Tag Archives: sustainable procurement

5 Expert Tips To Reduce e-Waste

You’re being asked to source more sustainable products, meet climate goals, anticipate post-pandemic supply chain shifts and reduce end of life impact. It’s a challenging task, particularly with IT products. The good news is, many procurement professionals have taken on this assignment before you, and they’re here to help. 


With more than 50 million metric tons generated annually, e-waste has become the world’s fastest-growing waste stream. Only around 20% of global e-waste is actually responsibly recycled. 

With the typical IT contract based on a three-to-four-year use cycle, the piles of e-waste are growing ever larger. While procurement with a purpose can net you impacts across the organisation, the solution is circularity, an approach gaining traction around the world.  

Transitioning from a linear to a circular economy can solve some of society’s most pressing sustainability challenges when it comes to IT products. In this blog, we share expert tips on how to source sustainable products, cut costs and meet climate goals through circularity – the solution for circular procurement of IT products.

Defining Circularity 

In a linear economy, we make products from virgin natural resources and we discard those products once we’re done using them — often after a relatively short time. Today’s linear consumption creates substantial carbon dioxide emissions, exhausts natural resources and creates vast amounts of hazardous waste.  

In a circular economy, resources are handled more responsibly, with a goal of extending the lifetime of products and recirculating all materials without producing any waste. Circularity means no waste, lower emissions, longer lifespan, lower costs, and a cleaner environment. 

Where do we start?  

Circularity isn’t an abstract notion. Many organisations are practising it now. They’re demanding – and getting – change from suppliers. 

A new report from TCO Development, the organisation behind the leading global sustainability certification for IT products TCO Certified, offers concrete examples of organisations and manufacturers practising circularity. The report sets out how the circular economy helps solve many of the most pressing sustainability challenges associated with IT products. They’ve distilled their research into 33 tips for bringing circularity to your organization.  

Based on the interviews with experts around the globe, here are the top five tips to make your procurement more sustainable.  

1. Use your IT products longer: this is the single most important thing you can do to reduce the consumption of natural resources and cut greenhouse gas emissions. And it cuts costs. 

The studies show that simply adding two years to a laptop’s life reduces emissions by 30 percent per year. And extending the life of a computer workstation from three to six years saves 28 percent on costs. To keep computers in circulation longer, buy durable products that are possible to repair and upgrade, and choose models with enough performance to cover long-term needs.  

2. Work to gradually implement circular practices in your organisation. Take-back programs are an easy way to start.   

Large brand owners such as Dell, HP and Lenovo are starting to see IT equipment as a service. They, and all other brand owners with products certified according to the criteria in TCO Certified, have programs that take back computers after your organisation is finished with them. It’s an easy first step to add this to your organisation’s purchasing process.   

3. Think circular when you purchase IT products. Use circular criteria.  

For example, add specifications for durability and repairability that will allow you to keep products longer, and criteria for reduction or elimination of hazardous substances that make materials more recyclable. Communicate your goals and tactics with internal and external stakeholders throughout the IT product life cycle.  

4. Give your IT products a second life by reselling them. 

Even if they no longer meet the needs of your organisation, your equipment still has value. Discuss resale options with a reputable refurbishment or remanufacturing firm that also ensures your data stays secure. Consider charitable donations or surplus resale to employees. 

5. Acknowledge that circularity is a team effort and that no one can do it alone. Internal and external cooperation is crucial! 

Invite decision makers and specialists from at least your IT, procurement, sustainability, finance, facilities and communication teams to create circular practices inside your organization. And don’t go it alone – team up with other buyers to increase your purchasing power and influence. The Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council is a good place to start. Learn more about TCO Certified and get free support with your sustainable IT procurement. 

Procurement’s role 

As manufacturers are moving circularity forward through product design and service offerings, what’s the role of procurement? Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council CEO Donna Westerman sees procurement professionals as key to driving demand for change.  

“Procurement has the power to influence an entire product ecosystem. The decisions made on what to buy impact not only product design but also how those products affect our environment and business resiliency.” Westerman said. ”Now, more than ever, procurement is at the forefront of what a sustainable future can look like.” 

Take the first step 

The key learning from all the interviews with industry leaders and organisations is simple. Get started. The transition to the circular economy is essential, and we all need to play an active part in it. It doesn’t matter so much what the first step is, as long as you take it. As Chris Fielden, Group Supply Chain Director for Innocent Drinks said, being unafraid to fail is key. 

Learn more 

To see the 33 hands-on tips for circular management of IT products from TCO Development, and read the full report, Impacts and Insights: Circular IT Management in Practice, click here 

Has COVID-19 Pushed Sustainable Procurement Off The Agenda?

Is sustainability shelved for now?


The COVID-19 pandemic has caused several of the biggest issues facing the profession before February 2020 – sustainability, social procurement, and supply chain diversity – to plummet in priority while organizations refocus on cost and risk reduction.

Given that 78% of companies anticipate a financial impact due to the crisis, this sudden shift in priorities is understandable, but that doesn’t make it any less disappointing. Every profession, industry, and sector in the global economy is currently shelving sustainability projects while the crisis plays out.

Frankly, many companies are now in survival mode, and their sustainability programs are seen to have no place in that mode. Fine words such as “sustainability was once seen as a ‘nice-to-have’ but is now a business imperative” have been forgotten while corporations tighten their belts and CPOs urgently re-prioritize the two foundation stones of the supply chain: cost and risk.

We were making progress

Until a few weeks ago (which feels like a lifetime), sustainability was high on the agenda of procurement teams in organizations of every size. The global standard for sustainable procurement (ISO 20400) launched with great fanfare and has been gaining momentum, while major procurement conferences such as the now-cancelled ISM2020 boasted several sessions on sustainable or social procurement. Modern CPOs followed the mantra “value beyond cost reduction” while those who were solely focused on cost were seen as old-fashioned and unimaginative.

In the training space, most supply management qualifications and certifications offered by industry bodies such as ISM and CIPS included a sustainability module, ensuring that young people coming into the industry understood and valued this aspect of the job.   

The big unknown is whether sustainability initiatives are simply on-hold and will resume once this crisis is over, or if they will be shelved for the long-term as organizations slowly claw their way back to their previous levels of profitability.

Long-term consequences

It’s difficult to predict timelines as no country (except perhaps China) has yet moved onto the economic recovery stage of the COVID-19 crisis, but the big question is whether the world will actually move backward in terms of sustainability. Take, for example, a mine site that is considering powering its operation with renewable energy rather than fossil fuels. With profits and jobs under threat, the decision will likely be driven less by environmental concerns and more by cost and risk: decision-makers will choose to stick with what they know, for the lowest-possible cost.

Environmental consequences aside, the thriving network of small to medium-sized suppliers that has sprung up in response to organizations’ wish to source from sustainable, ethical, social, and diverse suppliers will now be in dire trouble. With sustainability no longer a priority for their customers, their market is disappearing as we speak.

Rebuild the foundations, but don’t neglect sustainability

Realistically, we cannot expect organizations to reanimate their sustainable procurement programs until they feel like they are back on solid ground in terms of cost and risk. The feeling I have received in the past two weeks when talking with Una’s members is that sustainability is once again a “nice to have” that will have to wait patiently while the building blocks of the procurement pyramid – cost down and risk mitigation – are cemented back into place.

It is possible, however, to do both at once. Joining a Group Purchasing Organisation (GPO) can complement and amplify the strategies organizations have in place to tackle immediate cost and risk concerns such as:

  • dealing with inevitable price rises as the supply/demand equilibrium changes
  • securing access to high-demand goods and services as suppliers are overwhelmed
  • connecting with $100 billion in buying power to help ensure suppliers prioritize your organization when volume is running low.

Beyond these immediate concerns, a GPO can work on your behalf to maintain and improve critically-important relationships with suppliers. Already, supplier relationship management (SRM) is proving to be a defining factor in maintaining continuity of supply amid massive global disruption. It is also a channel through which sustainability discussions can continue.

An increase in buying power means more choice: sustainability and social procurement will not necessarily have to fall by the wayside, while ensuring diversity in the supply base is a key strategy in reducing risk and increasing resilience throughout the supply chain.

Una’s lights are on for our customers during the COVID-19 crisis. Click here to access our COVID-19 updates and information about supply chain disruptions. 


‘Often The Right Way Isn’t The Easy Way,’ – Sustainable Sourcing From A World Leader

Whether or not your business is prioritising sustainability right now, there’s no doubt that it will be the focus for many of us in 2020 and beyond.


As we all well know, executing on sustainability can be challenging. Is it even possible to have full supply chain transparency? How do we manage the requirement to be sustainable against risk and cost savings? Almost all sustainability initiatives, while well-intentioned, can be fraught with complexity. 

While this may be the case for many of us, one person who believes that sustainability isn’t as complex as it seems is Chris Fielden, Group Supply Chain Director for Innocent Drinks. Innocent Drinks is a revolutionary health drinks company that gives an incredible 10% of their profits to charity. Beyond this, Innocent focuses on sustainability throughout every part of their supply chain, from creating a plastic bottle that’s made from 100% renewable material to developing a carbon neutral factory. 

Prior to his keynote at Procurious’ Big Ideas Summit, we sat down with Chris to see how he helps drive such incredible sustainability achievements at Innocent: 

Live your values – and incorporate them into your business model

Have you ever looked at a corporate values chart and thought to yourself, ‘those don’t really seem to matter here?’ Many of us feel the tension between aspirational values and lived values, but one of the reasons Chris thinks that Innocent is so successful in sustainability is because they don’t do this. 

Chris believes that sustainability can’t simply be a ‘tick box’ but it needs to be front and centre of a business’s genuine value set if they want to achieve it. On this, Chris says:   

‘Innocent drinks is a values-led business, absolutely. We believe in [and live by] sustainable capitalism. We hire people against those values.’ 

‘Often the right way [to do things] might not be the easy way, but we do things the right way anyway because we truly live our values.’ 

Even beyond this, Chris says that sustainability needs to be incorporated throughout an organisation’s entire business model: 

‘Here at Innocent, we’ve incorporated sustainability into our entire business model through becoming a B-Corp.’  

Give your people freedom 

Sustainability is often about pushing boundaries and doing things that haven’t been done before. So, in order to achieve that, Chris thinks you need to give your people creative freedom – and this is exactly what’s happened at Innocent. 

‘[The carbon-neutral factory idea] came about primarily because we told our people not to accept no. We told them “don’t accept it when someone says it can’t be done.” In all aspects, we try not to constrain our people.’ 

Not limiting people also applies to the suppliers you work with, says Chris. In fact, when you don’t give suppliers limitations, you can sometimes achieve things you never would have imagined. When planning Innocent’s carbon-neutral factory, Chris gave his suppliers an unusual challenge – which yielded an unusual (yet highly beneficial) result: 

‘With the carbon-neutral factory, we said to the contractors we employed – just geek out and tell us what you would do if you had unlimited funds and no restrictions.’ 

‘Doing so meant that it actually turned out cheaper than we budgeted and the solution is ever better!’ 

Giving their people and suppliers freedom has meant that Innocent’s new carbon-neutral factory,  to open in Rotterdam in 2021, is truly one of a kind. Costing over $250 million, it will incorporate initiatives such renewable energy, sustainable water use, and resource-based waste management. Its Rotterdam location will also mean considerable C02 is saved, as the drinks are produced close to where ingredients arrive, saving trucks over 13,000 trips a year. 

Not being afraid to fail 

Despite Innocent Drinks being a relatively large company (it recently surpassed £10 million in donations alone), everyone works hard to cultivate an entrepreneurial spirit, says Chris. And a big part of this is not being afraid to fail. 

‘Failure is a big part of what we do. We only have to be 70% sure of what we’re doing. And failure has led us to where we are – we’ve doubled in size because we’re not afraid to fail.’ 

This can sometimes be hard to stomach as a procurement professional, Chris thinks, as we’re trained to mitigate risks. But Chris insists that Innocent still do this: 

‘We do have risk registers so it’s not as if we’re being cavalier!’ 

Where to from here? 

With Innocent being at the forefront of all things sustainability, it’s hard to imagine what Chris might still want to achieve. But there’s always more, says Chris, and ultimately, he’d like to see more businesses taking an active role in helping the environment: 

‘I would love to see more businesses doing more – but we can’t wait for politicians to mandate this. The impetus needs to come from us.’ 

Ultimately, Chris has an important message for all procurement professionals out there: 

‘If you put sustainability at the heart of your agenda, then know this: you can make a difference very quickly.’ 

What are you doing to drive the sustainability agenda at your business? Let us know below. 

Want to learn more about exactly how Chris is driving the sustainability agenda at Innocent, and how you can do the same? Chris is speaking at the 2020 Procurious Big Ideas Summit on March 11, and you can hear all of his insights through becoming a Digital Delegate. Grab your free pass here.

Going Global While Being Ethical? Smart Contract Management Can Help

The risks associated with ethical sourcing have never been higher. How can you go global without compromising your ethics?

ethical sourcing
Photo by Pascal Bernardon on Unsplash

For enterprises with complex, global supply chains, the risks and challenges associated with ethical sourcing have never been higher. Over the past decade, supply disruption has gone from being an exceptional event to at least an annual – if not quarterly or monthly – occurrence. Most organisations are simply not prepared, even though they may have checked the box with fairly narrow supplier risk management assessments. 

One reason for the increased risk? Contract visibility. The ability for companies to instantly locate, retrieve, analyse and track contracts across the enterprise, continues to be suboptimal at many large companies. When these contracts are sitting as unstructured data in a repository that’s difficult to search — or even worse in someone’s desk — bad things happen.

For example, one technology consulting firm missed $1.5 million in revenue recognition when a manually-tracked contract expired, but work was still performed against it. Discounts and rebates are overlooked, and unwanted renewals happen on autopilot. Poor contract management can also lead to reputation and brand damage when companies unknowingly use unethical suppliers.

So what can we do? Gaining visibility into commercial engagements can help.

Blockchain-based contract management is changing the game

As organisations become more and more concerned about supply chain risk, the need for better visibility is more critical than ever before. Enterprise contract management software provides that visibility by tracking what a firm’s worldwide obligations, entitlements and business relationships truly are.

This software gives organisations a firm grasp on their supply chain, key suppliers, the composition of the products they’re purchasing and the locales in which they’re operating.

Technologies like AI, Machine Learning and Blockchain are proving key for enterprises to mitigate risk in the future. This contract management space is a hot sector and continues to experience rapid growth. According to MGI, the market itself is worth $20 billion. This is reflective of large enterprises’ desire to digitally transform their commercial foundation. This helps them save money, reduce risk and improve compliance.

For example, customers like Mercedes-Benz Cars have already taken advantage of this technology. They have done so by utilising smart contracts on the Icertis Blockchain Framework to create an immutable distributed ledger of transactions.

This helps to ensure global sourcing and contracting practices adhere to Mercedes-Benz Cars’ strict requirements for sustainable, ethical and secure sourcing.

The future of ethical globalisation

I recently attended The Big Ideas Summit, a great event for procurement professionals that brings together the top figures in the industry to discuss the current business landscape and bring unique, innovative ideas to the table.

Right now, we’re in the early stages of technologies like blockchain and just starting to see major impacts. Three years from now we’ll have conclusive data on how blockchain has helped increase visibility into, and compliance among, supply chains.

Already, these blockchain and distributed ledger technologies are significantly changing the way organisations do business with vendors, partners, and customers, impacting the way companies approach, execute and enforce business contracts.

Although most organisations associate blockchain technology with the financial services industry, it has potential use within the manufacturing, government, healthcare and education sectors as well. This includes how those industries execute and enforce contracts.

For example,the Icertis Contract Management (ICM) platform is already used to manage 6.5 million contracts at companies like 3M, Airbus, Daimler, Microsoft, Sanofi and Wipro in more than 40 languages across 90 countries. The AI-powered platform allows customers to increase contract velocity and agility, proactively manage entitlements and obligations, as well as surface commercial insights and intelligence.

One day, blockchains that utilise distributed ledger technology may even allow for contracts that are self-verifying, self-executing and autonomous. Companies can exchange terms, events, and information throughout the lifecycle of a contract without relying on brokers or middlemen.

This streamlined approach to supply chain management will help reduce costs and solve the hardest contract management problems on the most easy to use platform, thereby improving the bottom line.

To learn more about Icertis’ contract management software, visit the Icertis website.

Procurement Can…Save the World

Procurement can do much more than it’s already doing when it comes to sustainability. And together we really can save the world…

Photo by Jessica Podraza on Unsplash

Historically, Procurement’s mandate has involved cutting costs and little else. The reputation for barking orders and slashing spend has led to more than a little resentment within certain organisations. Business units are often hesitant to engage with the function. When they do, they’re typically gritting their teeth and counting down the seconds until they can go back to focusing on their own key objectives.

Reducing costs is a noble cause – and Procurement’s top priority. But it’s just the beginning of what Procurement can offer the business and its customers. With its cross-functional position and unique insights into the supply chain, Procurement has the capacity to fundamentally change the way an organisation operates.

In Part 1 of this blog series, I examined some of the life-saving initiatives that Procurement teams across the globe are supporting. Cracking down on modern slavery and optimising disaster response plans, they’re evolving in their role and making it possible for corporate leaders to serve a higher purpose.

This time around, I want to look into Procurement’s efforts to address even broader issues. In addition to saving individual lives, great Procurement teams can potentially save entire species by working to identify and address worldwide environmental concerns.

Procurement Can . . . Save the Planet

Addressing Climate Change

The most pressing environmental crisis of our time, climate change, has dominated conversations among politicians, business leaders, and consumers for more than a decade. While forecasts vary from source to source, it’s clear that rising temperatures and sea levels present nothing short of an existential threat. From a business perspective, the myriad effects of a changing climate could mean a 10 per cent reduction in profits for American businesses. The planet and its people could suffer even more dire consequences.

The global economy simply cannot continue along the path that’s gotten it to this troubling position. For Procurement, the looming threat of climate change should provide the quintessential burning platform. It’s an opportunity for the function to distinguish itself as the value-added entity and to take the lead in designing a totally new worldwide supply chain.

When most of us think of climate change, we think of greenhouse gas emissions. While it’s somewhat reductive to describe such a broad issue through these narrow terms, addressing emissions is certainly a high-impact way to begin promoting responsibility. It’s not nearly enough to clean things up internally. Even organisations that don’t personally burn coal and oil often rely on supplier networks that make an outsize contribution to climate change.

The Carbon Disclosure

The Carbon Disclosure has found that suppliers often account for four times as many carbon emissions as an organisation’s direct operations. This eye-opening fact has inspired a number of businesses to broaden their approach to sustainable business. As organisations gain additional visibility into their supply chains, they have more and more power to enforce a higher standard of responsibility.

Target, for example, has made supplier-generated emissions an important part of its climate goals. In addition to establishing objectives of its own (including a 30 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030), the retailer is asking nearly every one of its suppliers to begin working toward similar goals by 2023.

One of Target’s direct competitors, Walmart is taking a similar approach. The world’s largest retailer is not merely holding its suppliers accountable for cutting down emissions, but offering additional incentives for those who successfully do so. They’ve partnered with HSBC Bank to introduce a new program that will provide better loan terms to organisations who make demonstrable progress.

Data, visibility, and consistent communication will only become more important as Procurement teams work toward cutting down emission and addressing their contributions to climate change. Still CDP reports that just 35 per cent of organisations are tracking emissions throughout their supplier networks. With the wealth of information at Procurement’s disposal growing in scope and the conversations around our climate growing in intensity, there’s no longer any excuse for inaction.

Fighting Ocean Pollution

Paper straws aren’t especially popular, but they’ve already served a valuable purpose. In addition to getting plastic out of the restaurant supply chain, they’ve forced consumers to confront their own reliance on plastic-based products and materials. Simply put, businesses and their customers buy a lot of plastic and Mother Nature is typically the one stuck footing the bill.

Eight million tons of plastic wind up in world’s oceans every year. With consumption expected to surge, experts predict we could see more plastic than fish by 2050. In certain regions, plastic particles are already outnumbering plankton 26 to 1.

With its central role in material purchasing, Procurement enjoys an obvious opportunity to take the lead in identifying and introducing sustainable alternatives to plastics. In 2017, Dell Technologies announced that it would take an especially creative approach to amending its supply chain. The organisation elected to create an entirely new supply chain dedicated to collecting and re-purposing ocean-bound plastics. This initiative provides a perfect example of the wide-reaching effects an environmental initiative can have.

Post-Plastic World

Providing access to near-endless supply of affordable materials, Dell’s new reclamation supply chain helps the organisation cut down on its material spending, create a slew of new jobs for collectors and recyclers, and (most crucially) provide an example for other business leaders to follow.

They’re already partnering with likeminded organisations through their Next Wave program to build a collaborative supply chain for collecting and reusing ocean waste. They expect to reclaim more than three million pounds of it within the next five years.

Dell’s not the only organisation cleaning up its act to clean up our oceans. Businesses throughout the retail and restaurant sector have also taken swift action to address the question of waste. Walmart, Aldi, and Trader Joe’s are just three of the retailers looking forward to a post-plastic world.

Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts, for their part, have made headlines by pledging to provide sustainable alternatives to their single-use cups. Each of these projects, regardless of scope or industry, will rely on strong Supply Management minds to steer the ship.

Procurement Can . . . Do More

It’s an unfortunate reality, but time is running out for businesses to take action and pursue environmental initiatives. In the past, organizations might have hemmed and hawed on the subject of sustainability. Fearing higher costs or the hard work of transitioning to new suppliers, they might have looked for excuses to forget about the environment and focus on something more directly relevant. There’s no forgetting about the environment anymore. Reports from organisations like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggest that while businesses and consumers have done a great deal of damage, they still possess a valuable opportunity.

Back in 2015, Nielsen confirmed that more than half of consumers will pay more to do business with environmentally responsible organizations. They want to purchase natural, sustainable products from companies that have made green practices a central component of their missions. The conversations around pollution, deforestation, climate change, and other environmental concerns have only grown more intense in the intervening years. Companies that continue to avoid pursuing the “triple bottom line” (people, profit, planet) will soon find themselves growing more irrelevant, unsuccessful, and even controversial throughout the next few.

I look forward to addressing Procurement’s environmental imperative at the Big Ideas Summit. Last year saw thought leaders describe their efforts to identify alternate materials, repurpose recycling, and make Procurement a more purposeful function. This year, I’ll join the conversation by sharing some of the green initiatives my team has spearheaded throughout the last several years. Want to listen in? Make sure to register as a Digital Delegate today.

Do you want a steer from Diego on what your organisation can do with your triple bottom line? You can access this and much more by registering as a Digital Delegate for the Big Ideas Summit Chicago 2019 next week. Even if you can’t be there in person, you can still be in the room. Find out more and sign up today here!

5 Ways To Achieve Marginal Gains In Procurement

By Eugene Onischenko / Shutterstock

At the Big Ideas Summit 2019, Justin Sadler-Smith, Head of UK & Ireland, Procurement & Supply Chain at SAP Ariba shared his view of procurement in an insightful and thought-provoking presentation.

Among the issues that Justin talked about was an ever-decreasing time for procurement to react to the changing market environment and put actionable strategies in place. Because if procurement isn’t fit for purpose, not delivering against stakeholder expectations, then there is the potential for huge, negative impact from a brand and shareholder perspective.

There is a whole mix of uncertainties which are causing people to reassess how they are doing business and then ultimately doing it in a different way. Organisations, and procurement as part of them, need to be looking at what we are doing tomorrow and reinvent ourselves to become more competitive than they have been in the past.

As part of this Justin talked about an issue that is fast becoming a key for procurement to take account of and account for in its day-to-day operations. And that is leaving behind a positive legacy. Here is Justin explaining it in his own words:

Faster Reactions, Greater Purpose

When it comes to procuring with purpose, procurement professionals around the world need to be able to react quicker to changes in order to set the foundation for the legacy we should all be leaving behind.

Justin argued during his presentation that it’s almost as if procurement is in a race. In simple terms, those who are fastest to react, fastest to respond to changing demands are those who will win. It might not even be procurement who are the ones triumphing in the race, and that could spell the end for procurement as we know it.

The issue here is that many procurement professionals just haven’t been trained to do this. Without adequate training, much like an Olympic athlete, or Tour de France rider, there is no chance of being able to meet these demands and deliver what is required.

How do procurement professionals get trained up then? There’s no use knowing that there is a need to change unless there is willingness to do so, as well as more support to implement it.

Help is at hand, however, from an unexpected source. When Sir David Brailsford became Performance Director at British Cycling, he came up with the idea of breaking down the individual aspects of a race and then improving them one by one. The notion of ‘marginal gains’, was that a number of small, 1 per cent, improvements would collectively add up to a major competitive advantage.

It was this thinking that helped British Cycling dominate on the track at successive Olympic Games between 2004 and 2012, and then Team Sky/Ineos win seven of the last either Tours de France (not to mention other events and Grand Tours).

How then do we take this concept and apply it to procurement? Justin has shared his thoughts on this, helpfully broken down into five key areas.

Marginal Gains in Procurement

  1. Data – Where is data stored within your organisation and how easy is it for you to get it? How is HR data incorporated in your function? You need to look after people – those who own the data – as this is the life-blood of the organisation and you need to make the breadth and depth of your data valuable and usable.
  2. Productivity – procurement can drive this in an organisation by looking at different areas of automation that probably haven’t been looked at before. For example, how many people are really looking at AI as a way to change their organisation, without worrying about the spectre of job losses?
  3. Innovation – this is the concept of co-innovation by working in collaboration with suppliers to building differentiation. For this you need to get closer to your supplier base and remove any barriers to working closely with the right suppliers.
  4. Purpose – what do we mean by purpose? It’s the idea of driving social responsibility through supply chains at multiple levels. This is well beyond a tick box exercise now – it’s a must for good business as well as for making a better world. The idea runs beyond risk mitigation and focuses more on building value through sustainability.
  5. Well-being – people are living in a much more stressful period globally. However, by driving these needs and having a purpose, it can change the game when it comes to how people operate and feel. For procurement, this means attracting, retaining and caring for their top talent and nurturing their people.

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

Procurement Can . . .

To focus on savings alone is to sell procurement short and miss out on its potentially game-changing capabilities.

A good procurement team can save your business money. This goes without saying. Savings are for procurement what risk mitigation is for legal, innovation is for R&D, and new business is for sales. They’re table stakes, just the very beginning of what a well-equipped and well-staffed function should offer the organisation. To focus on savings alone is to sell procurement short and miss out on its potentially game-changing capabilities.

While reducing costs remains the top priority for today’s procurement teams, it’s high time for the function to evolve its objectives and diversify its value proposition. With visibility across the global supply chain, procurement is perfectly equipped to address the monumental concerns that plague the business world. Labour violations, pollution, animal rights, and ethics – they’re all issues as relevant to procurement as cycle times and pricing.

Simply put, procurement is capable of more than saving money. It’s capable of saving lives and it might just help us save the planet.

Procurement Can . . . Save Lives

Stopping Forced Labor

It’s appalling that, in 2019, forced labor is still endemic across various global supply chains. What’s worse is that the United States imports more “at risk” products than any other country in the world. According to the Global Slavery Index, the U.S. brought in more than $144 billion of these products and commodities. They report that electronics, fish, cocoa, garments, and natural resources like gold and timber present an especially high risk.

On a more hopeful note, the nation’s score on the Government Response Index ranks behind just the Netherlands. Still, with as many as 400,000 modern slavery victims within its borders, it’s clear the United States must do more. The scope of the forced labor crisis is such that companies in nearly every industry are touched by it in some capacity. Due diligence has grown both increasingly imperative and increasingly challenging. Organizations like Rip Curl and Badger Sportswear present recent examples of what can happen when an American business fails to gain and sustain visibility across the globe.

Methods for assessing suppliers, monitoring their behavior, and addressing violations must all evolve. It’s more dangerous than ever to settle for a low price or select a provider based on an incomplete set of considerations.  Supplier capacity, for example, is a more nuanced issue than Procurement may have previously considered it. Under-resourced suppliers might partner with unscrupulous organizations if they’re faced with demand that outstrips expectations. The onus also falls on procurement to provide better, more accurate forecasts to avoid such a situation. Data won’t just provide the means to secure better pricing and anticipate consumer tastes, but to eliminate human rights violations.

Forced labor is a shared issue that requires a shared response. It’s up to organisations who purchase high-risk commodities or operate in high-risk regions to collaborate with their competitors. Joining groups like the garment industry’s Fair Labor Association or the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition, they can elevate industry wide standards and recognize organizations for setting particularly excellent (or particularly poor) examples.

Supporting Disaster Relief

Few things keep supply chain managers up at night like the specter of extreme weather. As an increasingly volatile climate threatens shipping lanes, roads, and storage facilities, disaster preparedness has become a year-round concern – even for organizations that do not operate in “high risk” areas. In 2018, hurricanes alone caused more than $50 billion in damages throughout the Americas.

Crucially, it’s not just the business world that suffers when hurricanes, earthquakes, and other natural disasters strike. Damaged roads and lost power leave consumers without access to necessities like clean drinking water and medications. Sometimes they’re without these essentials for months at a time. Beyond repairing their own supply chains, well-prepared procurement teams can participate in a broader, more socially responsible form of disaster relief.

Accurate, proactive forecasting makes it possible for businesses to continue serving their communities even in the wake of natural disasters. In addition to avoiding disruptions of their own, they’ll ensure consumers experience minimal disruption. Remember, supply chain hiccups are often more deadly than natural disasters themselves. This was the case when Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico back in 2017. Experts estimate the vast majority of deaths were caused by interruptions to the supply chain for health care and life-saving medicines. In a sense, disaster relief efforts failed because of “final mile” complications.

Evolving technologies will prove essential for extending these supply chains and mitigating the human cost of extreme weather. Unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) promise to play an especially active role. While drone-based deliveries for food or Amazon packages tend to dominate the headlines, recent pilot tests suggests they may soon serve a higher purpose. In the aftermath of Maria, non-profit Direct Relief partnered with Merck, AT&T, and other providers to test the viability of medication delivery drones. The drones provide temperature-controlled storage for sensitive materials and come equipped with real-time monitoring to adjust their flight paths as necessary. With each party providing their own expertise and resources, the pilot tests provide a case study in socially responsible collaboration.

Procurement Can . . . Do More                                                                                                                            

In the past, organisations may have neglected to invest in sustainable and responsible initiatives. The fear of higher costs and harder work likely stayed their hands. Businesses need to stop asking whether or not they can afford to behave ethically. They should ask, instead, how much longer they can afford not to. More and more, consumers are growing tired of inaction. They’ve also grown increasingly wary of inauthenticity. Where simple greenwashing might have sufficed in the past, new generations of consumer are increasingly skeptical and unforgiving when it comes to corporate behavior. The most recent Deloitte Millennial survey found that a quarter of young consumers don’t consider business leaders trustworthy, less than half consider them ethical. They’re not the only ones. Across every generation, the desire for ethical, responsible business practices has evolved into a demand.

In my next blog, I’ll look at how procurement teams across the globe can (and already do) lead the way on sustainability. Eliminating plastic, identifying sustainable alternatives, and reducing emissions, the function is equipped to set and enforce a new environmental standard.

In the meantime, why not register as a Digital Delegate for this year’s Big Ideas Summit Chicago? You’ll enjoy the chance to sit in on thought leadership presentations from some of the Supply Chain’s most thoughtful, innovative, and successful professionals – all without leaving your desk. 

After Saving Costs, Now Is The Time To Save The World!

We, as procurement professionals and as citizens, have a responsibility to take action to tackle the challenge of working sustainably.

By Malchev/ Shutterstock

August 1, 2019: this could be when we reach the “Earth Overshoot Day” this year. For the rest of the year, we will be living on credit. When it comes to natural resources, that is.

“Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity’s demand for ecological resources and services in a given year exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year.” Source: OverShootDay.org

At the time of writing of this article, the actual date for Earth Overshoot Day is still unknown, but for several years in a row, we have reached the limit in early August. Based on this precedent, we can safely assume that it will be very similar this year. We may even reach it in July—a first! The situation also varies greatly by country. Some countries already reached it in February/March!

In short, this means that we would need 1.7 Earths to sustain our current level of consumption of natural resources.  Considering that we only have one Earth to go around, this is a very preoccupying statistic, and even more worrying is the trend and speed at which the day is arriving earlier and earlier each year:

This situation is clearly not sustainable and we, as procurement professionals and as citizens, have a responsibility to take action to tackle this challenge.

The end of the tragedy of the commons?

 “The tragedy of the commons is an economic theory of a situation within a shared-resource system where individual users acting independently according to their own self-interest behave contrary to the common good of all users by depleting that resource through their collective action.” Source: Wikipedia

To exit the tragedy of the commons, there is an urgent need for us to mobilise and act on a global scale. All economic actors have a role to play.

Governmental institutions can foster sustainability in two major ways. Firstly, by investing in businesses, research, and infrastructure and secondly, by creating regulations and policies to develop and promote socially- and environmentally-friendly practices. By adopting the right mix of carrot and stick, governments can steer behaviors and economic growth towards more favorable and sustainable outcomes.

Investors/shareholders also have an essential role to play, because by exercising their influence, they can push organizations to make sustainability a top priority. In fact, many green companies go beyond legal/governmental requirements and make sustainability the heart of their business model.

“[T]he next phase of business sustainability, what we call “market transformation,” is founded on a model of business transforming the market. Instead of waiting for a market shift to create incentives for sustainable practices, companies are creating those shifts to enable new forms of business sustainability.” The Next Phase of Business Sustainability in The Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR)

These companies and investors understand their obligations and interests, because the long-term survival of an organization depends on the health of its surrounding ecosystem. The concept of “Creating Shared Value” explains why a new type of investors is becoming more visible and active:

“Impact investing has become a broad umbrella that includes all investing with a focus on both financial return and social impact, but in its best form, impact investing prioritizes impact over returns and achieves outcomes that traditional investing cannot.”Jacqueline Novogratz, founder, and CEO of Acumen, a non-profit global venture capital fund whose goal is to use entrepreneurial approaches to address global poverty

Consumers represent another powerful force. Not only do they drive demand, their buying decisions also have the power to influence what products companies produce and, to some extent, how they produce them. The growth of the “business of sustainability” and of the “circular economy” are indicators of this shift.

So, when we ask ourselves who has the power to create a more sustainable future, the answer is really:  all of us. We can all exercise our influence as voters, investors, collaborators, and consumers to drive sustainable policies and practices forward.

And, when it comes to sustainability, procurement professionals have even more power than most!

Sustainable Procurement

Procurement plays a central role in transferring value from the upstream supply chain to the downstream of the chain. This means that, Procurement is the key player that enables a business to also “walk the walk” when it comes to sustainability by looking beyond prices and costs. Concepts like total cost/value of ownership (TC/VO) are not new, but they are still not commonly used, especially when integrating the impact on the ecosystem into TVO models.

For any sustainability efforts to be effective, businesses need to take a holistic approach. This is why truly “sustainable procurement” encompasses aspects related to the environment, labor & human rights, business ethics and, community development.

Many mature procurement organizations have already started to incorporate some of these aspects into their procurement approach, but the goal of these sustainability measures is often limited to “risk prevention.” Brand/reputation protection has long been a key motivating factor for organizations that have considered integrating sustainability into their approach.

And, as mentioned earlier, there is more to it than that. Sustainability can also be an engine for growth. So, to harness the full potential of sustainable procurement, procurement organizations must first understand and be aware of their role/duty, and then act accordingly to embed sustainability in all their activities. For example:

  • Sourcing decisions: Include sustainability in TVO models (e.g. CO2 footprint, use of best available techniques, supplier diversity, etc.)
  • Contract Management.: Incorporate sustainability clauses (e.g. reduction of waste/energy consumption, recycling, supporting disadvantaged or marginalized groups in the community, reporting on sustainability aspects, etc.)
  • Supplier evaluations: Integrate quantitative and qualitative criteria into scoring models and develop real-time scorecards that also leverage 3rd party data and public sources of information

“The obligation, and the self‑interest of every company is to build a robust society.” Tim O’Reilly

Sustainability is a challenge that requires the urgent attention of all of us. As Procurement professionals, our responsibility is even greater. Therefore, we should embed sustainability in everything we do and, as much as we are able, we should become the consciences of our organizations by ensuring that sustainability is not just an empty vision, but a practice. To do this successfully, we must ensure that suppliers

  • behave correctly in terms of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
  • use performance indicators related to Environmental, Social and Governance criteria (ESG)

Only then can we play a role similar to an investor by following SRI (Sustainable, Responsible and Impact Investing) principles when making decisions and assessing options. This represents a much better purpose and meaning than just cost savings!

Sustain Me – 4 KPIs to Get Your Sustainability Project Over the Line

With your vision, drive and persistence with your corporate finance team, you will be able to define a quantifiable dollar value on your sustainability initiative…

By SkyPics Studio/ Shutterstock

Getting your organisation up to speed with sustainability is no easy task.  It’s an area of responsibility for procurement and supply chain that covers a multitude of minefields – environment, social and economic etc. But also, fortunately, some daisy fields –  stronger brands, employee value proposition and a major positive contribution to a better society.

I’m lucky to have been educated on most of the sustainability areas throughout my career and via my global network.  But if you’re early on in your career, or new to the area of sustainability, it’s a lot of ground to cover!  My best advice (and this won’t be a surprise!) is to use your extensive network to get educated and learn best practice.

When I speak with people around the world, the biggest problem they have is getting off first base. The need to get budget approval from their CFO for their sustainability project.

Many companies around the world have signed up to The United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS), to all of which procurement and supply chain can make a positive contribution.  How your sustainability project is going to help your company achieve its SDGs is the first and most obvious link you need to make with your C-level and your project.

The case for purpose is just like any other corporate initiative, it has to be rooted in a strong financial return – a business case.  However, many of the important benefits that come from managing sustainability are seen to be unmeasurable. Organisations have been struggling to put a value on the impact of catastrophic supply chain events that permanently scare their corporate reputation.  The value of having positive relationships with employees and the community can also be difficult to quantify. But investors and the community are putting increasing demand on companies to validate their sustainability efforts. Reporting on sustainable communities and regional spend, by way of example. 

With the vision, drive and persistence within your corporate finance team, you will be able to define a quantifiable dollar value on your sustainability initiative.  Here’s four ideas for KPIs to get the thought processes flowing:-

1. Reduce total lifecycle cost

The early part of my career was spent extinguishing media fires set by consumers concerned about the environmental impacts of disposable nappies or aluminium cans. I quickly learnt that there are indeed three sides to every story.  Industries do so much to consider their impact on the environment and often go above and beyond what’s required, but rarely get appreciated in the mainstream media. In our “sound bite” media society, consumers rarely get to understand the concept of “total lifecycle cost”. It’s important we all build total lifecycle cost models, so we quantify and measure the total impact of the products and services we produce. This will allow us to measure whether we are increasing or reducing our total impact, that can be shared with others.

2. Increase employee engagement

Sustainability projects of every kind are a fantastic way to build your employees’ engagement with the purpose of your organisation.  In my personal life I got involved in the Great Barrier Reef Research Foundation and learnt about the impact of climate change and declining water quality on the health of our reef. Until that point, I had no idea what the impact of commercial farming, water and ocean freight passage lines had on our marine ecology. As a member of their Board of Governors, I was invited to swim the reef and was briefed first hand by the world’s leading marine scientists. Employees were also invited to take sabbaticals to the remote labs.  Nothing could better build employee engagement and understanding of climate change than these experiences. It had a huge impact on employees’ concerns and actions, but also lead to an increased respect for their company’s commitment to protecting the Reef.

I’ve also supported microfinance initiatives through an organization called Opportunity International, with a focus on small women-owned businesses in India. This gave me real insight into the plight of so many women in the world and the impact that breaking out of the poverty cycle can have on future generations.  This made the plight of small female-owned business in emerging economies very real to me, which has always helped crystallise situations such as Rana Plaza for me and the obligation we have to suppliers several layers down in the supply chain.

3. Construct a Net Promoter Score for your community

Does anyone measure this? In my mining days, this was referred to as a “license to operate.” That is, that the community trusted you to operate your business responsibly and ethically. Mining companies, probably more than any other industry, understand how important it is to ensure sustainability is at the front and centre for all their decisions. One program I worked on was a local sourcing program. We qualified and engaged suppliers from the local area to help underpin the social strength of the community in which their employees worked – a very different form of sustainability!

4. Commit a single digit percentage of your corporate spend to social enterprises

About ten years ago I began working with Social Traders, a company who was building capacity amongst social enterprises to enable them to win corporate contracts. Once again, I was reminded of the multiplier effects when marginalised members of our communities are engaged and employed.  For me it’s a no-brainer. There are definite areas of corporate spend that lend themselves well to social enterprises – (hint:  look first at any category that includes labour spend).  As one CEO said “we’re going to spend the money anyway, we may as well make sure it counts.”  It was difficult to get traction a decade ago, but I’m delighted to see now how much energy there is within the corporate sector to engage social enterprises. What’s great in these commercial relationship is that everyone wins – the suppliers, the companies, the shareholders and the employees.  It’s very powerful.

I’m bringing my years of experience and passion for procurement-with-purpose and sustainability to life by providing a global platform, Procurious, for people to share their learnings and experiences with each other.

For us it’s about demonstrating to our global network of procurement pros that purpose pays and that anyone can make a difference in their organisation, no matter how small.

Get up the learning curve as fast as you can by learning from your peer network.  Join Procurious.  Join the Procure with Purpose group, start sharing your knowledge, start asking questions and start shifting the dial on these sustainability outcomes.

Making Sustainable Procurement Work

Now, more than ever, it’s important for the profession to put sustainable procurement at the front and center of business.

AYA images/ Shutterstock

Daniel Perry, Global Alliances Director – Ecovadis believes that the role of procurement is evolving. Evolving from being “primarily focused on cost savings and operational efficiency, to a more strategic and central player in risk management and value creation.”

Now, more than ever, it’s important for the profession to put sustainable procurement at the front and center of business.

“Stakeholders, including end consumers, B2B customers, shareholders etc. are demanding that businesses take responsibility for practices all the way into their value chain. They’re driving transparency and, ultimately, a positive impact by working with high-integrity partners. And it’s procurement teams that are in the ideal place to meet these higher stakeholder demands.”

“The power of the spend that procurement controls (often between 50-70 per cent of turnover) puts procurement at the crossroads of not only risk management and brand protection, but also as internal partners for driving value creation. Of course they want the value chain to be resilient – to avoid interruptions or damage to their company’s reputation – but they also want to provide supplier-driven innovation and support for transformative business models and offerings. –

“Procurement teams focused on sustainability do this by selecting and working with the best suppliers in a way that goes far beyond price, quality and delivery, to include performance around environmental, social and labor and ethics practices.”

The value-add of sustainability programs

It’s all too common to hear an organisation defend their lack of commitment and lack effort in this space. “It’s too expensive”, “it’s too difficult”, “it’s too time consuming” or “we’re just not ready” are typical refrains.

The benefits and ROI of sustainability include not only operational savings, but strategic outcomes. A well-developed Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program that is integrated into the company values, and is driven with executive support, can drive key business performance metrics such as:

  • Sales and reputation: A burgeoning wave of consumer sentiment is cresting. More and more customers are comparing the sustainability details of products and services, and it is changing their purchase decisions. Companies making the right sustainability investments can realise a possible increase in revenue of up to 20 per cent.
  • Employee morale and productivity: Sustainability programs can do wonders to improve employee satisfaction, reducing a company’s staff turnover rate by up to 50 per cent and increasing employee productivity by up to 13 per cent. Integrating CSR practices in your company and brand also has a hugely positive impact on recruiting.  If your company has a better sustainability reputation, it often generates more interest from applicants, allowing you to be more selective and choose higher quality candidates.
  • Increased market value: Sustainability programs can increase a company’s market value by up to 6 per cent.
  • Innovation: With more power comes more responsibility…and more options. Many companies are pursuing sustainable procurement strategies in order to find innovative suppliers that will help them differentiate their product or service offering.

Dupont, for example, changed its innovation strategy to embrace a “sustainable growth” mission, saying “If we bring the solutions to the market sooner than our competitors do, we will be more successful in continuing to grow the company.”

Making sustainable procurement work

“One of the biggest challenges companies face in sustainable procurement is measuring and understanding current performance within their supply base, in the context of global standards and benchmarks. It can also be challenging to engage suppliers as collaborators in their mission. And to get there requires a mix of expertise, the right technology, change management and process integration backed by executive commitment.

“First, the organisation needs a clear mandate from the executive team, which makes the sustainable procurement program an integral part of the function’s mission and values. This is embodied by investing in change management and communication programs and taking steps towards implementation and company-wide adoption.

“Success also requires reliable, agreed-upon indicators for sustainability performance that both buyers and suppliers can understand, and that are actionable. Many companies collect lots of unvalidated data, but buyers rarely have the CSR expertise or time to validate or interpret it – and this is where a standardised, evidence-based, and analyst-generated rating – like EcoVadis provides – comes into play.

“Additionally, CSR criteria and performance indicators must be integrated across the procurement function and include the use of clear and enforceable codes of conduct, contract clauses and tender criteria. Buyers need to believe in and leverage these criteria in their supplier development and sourcing activities.,  And, procurement groups should agree on, measure and reward on the critical CSR / sustainability KPIs in the same way they track cost savings or other key metrics. These all drive adoption in the organisation and make sustainability inherent to the procurement role.

“Increasing the benefits to a single company, a mutualised platform can make it much easier for suppliers to share the same scorecard results with all their customers, enhancing transparency and collaboration to drive network effects for maximum improvement and impact.”

Daniel Perry will be speaking at Big Ideas Chicago on 27th September. To  hear more from him and to follow the action LIVE from wherever you are in the world, register as a digital delegate (it’s free!)

Read more on this subject from EcoVadis in  Beyond Compliance – The 5 Pillars of sustainable procurement value creation