a wide range of social enterprises, regional and national support networks and other related organisations. SEUK works to promote social enterprise as a model for changing both business and society.

Peter has established, developed and supported hundreds of diverse social enterprises over his career. He has advised government taskforces in the UK and overseas and chaired the Social Enterprise World Forum, the global network of social businesses until 2015.

Peter has previously worked for Oxfam, Greenpeace and various disability charities. He has experience of working in overseas development, community development and public health. Peter started his career with Marks and Spencer PLC and also spent several years with Body Shop International

He was appointed a CBE in 2015.

How do I register for the webinar?

Joining the Procure With Purpose movement and registering for our webinar couldn’t be easier (and, of course, it’s FREE!)

Click here to enter your details and confirm your attendance. We’ll send you a email with a link to the webinar platform in the run up to the event.

I’m already a member of Procurious, do I still need to register?

Yes! If you are already a member of Procurious you must still enroll to access the webinar. We’ll send you a email with a link to the webinar platform in the run up to the event.

When is it taking place?

The webinar will take place at 3pm GMT /10am EST on14th February 2018.

Help! I can’t make it to the live-stream

No problem! If you can’t make the live-stream you can catch up whenever it suits you. We’ll be making it available on Procurious soon after the event (and will be sure to send you a link) so you can listen at your leisure!

Can I ask a question?

If you’d like to ask one of our speakers a question please submit it  via the Discussion Board on Procurious and we’ll do our very best to ensure it gets answered for you.

Commit to Procure with Purpose

Procure with Purpose is a movement. A coalition of committed, energised procurement professionals who want to deliver value beyond cost savings and efficiencies.

Through the Procure with Purpose campaign, we’ll shine a light on the biggest issues –from Modern Slavery; to Minority Owned Business; and from Social Enterprises; to Environmental Sustainability–and on you –our members -who are already driving exponential change.

How do I get involved ?

To stake your place, simply sign up here. It’s FREE to join –you just need to be passionate and ready to lead with purpose! When you sign up for the #FeeltheLove webinar, you’ll be automatically registered for the Procure with Purpose group on Procurious and all of our related, online events.

Our webinar,  Feel The Love takes place at 3pm GMT / 10am EST on 14th February 2018. Register your attendance for FREE here. 

Sustainable Procurement: Reversing The Race To The Bottom

Don’t dismiss the importance of supply chain sustainability! Learn from the mistakes of others and count yourself out of the race to the bottom! 

A short-sighted focus on cutting costs and speeding products to market is resulting in a race to the bottom that will cost companies more in the long-run. Top performers in sustainable sourcing will emerge with stronger supply chains, higher margins, more trusted brands and happier customers.

Consumers are increasingly putting their money behind sustainability, with Nielsen reporting 66 percent of global consumers are willing to pay more for products from companies they perceive as sustainable. This is forcing every industry to innovate in a way that makes transparency and sustainability permeate throughout the entire supply chain. Companies are often stuck in a race to the bottom, focusing on offering the lowest possible prices to compete with retail giants like Amazon and Walmart. Manufacturers who sell through these giants are also competing with each other, facing immense pressure from their customers to have the lowest price each week. Although price may seem like the best factor to emphasize, quality and sustainability considerations are often sacrificed in favor of cutting costs and speeding time to market. Even companies that have made sustainability promises often retreat after the initial pressure wears off due to perceived higher costs, but the long-term impact of irresponsible sourcing will impact their bottom line even more in the end. In fact, a recent BCG study found that gross margins were 4.8 percent higher for companies that were top performers in sustainable sourcing compared to those who were median performers.

In the long-run, participating in the race to the bottom is bad for business as it results in cheaply made, low-quality products and services that undermine the viability of the companies they are sourced from. This will all eventually be discovered by consumers and other stakeholders, and will open companies up to varying kinds of risk, including economic and financial, reputational and quality control consequences. Because these risks can impact a company’s bottom line, it is crucial to consider how sustainability can mitigate risk before it happens.

Unfortunately, hesitation and fear around competition (antitrust) laws are deterring businesses from working together to promote sustainability. A new report from the Fairtrade Foundation found that businesses are wary of working with rivals to improve the quality and security of their supply chain, but with fluctuating trade fees and climate change they have no choice but to collaborate. Instead of competing with peers to be fastest and cheapest to market, companies should be working together to promote sustainable procurement. When companies within an industry work together, it sends a much clearer signal to suppliers about the importance of responsible practices. With the right indicators and tools, those buying organizations can help suppliers advance in maturity and improve their practices – not only in sustainably issues but across all business operations. Companies should be working with other industry players – instead of against them – to ensure efficient and effective sustainable practices.

Learn from the mistakes of others

Nike, Asics and Puma saw the consequences a lack of sustainable and ethical practices could bring when more than 500 workers in four factories were hospitalised after fainting on the job. Outsourcing factory jobs to Cambodia may have saved the company some money on labor and wages, but unethical work conditions including long days and soaring temperatures canceled out any small benefit the retailers may have seen. The reputational and operational consequences turn out much worse than the small cost reduction initially intended. Improving ventilation and adding air conditioning, although good intentions, only put a band aid on the problem – these retailers and other companies should be working together to implement ethical and sustainable procurement practices as part of a long-term solution.

Geopolitical considerations

The turbulent political and trade climate in recent months is also challenging. Companies in almost every industry in the U.K. are facing a difficult choice between joining the race to the bottom to secure post-Brexit deals in terms of purchasing cheaper products from other countries and promoting high-quality, ethical and sustainable practices. Unfortunately, lower standards mean lower quality products and services, which will not just limit the emphasis placed on tackling issues like climate change and modern slavery, but also impact business revenues in the long run. NAFTA is having a similar effect on North American companies, making the consequences of the race to the bottom a universal concern. Instead of panicking about the effects of eminent trade deals, companies should be focused on working together to pursue sustainable procurement and mitigate risk before it happens.

Fortunately, many local and global governments are encouraging businesses to get on board and combat modern slavery, environmental sustainability and other risks in the supply chain. California recently signed the “Buy Clean California” act, which will clamp down on imported carbon emissions by creating rules for the procurement of infrastructure materials purchased with state funds. The U.K. just pledged $53 million to combat modern slavery with a focus on improving the apparel supply chain, joining the U.K. Modern Slavery Act in attempting to ensure business compliance. Australia may follow suit and introduce its own laws designed to root out forced labor and compensate potential victims.

At this point, we shouldn’t be thinking of it as “sustainability for sustainability’s sake,” but sustainability for risk mitigation and improved business operations. Technology is evolving to help companies better trace suppliers and other parties and improve transparency throughout the supply chain. Regulations around the world are banning or limiting unethical practices. The movement towards sustainability has changed in the last decade, placing the burden directly on companies to ensure responsible practices – both within their own operations and those of their partners. It may seem daunting to invest in sustainability while competitors are continuing to race to the bottom in pursuit of producing the cheapest products fastest, but companies that go above the standard will find it truly improves their bottom line and creates more value throughout their supply chain.

Pierre-Francois Thaler is co-founder and co-CEO of EcoVadis, a supplier rating company that helps organisations institute corporate social responsibility (CSR) and various sustainability programs. Pierre brings 15 years of experience in procurement and developing innovative sourcing solutions. Prior to starting EcoVadis, Pierre was CEO of B2Build SA, the first B2B marketplace for the European construction industry, and also served as a director of Ariba’s Procurement BPO business.

‘Tis The Season To Waste Lots Of Food….

An estimated 1/3 of the world’s food is wasted along the supply and consumption chain from farm to kitchen. What can you do to help this Christmas?

NaturalBox/Shutterstock.com

This morning you may have discovered your milk was spoiled and tossed it in the garbage before trying to find something else to eat. Maybe you didn’t finish your whole breakfast and that went in the trash, too.

You’re not alone. An estimated 1/3 of the world’s food is wasted along the supply and consumption chain from farm to kitchen. How much does that add up to? A lot!

And with Christmas just around the corner and an estimated  £64 million’s worth of food set to be wasted in the UK alone, it’s the perfect time to start reducing some of that waste!

There are a lot of programs helping to combat food waste this Christmas. Some supermarkets have started to offer items past its best before date at a reduced rate and are providing food for those most in need. There are also a number of  steps you can take to help in your home as well.

How Much Food Do Humans Waste?

Via: InvestmentZen.com

Read more on food waste and sustainability in our articles on Earth Day and supply chain regulations.

Take the Positive Procurement Pledge

Eight months after its launch, the International Standard for Sustainable Procurement (ISO 20400) has the potential to help procurement professionals stamp out the worst aspects of supply chains worldwide. But what can be done to create a groundswell of support for this voluntary Standard?   

ISO 20400 creates a standard that will enable every organisation in the world, regardless of size, industry, and location, to have a flexible guidance framework on sustainable procurement. The Standard includes seven core subjects, including the environment, fair operating practices, labour issues and human rights, with a range of subtopics under those such as discrimination and gender inequality.

While some businesses have jumped at the opportunity since its launch in April, the voluntary nature of the Standard has meant that many organisations are yet to do so.

Take the Pledge

Kim Andrews, Sustainability Advisor at Good Environmental Choice Australia (GECA), says that the earliest movers regarding ISO 20400 are the ones that will get ahead.

“The conversation has moved well beyond sustainability simply being the right thing to do”, Andrews says. “Business leaders now understand that there’s a whole spectrum of concrete benefits, ranging from building resilience, future-proofing your organisation, managing sustainability risks and getting ahead of future regulatory requirements.”

GECA has recognised the need to jump-start the conversation and education around ISO 20400. To do so, the organisation has launched a challenge for businesses, government agencies, industry groups and non-governmental organisations around the world to take the Positive Procurement Pledge. By taking the pledge, organisations agree to develop, document and implement a sustainable procurement policy to govern all purchasing decisions by 31 December 2020.

“This is a chance to differentiate yourself from the competition and demonstrate leadership and innovation within your sector”, says Andrews. “It makes a lot of sense from a risk-management perspective. Here in Australia, we’re dealing with gas supply problems, water shortages, rising temperatures in summer, and climate change directly affecting resources. Companies need to start looking at these factors, identifying their own risks and planning to build capacity against that, and the ISO 20400 provides the framework to do so.”

GECA provides certifications and ecolabels across a range of standards by working with organisations to ensure they comply across multiple criteria including environmental and social aspects.

“The ecolabels do the hard work for procurement”, says Andrews. “When you see our logo, it means that yes, you can trust that all of the compliance with legal aspects and international trade laws has been addressed. The global nature of supply chains means that having an internationally recognised label is crucial, which is why we’re part of the Global Ecolabelling Network (GEN) that includes 27 members spread across 57 countries and territories.”

With so many certified products available, there has never been a better time for organisations to start their positive procurement journey.

A sustainability roadmap

Complying with ISO 20400 will take time and commitment, which is why Andrews recommends that companies follow a three-year plan to do so:

Year one: Understanding ISO 20400 and how it currently aligns with your own policies. Identifying the risks in the Standard that apply most to your organisation, and how ISO 20400 can be integrated into your ways of working.

Year two: Using the tools and resources available for companies to help build new policies aligning with ISO 20400, and strengthening policies already in existence. Identifying roadblocks such as contracts, trade agreements or a lack of understanding among suppliers.

Year three: Refinement of your organisations’ policies and seeing how far you’ve come in increasing resilience and purchasing certified products.

“Sustainable products are now a $3 trillion business”, Andrews says. “Taking the Pledge gives organisations the opportunity not only to do the right thing but to get ahead of the competition as the sustainability mandate grows.”

Interested in taking the Pledge? Learn more here. Kim Andrews will introduce the Positive Procurement Pledge to attendees at GovProcure2017 in Sydney on 6 December. Click here to learn more and download an event brochure.

24 Series 9: India Plants 66 Million Trees

The following events occur in real time: India takes on the monumental challenge of planting 66 million trees in just 24 hours. And they didn’t even need Jack Bauer’s help…

The world reeled when, last month, President Trump made the decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. Many regarded this as the most devastating decision of his presidency so far and he has faced critisicm for his short-termism, isolationism and rejection of science.

Todd Stern, writing for The Atlantic shortly before Trump made the announcment expressed the concern of many that “the Paris regime cannot work in the long run if the world’s indispensable power has left the table.”

“The Trump administration is about to throw down the gauntlet.” He continued. “If it does, we’ll need to take up the challenge.”

If this week’s evidence is anything to go by…the challenge is very much accepted!

There are 66 million new trees in India…

An astonishing 1.5 million volunteers pledged to “Make India Green Again” as they planted 66 million trees in less than 24 hours.

Volunteers of all ages assembled along the Narmada River in Madhya Pradesh, Central India,  to plant 20 varieties of tree as part of a new Guiness World Record attempt. India holds the previous world record for planting 49.3 million trees in 24 hours last year in Uttar Pradesh. This year, they’ve gone several steps (16.7 million trees!) further and done it in just 12 hours.

India has  promised to increase forest coverage to 95 million hectares by 2030 as part of it’s role in the Paris Agreement. The Indian governement has forecasted a spend of $6.2 billion for creating new forests.

Madhya Pradesh’s government spearheaded this particualr campaign and were understandably thrilled with its success.

Shivraj Singh Chouhan, state chief minister for the region, tweeted after the event: “Thank people of Jabalpur for making tree plantation a huge success. You are not only saving Narmada, but also [the] planet.”

“We cannot be too selfish. We have to spare something for upcoming generations,” he continued.

Is planting with drones the future of sustainability?

Australia’s answer to deforestation is a little more technical than the enlisting of 1.5 million volunteers!

Dr. Susan Graham, an Australian engineer, is developing a drone that could eventually result in the planting of an additional 1 bilion trees per year, and there’s no time to waste! NASA predicts that if current deforestation levels proceed, the world’s rainforests may be completely in as little as 100 years.

The world has lost nearly half its forests for agriculture, development or resource extraction. An estimated 18 million acres are lost each year and deforestation and forest degradation are responsible for 17 per cent of all carbon emissions. The value of the benefits that standing forests provide is immense.

The planet loses 15 billion trees every year so “although we plant about 9 billion trees every year, that leaves a net loss of 6 billion trees,” Dr Graham said. “The rate of replanting is just too slow.”

The drones that Dr Graham is developing could not only plant at ten times the rate of hand planting and at 20 per cent of the cost; they can also access, and plant, in previously inacessible areas , such as mountainsides or steep hills.

The drone technology is currently being tested around the world so watch this space!

What are your views on sustainability and deforestation? What can, and should,  organisations be doing to help? Let us know in the comments section below. 

In other procurement news this week….

Japan & EU Trade Deal Snubs Trump

  • Japan took on the mantle of the global rules-based trading system, as it sidestepped a failing trade agreement with the United States to forge a historic new pact with the European Union
  • The trade deal that will cover nearly 30 percent of the global economy, 10 percent of the world’s population and 40 percent of global trade
  • The deal would lower trade barriers for a sweeping array of products, including pork, wine, cheese and automobiles. The pact would be a heavy blow to American producers of these goods/

Read more on The Washington Post

How Will Northern Ireland’s ££ Be Spent?

  • Northern Ireland is set to receive an extra £1bn over the next two years as part of a deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to keep Theresa May’s minority government in power
  • Arlene Foster, leader of the DUP, said the deal would boost the economy and allow investment in new infrastructure, health and education
  • There are around 1.8m people in Northern Island and the headline deal equates to an extra £550 per head

Read more on Supply Management

Amazon’s latest venture is wine!

  • Amazon’s continuing quest to make and sell everything in the world has led to it branching out into a new area: overseeing the production of a new range of wines
  • Unusually for Amazon, this new brand isn’t aimed at undercutting the competition with bargain-basement prices, as with its Amazon Basics line
  • Amazon Wine’s Nick Loeffler added: “We’re thrilled to connect wineries, like King Estate, with millions of customers and give them an innovative format to launch new brands”

Read more on The Guardian 

From Pittsburgh to Paris – Let’s Clear the Air

It’s all very well putting Pittsburgh before Paris, but did you know that modern anti-pollution laws first started in Pennsylvania? Tania Seary gives the run-down on steel cities, “death-fogs” and Pittsburgh’s incredible transformation into an innovation hub.      

It’s not every day Pittsburgh hits the news, but it certainly did last week with the comment, “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris”. The subtext is that there’s an obligation to protect the steel industry before the climate.

I’m not a political analyst, nor a climate change expert, but I have lived in Pittsburgh, visited Paris and worked in the metals industry. I therefore wanted to share some of my own personal learnings (and give some historical context) for those of who are trying to catch up with all the news.    

The Donora Death Fog

Ironically, Pittsburgh is only 30 miles north of a town which famously claims to have kick-started modern anti-pollution laws.

You may not have heard of the Donora Death Fog (actually a smog), where the deadly combination of an atmospheric inversion, toxic gases from the town’s zinc and steel works led to the death of 20 people and half a town hospitalised in 1948.

Comparable to the Great Smog of London and perhaps even modern-day Shanghai, the Death Fog played a big part in opening the eyes of Americans to the hazards of air pollution. The tagline at the Donora Smog Museum is “Clean Air Started Here”, because concerted political action saw the first act concerning air pollution being put into law in 1959. Pennsylvania passed legislation that afforded the state the authority to prevent the “pollution of the air by smokes, dusts, fumes, gases, odours, mists, vapours, pollens and similar matter, or any combination thereof”.

Modern Pittsburgh is a tech hub, not a steel city

The jobs that the administration wants to save left Pittsburgh in the 1970s. Since then, Pittsburgh has built itself into a great example of a city that has thrived on new opportunities.

I had the pleasure of working in Pittsburgh for a couple of years around the turn of the century – in fact, I was there during the Y2K frenzy. For those of you who weren’t in the workforce then, the “Y2K bug” caused a panic when people thought the world’s computing systems would go into a meltdown when dates changed from 1999 to 2000. The consulting companies made a fortune!

Although it was once among the most polluted cities in the country, Pittsburgh has reinvented itself from a steel town to a centre of “eds and meds”. It has become a hub of technical innovation and medical research. The city even has its own Google outpost, along with a test track for autonomous cars.

In reinventing itself, Pittsburgh has benefited from flagship universities like Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh, which produce their own tech entrepreneurs and medical breakthroughs.

Pittsburgh nurtures entrepreneurs

I have to mention two of the city’s most famous entrepreneurs – both named Andrew. Andrew Carnegie and Andrew Mellon were huge drivers and beneficiaries of the steel industry (like the U.S. itself) and then spent the large majority of their lives giving their money away.

Born in 1835, Andrew Carnegie was a Scottish-American industrialist who is still identified as one of the richest Americans ever. By the time he was 50, he had almost total control of steel production in Pennsylvania. He squeezed every penny out of his mills, living by a famous motto that every procurement professional can relate to: “Watch the costs, and the profits will take care of themselves.”

He sold Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Steel Company to J.P. Morgan in 1901 for half a billion dollars, propelling him to the position of richest American (surpassing even John D Rockefeller). While J.P. Morgan transformed his company into the U.S. Steel Corporation, Carnegie devoted the rest of his life to large-scale philanthropy, with Pittsburgh itself benefiting enormously with stunning libraries, a university, museums, a gilded concert hall and more.

It seems like the state governors and city mayors who are committed to upholding the 2015 Paris agreement agree with Andrew Carnegie’s quote: “Do your duty, and a little more, and the future will take care of itself.”

Or, in Andrew Mellon’s words, “Every man wants to connect his life with something he thinks eternal”.

Andrew Mellon built up a financial-industrial empire throughout the late nineteenth century by supplying capital for Pittsburgh-based corporations. He founded the Aluminium Company of America (Alcoa) and branched into industrial activities including oil, steel, shipbuilding and construction. Mellon also reformed the US Government’s tax structure while he was secretary of the treasury. Like Carnegie, he gave back an enormous amount of his wealth, with his philanthropy making possible the the building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

These days, Pittsburgh is home to one of the procurement profession’s all-time entrepreneurs, the legendary Glen Meakem. Meakem founded Freemarkets Inc., the first online auction technology, which was later purchased by Ariba. Keeping with tradition, Meakem has also invested a lot of his resources into philanthropy.

Giving back

The story of these entrepreneurs all point to a wider trend as Pittsburgh continues to evolve. Like Carnegie and Mellon, the city grew rich on the steel industry, but now it’s giving back. Firstly, by producing a new generation of entrepreneurs whose success ultimately benefits the community, and secondly, by being part of a climate alliance that is looking for future opportunities rather than trying to bring back the past.