Tag Archives: sustainability

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.

Duty of Care Law: You Got The Green Light In France!

France’s new legislation, The Duty Of Care Law will prevent serious human rights risks and threats to fundamental freedoms. Will other countries follow suit? 

It would be wise for procurement professionals to pay close attention to France’s new sustainable procurement legislation.   The Duty of Care law, which affects organisations with over 5,000 employees, is likely to have some influence on other nations,  starting with those in the EU.

If similar human rights legislation is implemented across the globe; forewarned is forearmed, and sustainable, ethical procurement is a hot topic that’s only getting hotter!

Whilst the progress of global sustainability standards have traditionally been  pushed by individual businesses and activist groups, things are changing. This month saw the publication of ISO20400,  (International Standard for Sustainable Procurement), which creates a standard for every organisation in the world to follow.

The Duty of Care Law

In its much-awaited decision last month, the French constitutional council has given a  green light to the “Duty of Care” law (Devoir de Vigilance) although they stated that there remain some provisions to the French constitution.

The major points of the law, requiring French companies with at least 5 000 employees, including in their French direct or indirect subsidiaries (or 10 000 employees in their direct or indirect subsidiaries worldwide) to develop a diligence plan (“plan de vigilance”), are recognised of general interest. The intent is for the diligence plans to prevent serious risks related to human rights and fundamental freedoms, health and safety of persons and the environment. The constitutional council considers however that the sanctions initially included in the law violate the constitutional principle that penalties must have a sound legal basis. As a result, the civil fine of up to €10 million, as well as its increase to €30 million in case of damages that could have been prevented by implementing the diligence plan, are removed from the law.

Developing A Diligence Plan

The obligation of implementing a diligence plan however, as well as the formal notice and the civil liability mechanisms in case of lack or deficiency of the diligence plan, are constitutional. Consequently, companies are still compelled to implement a diligence plan, even if the law loses some of its deterrent effect, which makes for the first law of this type: it introduces an obligation much more stringent than a mere reporting obligation, such as the ones required by the UK Modern Slavery Act or the California Transparency Act. Companies are required to implement specific concrete actions and cannot limit themselves to reporting on what they do (or do not do).

There are also some talks of developing similar regulations at European Union level.  Eight national parliaments have called for a corporate duty of care towards the human rights and local environment impacted by the company’s operations. They have jointly proposed that the European Commission take action on this matter. This shows that the French “Duty of care” law is indeed the first step of a generalized global movement requiring companies to address their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) risks, including throughout their supply chain.

This article was first published on the EcoVadis Blog

Save The Planet With Garbage-Powered Trucks And Edible Water Bottles

Earth Day is about more than switching off the overhead lights – it’s about making purchasing decisions that will minimise our impact on the environment. From eerily-silent zero-emission trucks to seaweed-membrane edible water bottles, these are just some of the products that should be on the radar of every innovation scout.  

Modernise your fleet with hydrogen-fuelled, electric or biomethane trucks

Although the petroleum industry is grudgingly beginning to recognise that an increasing number of car drivers will hang up the fuel bowser (gas pump) for the last time within the next decade, there’s still a sticking-point when it comes to heavy vehicles.

“Sure, you can move a car with an electric battery, but an 18-wheeler truck is always going to need diesel.”

Wrong. Alternatives are already available for zero or low-emission trucks that match, or even beat, the performance of a diesel-fuelled truck.

Toyota’s hydrogen fuel-celled semitrailers

The Ports of Los Angles and Long Beach took delivery of a zero-emission, 670 horsepower 18-wheeler earlier this month. The hydrogen-fuelled truck is completely silent and emits only water from its tailpipe.

The twin ports are a major source of pollution in the region, due in part to an estimated 19,000 cargo containers moving through daily, carrying $450 billion worth of goods annually. If the test is successful, thousands of conventional trucks could potentially be replaced by hydrogen-fuelled trucks.

Toyota is yet to announce a price for the truck but have predicted it will be competitive with new, diesel-powered trucks when it hits the market. Mileage looks good, with a range of 200 miles on one 20-minute charge. The fuel-cell stacks can be fed water, natural gas or a variety of waste products, with one Toyota spokesperson telling the press that abundant hydrogen can be reclaimed from landfill waste.

Tesla’s all-electric semi-trailer

Mystery surrounds Tesla’s much-anticipated electric semi-trailer, with most reports centred around a tweet from Elon Musk announcing that the truck will be unveiled in September 2017, and that it is “seriously next-level”.

Musk has also confirmed that the semi-trailer will be followed by a ute (pick-up truck) within 18-24 months, and has suggested that Tesla should also enter the bus and heavy-duty truck markets.

The company has yet to share details about how large the battery itself would be or how the truck would overcome range limitations, but commentators from Morgan Stanley have predicted that the truck would be “relatively short-range” (200-300 miles), and use Tesla’s charging stations to quickly swap the batteries for charged ones (a 5-minute process) and get the vehicles back on the road.

Waitrose’s rotten food-powered trucks

Waitrose has partnered with bio-fuel company CNG Fuels to place an order for 10 flatbed trucks that will be powered entirely by rotten food, sourced from unsold food at supermarkets across the UK.

This investment ticks two boxes for Waitrose’s sustainability targets – lowering carbon dioxide emissions, while addressing food waste. Globally, an estimated one-third of all food, or 1.3 billion metric tons of produce – goes to waste every year. The new biomethane trucks have an average range of nearly 500 miles, with the biofuel to cost 40% less than diesel fuel. The biomethane emits 70% less carbon dioxide than diesel.

The next challenge? Lifting a commercial airliner off the ground with rotting vegetables. It may seem unthinkable today, but so was the technology that’s now enabling zero-emission semi-trailers.

Procuring for an event? Try edible water bottles

With an estimated 100 million plastic water bottles being trashed globally every single day, there will soon be more plastic than fish in the ocean. That’s why it’s vital that a solution is found to stem the (literal) tide of plastic.

A start-up called Skipping Rocks Lab has created a product that won’t completely replace plastic bottles, but could potentially make a big dent in their consumption.

“Ooho!” edible water spheres are created by dipping frozen balls of liquid into an algae mixture (seaweed), forming a watertight membrane around the water, which then melts inside. To consume the liquid you simply bite into the membrane (apparently tasteless) and sip it out, or just eat the entire ball.

The spheres generate 5x less carbon dioxide and require 9x less energy to make than a conventional PET (plastic) water bottle. But here’s the catch – they’re perishable. The product has been compared to fruit, with a shelf-life of just a few days. Try keeping one of these in your pantry for a week and you’ll find that it has dissolved into a puddle. However, Ooho would be perfect for events where bottles are bought in bulk and distributed to enormous groups of people, only to be trashed in huge numbers during or immediately after the event – think music festivals, marathons and conferences.

In other news this week:

New study finds that Brexit fears are impacting growth for 80% of UK businesses

  • eProcurement provider Wax Digital has surveyed 200 UK business on the impact of Brexit, finding that 4 out 5 business fear it will hinder their growth. 79% also stated their growth is being hindered by suppliers being unprepared for growth amidst Brexit.
  • 37% said that Brexit will restrict their ability to do business in Europe and 35% said that it will make EU business more costly and complex. 26% expect to reduce their business operations on the continent and 24% will look at alternative international opportunities. Interestingly, 65% of surveyed UK business leaders voted “remain” and would still do so today.
  • The survey also explored perceptions of the Trump Presidency, with 82% saying that a ‘business mogul’ type figure in the White House is positive, and 40% expecting Trump to improve UK to US business opportunities.

20400 Reasons The World Needs An International Standard For Sustainable Procurement

ISO20400, otherwise known as the International Standard for Sustainable Procurement, is due to be published this month. Procurious recently interviewed Jean-Louis Haie, sustainable procurement expert, head of the Australian delegation for ISO20400, and guest speaker at the upcoming Women in Procurement 2017 conference in Melbourne.

“We are at a tipping point in terms of the sustainable procurement journey across the globe”, says Jean-Louis Haie. “Organisations spend between 40 per cent and 80 per cent of their revenue on the supply chain, but increasingly recognise that they can’t achieve their sustainability objectives without getting their suppliers to actively contribute.”

“CPOs who are serious about sustainability goals know that around half of those objectives can only be delivered by their suppliers. There’s no such thing as an effective sustainability program without a supply chain component.”

By nature, supply chains are international, which is why having an international standard is vital. “When you’re asking a supplier based in China to align with your business’ or your country’s standards, they simply don’t have the same standards and don’t speak the same language around sustainability. ISO20400 seeks to create 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.”

Learning from France’s sustainable procurement bible

Jean-Louis says that it depends on the industry and the area of sustainability under discussion, but in general, governments around the world can learn from his home country (France) when it comes to implementing sustainable procurement. Three key milestones took place – in 2006, 2010 and 2012 – that illustrate France’s journey towards a national sustainable procurement standard.

“The first thing I would mention is that France has a National Procurement Code – a “bible” for procurement professionals that’s applied to all public procurement tasks. In 2006 they changed the Code to include some clear objectives and principles around sustainable procurement. This caused a lot of change, as governments, councils, public hospitals, water corporations etc were encouraged to look at environmental and social specifications when making purchasing decisions. The private sector followed to a certain extent. The point is that it’s a national Code, and highly centralised. I now live in Australia, and we don’t really have that here – the federal government, state governments and local councils are all pretty autonomous.”

In 2010, the ObsAR, a National Association for Sustainable Procurement was created in France in reaction to a crying need to share knowledge and experience around this important topic. “It’s a platform for public and private organisations to share lessons learned around sustainable procurement, through working groups, an annual conference, and ongoing discussions.

At the same time, the government started to get involved in making sure the big buying organisations (including private companies) manage their supply relationships with SMEs fairly. It created a Charter for Responsible Supplier Relationships, which described 10 commitments to be respected by signatory organisations. This initiative was a success and thousands of organisations follow its principles now. 2 years later, the Government transformed this Charter into a certification scheme, which was tested on a selection of 30 organisations, including some SMEs, multinational companies and government agencies.”

“The certification program includes fair payment terms, fair contractual clauses, checks on abuse of power, inclusion of social and environmental requirements, and more.”

While France’s sustainability journey is encouraging, Jean-Louis notes that supply chains are international. “These are international companies dealing with an international supply chain in a global economy”, he says. “No matter how rigorous the standards are in one country, the system can’t work unless there’s a similar standard in the country you’re sourcing from – hence the need for an international standard.”

What does ISO20400 include?

The Standard includes seven core subjects, such as the environment, fair operating practices, labour issues and human rights, with a range of subtopics under those, such as discrimination and gender inequality. “It provides the reader with a thorough description of all the potential sustainability issues and risks they may face when they want to put in place a contract and buy something. Then it’s the responsibility of the procurement professional to decide what the hot spots (risks) are for their particular procurement activity, using ISO20400 as a framework. The Standard provides a methodology to set priorities. What it doesn’t do is put more weight on any one subject over another – we’re not telling people that human rights are more important than the environment, for example.”

Bringing procurement and sustainability expertise together

“In my experience, procurement professionals struggle to work with sustainability experts. They should be best friends”, say Jean-Louis. “The trouble is that there’s no framework to enable these two groups of experts to speak the same language and work more effectively together. ISO20400 will provide a framework – or a bridge – to channel the discussion in plain English so they can understand each other.”

“For example, most companies have some sort of sustainable procurement code in place, which puts pressure on suppliers to comply. But they forget that a good many of these sustainability impacts are created by bad procurement practices. Look at the fashion industry, for example – impossible deadlines put pressure on suppliers, which causes them to abandon key guidelines such as working safely and not using child labour”.

Jean-Louis Haie is the founder of Planet Procurement and a guest speaker at Quest’s upcoming Women in Procurement 2017 conference in Melbourne, Australia.

No More Excuses: Procurement Needs To Take Ownership Of CSR

Supply chain is one of the most critical areas of CSR. So why aren’t more procurement teams taking greater ownership when it comes to establishing policy?

CSR, ethics and sustainability – three topics that it’s hard to get away from in procurement. The greater focus enabled by the Internet and social media means there’s no hiding place for organisations. And there’s certainly no acceptance of organisations burying their heads in the sand.

Organisations are now including these activities in strategic objectives. And as procurement’s strategic influence grows, the profession has greater responsibility for its role in CSR objectives as a whole. In light of this, it’s hard to understand why procurement and supply chain aren’t taking ownership of CSR activities in their organisation.

The Expert View

Gaining better insights into the current situation means speaking to the people on the ground. And that’s exactly what has been done by the ISM Committee for Sustainability and Social Responsibility. The Committee surveyed its members exclusively for Procurious on three questions relating to current CSR practices.

While the responses highlighted a wealth of knowledge in the profession, they also showed that there’s still plenty of work for procurement to do to take more ownership. Happily, there were also some practical suggestions on how procurement can help their organisations improve their CSR efforts.

Here’s what the members had to say:

To what extent do you think that Procurement and Supply Chain professionals “own” CSR?

The responses highlighted that procurement’s ownership was very much dependent on the organisation in question. However, there was a consensus that, in all cases, procurement and supply chain professionals needed to play an active role in the development and execution of CSR policies and initiatives.

While some aspects of CSR strategy are not supply-chain related, the majority of risks and opportunities are. Both social and environmental ‘hotspots’ exist within the extended supply chain, leaving it exposed in the event of any issues. Members stated that most organisations started with a materiality assessment. This assessment was usually focused on mitigating, or improving, financial and reputational loss. Importantly, supply chain was frequently seen as a critical area.

As a result, it was felt that procurement and supply chain professionals needed to be engaged in the process.

What is the real damage of a CSR breach?

The general consensus was that a CSR breach caused major damage in three key areas:

  • Shareholder Value
  • Brand
  • Human Cost

Consequences of a major or public CSR breach include:

  • An inability to recruit and retain top talent.
  • Losing the ability to differentiate the firm by its products, services and values in the marketplace.
  • Losing the opportunity to create an internal culture of commitment founded on ethics and a broader view of the firm’s role in the marketplace.
  • Financial loss through litigation, high cost of supplier replacement, brand, disruptions from labour disputes, etc.

Brands can be quickly damaged. A firm’s exposure can be quickly played out on social networks, within hours and minutes. However, one member of the Committee made an interesting observation on where the impact fell. “If the supplier has brand recognition, the buyer gets off the hook more for a CSR breach in the supply chain. If the supplier is unknown, (e.g. the contractor running the BP Deepwater Horizon rig), then the big brand takes the full brunt.”

This highlights the importance of strong policies, regardless of the size of the organisation.

What are your tips for professionals looking to improve CSR in their organisation?

Each member was asked to give three tips on how professionals can help make improvements in their organisation. There were so many good ones that we’ve been able to come up with a list of 8!

  • Understand the premise of sustainability – it’s not just being good, but meeting the needs of stakeholders impacted by decision. Any resulting actions by investors, business partners, employees, regulators and civil society will be of consequence. Top-down support is key.
  • Establish “rules to live” by and measure compliance across the entire organisation.
  • Create internal incentives for professionals to engage in sustainable purchasing. It’s important to use carrots as well as sticks.
  • A supplier code of conduct – with teeth – is considered best practice.
  • Collaborate with other parts of the organisation – procurement shouldn’t operate in a vacuum.
  • Use data to build the business case for sustainable supply chains.
  • Develop processes to identify risks in the supply chain and teach your suppliers these tools, so that they may employ them in sub-tiers.

Take Ownership Now

With CSR being such a critical activity for organisations, procurement can’t afford to be left behind. It’s time to step up to the plate, put procurement in the spotlight and take greater ownership of policies, processes and outcomes. With a wealth of supporting knowledge out there and so many professionals willing to help shape a robust CSR program, there’s really no excuse any more!

Resistance Is Futile, Disruption Is Coming!

Massive changes are coming to procurement pros, whether they like it or not! Is it high time we started embracing, instead of resisting, them?

Mark Stevenson is one man who understands the key trends heading our way. An expert on global trends and innovation, he will be setting the scene with our opening keynote at the Big Ideas Summit 2017 in London.  We caught up with Mark ahead of the event to get to know him a little better!

Tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m an entrepreneur, an author, an occasional comedy writer, a musician, and, as some people like to define me, a futurologist, but I’m not at all keen on that particular term.

What don’t you like about the term Futurologist?

I think it’s a fairly dodgy profession overall if I’m honest. There are no qualifications required and it’s often associated with prediction and, of course, you can’t really predict the future, you can only make it. Also people who identify themselves as future-experts are as apt to be shaped by the culture in which they are embedded or dogged by their own prejudices and wish-lists as the rest of us, and tend to predict accordingly. For instance many futurologists are overly tech focused. My work is more about the questions the future asks us about the interplay of technology, economics, society and politics. My job is to help people and organisations to ask the right questions about the future and then convince them to answer those questions in a way that makes the world more sustainable, humane, compassionate and just.

 What are the key challenges procurement and supply chains face in the next decade?

Supply chain issues are hugely important at the moment and supply chain professionals are having a lot of questions asked of them.

The first challenge to overcome is achieving greater supply chain transparency. Plenty of procurement professionals, particularly in larger organisations, have no clue where they are actually buying from. When the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh collapsed in 2013 killing over 1,000 factory workers, many high-street brands were called out and, it materialised, ignorant of their involvement. Tragedies like this have forced high street companies to better audit their supply chains but there’s still a long way to go.

Secondly, organisations need to make their supply chains more sustainable by adopting science-based targets – addressing agricultural sustainability and reducing carbon emissions to give a couple of examples.

You’ve often advocated science-based targets in the past. Could you explain the concept in more detail? How could procurement apply these targets?

Science-based targets are a really simple idea and a very good way to think about sustainability. When it comes to dealing with environmental sustainability companies tend to say ‘this is what we can do, this is what we’re aiming for’ but, in reality, it doesn’t mean a whole lot when a multinational organisation vows to reduce its carbon emissions by 10% by the year 2034! That’s a recipe for planetary disaster.

Instead, organisations must figure out what they have to do based on scientific facts. The Science Based Targets campaign (a partnership between

Carbon Disclosuse Project, UN Global Compact, World Resources Institute and WWF) helps companies determine how much they must cut emissions to prevent the worst impacts of climate change. Coca- Cola, Walmart and HP signed up to this and if they can do it, anyone can.

And, by saving the world you’re also saving your business. Companies who take this stuff seriously will out-perform because they’ll become more efficient and they’ll attract the most forward-thinking, young talent who want to work for companies of which they are unashamed.

In your experience, how open are organisations to new technology trends?

Not very! Organisations tend to be comfortable operating as they always have done.

Upton Sinclair put it well: ‘It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.’ Take Blockchain, it could take away the untrustworthy parts of banking: bankers, who will naturally resist this particular technology!

Another example is driverless tech- it doesn’t take an expert to predict that the 3.5 million US truck drivers would be wary of such an advancement – and rightly so. So we have to find a transition plan for them – which culture resists. But it’s a business responsibility to prepare for the changes and approaching transitions, you have a duty of care to your employees and not being future-literate is a dereliction of that duty. Remember, Blockbuster, the DVD rental company went bust the same week that Netflix released House of Cards.

If you had one key message for our delegates at Big Ideas, what would it be?

Wherever you work and wherever you end up in the next 15-20 years, remember that it’s going to be a very turbulent time. Massive disruption lies ahead and the bad news is that our current institutions and businesses are unfit for purpose. Ask yourself: what’s my best effort for myself, my family and for society (and remember they’re all related). If you don’t, you can prepare to be very irrelevant and very unhappy!

Join the conversation and register as a digital delegate for Big Ideas 2017

2016 Rewind – Best of eLearning – The True Cost of Supply Chains

For our final 2016 rewind, we’re looking at the year’s top eLearning modules. How can sustainability help limit the true cost of supply chains?

Fast fashion is the embodiment of unsustainable supply chains and consumerism. Why then does it still have such a following? And what can we as consumers do to change this.

Well, we could all start by watching ‘The True Cost‘ – a film documentary that highlights the very worst aspects of fast fashion. It’s an eye-opening, and at times harrowing, look at how consumer trends are impacting the lives of workers in developing countries.

Procurious were delighted to be able to host one of the film’s team, Lucy Siegle, to the Big Ideas Summit this year.

True Cost of Supply Chains

When it comes to Fast Fashion, Lucy is one of the UK’s primary experts. At the Big Ideas Summit, she delivered a message to the assembled procurement leaders – you are in a position to change this.

She believes that there needs to be a more holistic view of the supply chain. This can start with procurement, but needs to include consumers too.

Consumers can help develop sustainable clothing and fashion brands by investing in them. Instead of buying attractively cheap clothing, we need to consider the true cost of the garment. Your cheap t-shirt could be driving poor working conditions in another part of the world.

So what’s procurement’s role in this? Well, as the key stakeholder in ensuring supply chain transparency, procurement can ensure suppliers are adhering to proper procedure. The profession also has the chance to change fast fashion trends by supporting truly ethical suppliers. Only then can we break the cycle.

You can read more about Lucy’s work on the Procurious Blog. You can also catch up with all the thought leadership from the Big Ideas Summit 2016 on the eLearning Hub. And there’s a whole lot more there to keep you interested too! Happy viewing!

Social Enterprise Creating Oases in Food Deserts

The concept of food deserts is nothing new. However, it’s presenting ongoing opportunities for social enterprises to make a real difference.

Food Desert Store

Food deserts are not a modern phenomenon – the concept has existed for the better part of 20 years. However, efforts to eradicate these deserts have stalled somewhat, and there are now calls for more work to be done to eliminate them entirely.

The food desert concept was first introduced by the UK Department of Health in 1999. They defined it as, “areas of relative exclusion where people experience physical and economic barriers to accessing healthy foods.”

Put simply, these deserts exist where access to affordable, healthy food is either restricted or non-existent for consumers. This would be due to the lack of stores or supermarkets in the area, within convenient travelling distance.

A report by the US Department of Agriculture in 2009 estimated that 2.3 million people in the USA were living in food deserts. This is the equivalent of 2.2 per cent of the entire population. However, it’s difficult to fully gauge the impact of food deserts, as global figures are less well documented.

Measuring Food Deserts

Food deserts have traditionally been measures as the distance from households to their nearest supermarket. The original measure, still used by the US Department of Agriculture, is for low income households living more than 1 mile (urban), or 10 miles (rural), away from their nearest supermarket.

The map below shows how that looks across the USA today:

Food Deserts in the USA Based on Traditional Measures (Source: USDA Economic Research Service)
Food Deserts in the USA – Source USDA Economic Research Service

However, there is little consensus on which measures should be used to define food deserts. Some studies have used the measures of the type and quality of food available to purchase, while others have focused on the ability or inability of consumers to purchase them.

Other issues lie in the categorisation of stores. In parts of the USA, small retail outlets that sell food are classed in the same category as larger supermarkets. This is done even when the retail outlet in question sells limited, or predominantly junk, food. This has led to concerns that some food deserts are being missed entirely.

Access Only Part of Problem

Controversy also surrounds the simplification of food deserts as an issue over access to low-cost, healthy foods. Critics have argued that proximity alone would suggest that nearly all of rural America would be classed as a food desert.

In one study in Flint, Michigan, even when a local grocery store was introduced to a food desert, community attitudes and practices didn’t change. In fact, the amount of prepared and fast foods consumed during the 17 month study period actually increased.

Other factors that experts have argued for the inclusion of include poverty (it’s widely acknowledged that low income and poor nutrition are directly attributable), and education or attitude to foods (the fact it’s often cheaper to buy chocolate than an apple).

In the UK particularly, there is still a perception that healthy foods are more expensive. There are also concerns that as confidence and skills in creating meals from scratch decrease, junk food habits will rise further.

Social Enterprise Solutions

Definitions aside, it’s clear action needs to be taken in order to combat the issue of poor nutrition.

There are a number of small businesses and social enterprises in both the UK and USA helping to bring affordable, healthy food to communities.

Fresh Range

Bristol, in the UK, is one place affected by food deserts. Although the city has been awarded a silver ‘Sustainable Food City‘ award, there are still areas suffering from a lack of access to healthy food.

In light of this, in 2015, small company called Fresh Range was formed. Fresh Range sources directly from producers, enabling them to charge lower prices for fruit, veg, and meat. It even offers doorstep delivery for £1 on orders over £20.

On top of this the produce is all locally sourced, meets sustainability and the highest animal welfare standards. The company also re-uses and recycles packaging in order to keep running costs down.

Fare & Square

In the USA, the baton for combatting food deserts has been picked up by social enterprises. The two which have received the most support and airtime are Fare & Square in Chester, Pennsylvania, and The Food District in Columbus, Ohio.

Both are non-profit organisations, however they offer slightly different services.

Fare & Square is a crowd-funded grocery store operating in a food desert. It has committed to charge 8-10 per cent less for produce than other stores. It also offers a further 7 per cent discount for customers meeting poverty guidelines.

The Food District also offers access to affordable healthy food. As well as creating jobs and ensuring that produce is sourced locally, the Food District offers community education and training programmes to overcome all the causes of food deserts.

Time for Action

There are plenty more social enterprises around the world helping to tackle the problem of food deserts. However, the issue of food deserts is still on the rise. And it’s clear that more needs to be done to help everyone in the world have access to healthy, affordable food.

Why not have a look into what’s happening in your local area? You could help out with, or donate to, your local food bank. Or help local charities who are delivering food to people who can’t get out themselves.

If you have a social enterprise in your area, contact them and see what you, or your company, could do to help? If we all take action now, collectively we stand more chance of eradicating food deserts for good.