Bridging the Gap Between Sustainability and Procurement – Workshop Insights

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Cority (formerly Greenstone) and Ardea International were recently invited to run a workshop on sustainable procurement at the eWorld Procurement & Supply conference in London. The eWorld conference is a key event for senior procurement and supply chain professionals. The conference aims to provide insight into the latest innovations and technologies. In this blog, we outline some of the themes and insights we took away from the workshop regarding the gap between sustainability and procurement

Sustainable Procurement

The title of the workshop was ‘Bridging the Gap between Sustainability and Procurement’. The aim of the workshop was to discuss the changing procurement landscape in relation to sustainability. We also tried to share knowledge on integrating sustainability into procurement frameworks. Additionally, we dedicated time to identifying practical steps to solve common challenges in adopting more sustainable procurement practices.

One of the immediate insights from the session was the evolution of the participant’s awareness and engagement with sustainability. Our comparison came from the results of a similar workshop two years earlier. Two years ago there was an acceptance that sustainability was something that procurement professionals knew was ‘coming’ and that they would be asked to ‘do’.

In the most recent session, nearly two-thirds of the attendees worked for organizations that were currently integrating sustainability into their procurement framework. The majority of these people were also the ones responsible for this integration. However, the job role is changing for procurement professionals. In addition, there was also an energy and desire to embrace sustainability.

What does sustainable procurement mean to your organization?

The workshop started with a discussion of what sustainable procurement means to people in the room. This was a lively discussion and it was clear that there were differing definitions and understandings of sustainable procurement. However, within any organization, it is important that you understand exactly what it is you want to achieve and why. This is the first step before you can think about how you might get there.

Environmental factors initially dominated people’s definitions. Life cycle assessments of products were being mooted as a means to sourcing more sustainably. However, a clear understanding evolved amongst participants that sustainable procurement goes beyond the environmental performance of suppliers and products. Therefore, it should include social and ethical considerations as well.

This ranged from buyers defining how suppliers need to operate through codes of conduct, to being able to influence the ethical practices of suppliers down through the supply chain. For example, the rights that workers are afforded, and the treatment of women and children in the workplace. But also the commitment of buyers to the communities in which suppliers operate.

Lastly, there was a recognition that in order to operate more sustainably you need to foster a collaborative relationship with suppliers. To make these relationships last longer by focusing on long-term benefits and long-term KPIs.

In part two of this blog, we outline the key challenges faced when integrating sustainability into procurement and the potential solutions.

Sustainable Procurement Resources

Cority provides software and services that enable sustainable procurement and responsible supply chains. Cority’s Supply Chain Sustainability Software solution provides your business with a single point of transparency across your supplier network. It ensures that compliance, performance, and risk can be managed seamlessly. Cority has released a free Sustainable Procurement Guide to help procurement and sustainability professionals understand what sustainable procurement is, how their organization is performing in this area and how they can begin to integrate sustainability into their procurement function.

Ardea International provides advice and support to organizations on how to integrate modern slavery risk into their procurement framework and to develop sustainable procurement policies and due diligence processes. Ardea International is running a workshop in London on 7 November on how to integrate modern slavery risk into sustainable procurement. Colleen Theron, Ardea International, has written a book on ‘Strategic Sustainable Procurement: law and best practice for public and private sectors’.