Taking the Next Step Towards Sustainable Purchasing

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One of the most powerful facilitators of sustainability is habitual purchasing practices. Adopting environmentally friendly business practices makes real business sense, but our customers are taking it a step further. They are weaving sustainability purchasing best practices into their statements of direction. As it is up to procurement to manage an organization’s supply chain, you can be an integral part in change management. By instituting environmentally and socially responsible purchasing, you can become a leader in the sustainability movement.

But to do this is no easy project. To create change within your organization, you need time to research and to develop a plan.  With time and the right tools, you can create and analyze spend data reports in order to make the case to leadership and drive change within your organization.

Where do you begin implementing sustainable purchasing practices?

Take a page from a strategic sourcing playbook. Start here:

  1. Identify target spend by analyzing and prioritizing best opportunities and avoids exhausting resources chasing the long tail.
  2. Create a sourcing team: whether it is dedicated personnel or “special forces” within your department who can set priorities and measure results.
  3. Identify green suppliers and negotiate contracts.

Leveraging spend analytics, e-sourcing, supplier management and contract management tools will allow you to get started, but it is leadership who will drive change toward sustainable purchasing. Achieving genuine leadership means taking responsibility for all the significant environmental, social and economic consequences of the organization’s purchasing.

The Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council provides support to institutions for strategic leadership and offers a collaborative program for guiding, measuring and recognizing leadership in sustainable purchasing. Their approach is outlined in five steps:

  1. Analyze and identify impact within spending. Prioritize categories for action.
  2. Create an action plan for mitigating impact while delivering value.
  3. After implementing sustainable purchasing, set goals, timelines and policies. Train staff and engage suppliers.
  4. Measure and benchmark performance and continue to evaluate for constant improvement.
  5. Recognize and reward leaders.

The opportunity to reduce impact and increase benefits via sustainable purchasing goes far beyond greenhouse gas emissions. Procurement can work to eliminate sweatshops, and unsustainable fishing and forestry practices, while increasing employment in communities whose potential is being underutilized.

For more guidance on establishing a sustainable purchasing program, please review the materials available on the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council website.  Founded in 2013, the SPLC convenes buyers, suppliers, and public interest advocates to develop programs that simplify and standardize sustainable purchasing efforts by large organizations. The Council has quickly attracted, from a wide variety of sectors and regions, more than 150 members (including JAGGAER) with over $200 billion in collective purchasing power. In 2015, SPLC released Guidance for Leadership in Sustainable Purchasing v1.0, which has been called the “most comprehensive literature to date” on sustainable purchasing. More than one hundred organizations are now using SPLC’s Guidance, resources, and online community of practice to create strategic sustainable purchasing programs, or enhance existing ones.

Read moreWhy The Time Is Now for Sustainable Procurement

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