Nearly 90 percent of a company’s impact on the environment comes from their supply chain. It’s no wonder that those who care about environmental sustainability are keen to integrate sustainability objectives within their procurement programs. In this post, we’ll touch on six key components of sustainable procurement that can help preserve the earth as we transform our business models to be more sustainable.

When we talk about procurement sustainability, people may use different terms and that can be confusing. You may hear references to sustainable, responsible or ethical sourcing. Or maybe social procurement, green procurement or ECO buy are terms you’ve heard. All of these concepts actually fall under the larger umbrella of Procurement Sustainability.

I first became interested in the idea of procurement sustainability whilst practicing one of my favorite hobbies…scuba diving. What does diving have to do with sustainability in procurement you may wonder?

Since becoming diver-certified in 2001, I’ve visited some of the most beautiful underwater sites in the world. When diving, I always feel a deep sense of gratitude and respect for Mother Nature, and a feeling of lightness and calm. It’s always the ultimate meditation session.

After not diving for a couple of years, I took a dive trip to Indonesia and experienced a devastating sight -- plastic objects and non-composted waste on the sea ground, stuck on coral reefs, and floating around turtles and fish. Seeing this first-hand awakened my sense of responsibility and led me to reflect about concrete ways to support sustainability in both my personal and professional lives – hence my passion for promoting sustainable procurement.

Those of us committed to sustainable procurement recognize that procurement should be about more than achieving economic benefits. We also know that sustainable procurement means more than minimizing the environmental impacts of supply chain decisions – it’s broader than that. Sustainable procurement not only encompasses environmental benefits resulting from procurement decisions, but the societal impacts of those decisions, too. Through the introduction of sustainable procurement, we can reduce waste, carbon emissions, energy and water consumption, help protect biodiversity, support fair and sustainable economic growth.

Sustainable Procurement Is About More Than Buying – It’s Ensuring Responsible Supply Chains

Cost, quality and supply chain efficiency will always be pillars of procurement. But I argue we can – and must – go further than that in our thinking. To paraphrase what Bayer CPO Thomas Udesen shares in a WNS Denali Pro Top video series on procurement sustainability: Nearly 1 million people are making procurement decisions worth billions of dollars each year. We can choose to make the world better with our decisions or tolerate practices that go against sustainable beliefs.

So how do we go about integrating sustainable practices within our procurement teams and solutions? It’s all about including a sustainability filter in our procurement decision-making process.

When making sustainable supply chain decisions, there are 6 key aspects to consider:

  1. Human Rights – includes ensuring livable working conditions and an open social dialogue and dignity in the workplace

  2. Labor Practices – includes providing proper safety training, clean and safe working conditions, and fair wages

  3. Environment – includes adhering to climate change mitigation laws and policies in manufacturing plants, and being respectful and conscious of environmental impacts of ingredient and natural resources sourcing

  4. Fair Operating Practices – includes strong anti-corruption guidelines and adherence to fair competition practices

  5. Consumer Issues – includes fair and honest marketing practices, commitment to presenting unbiased information, and promoting sustainable consumption and consumer health and safety

  6. Community Involvement and Development – includes ensuring investments in the communities in which employees work and live, supporting education, cultural traditions and the preservation of healthy communities

It’s only when considering each of these components that we can be sure we are making the best, most sustainable procurement decisions for our organizations, our clients, and the larger world.

Sustainable Procurement Is Not Just a Job – It’s a Responsibility

Organizations practicing sustainable procurement meet their needs for goods, services and utilities using not only a private cost–benefit analysis, but with the intention of maximizing net benefits for themselves and the wider world. Sustainable procurement ensures that purchasing reflects broader goals linked to resource efficiency, climate change, social responsibility, and economic resilience.

Operating with this mindset involves a higher degree of collaboration and engagement between all parties in a supply chain and requires innovative ways of thinking. Many businesses that have adopted a broad interpretation of sustainable procurement have developed tools and techniques to support this engagement and collaboration.

Those of us who are passionate about creating sustainable supply chains view leaving the world a better place than we found it for future generations through the work we do our responsibility. It is also motivating and professionally enriching. Adding sustainability to your procurement agenda is not about looking good, it’s about doing good.

For those who are not as steeped in sustainability, however, adding this list of considerations to the procurement decision-making process can seem daunting. For tips on how you can get started with sustainability and turn every day into Earth Day, tune in here to our four-part WNS Denali Pro-Tip series on sustainability and learn from leading industry experts including Bayer CPO Thomas Udesen; University of Pittsburgh Professor CB Bhattacharya; Tealbook CEO Stephany Lapierre; and WNS Denali Procurement Solutions Group Manager Vaishali Baid. You will certainly walk away inspired and ready to become a sustainability-focused procurement professional!


About the Author

Dolores Lionettii
Vice President, Procurement Services

Dolores Lionettii "Dolores Lionetti is Vice President of Procurement Services with a focus on Business Development for the EMEA region at WNS-Denali. Dolores comes with more than two decades of experience across multiple roles, in leadership, operations and business development in Business Process Outsourcing, ITO with a special focus on Banking Services, Finance and Accounting, Source-to-Pay Services and technology solutions.
Dolores is passionate about working with clients, understanding their true needs, driving impactful customer relationships, co-creating solutions and achieving business outcomes together. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Marketing, German and French from the University of Salford, Manchester, UK. Dolores is Italian, has also lived and worked in the UK, France, Switzerland, resides in Germany and outside of work she enjoys exploring the world with her family."

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