When you buy goods and services, what matters most? Is it just quality, cost and availability or do you consider societal and environmental impacts too? Read on to learn more about sustainable procurement and how to improve it.
According to this report produced for the U.K. Government, ‘Sustainable Procurement is a process whereby organisations meet their needs for goods, services, works and utilities in a way that achieves value for money on a whole life basis in terms of generating benefits not only to the organisation, but also to society and the economy, whilst minimising damage to the environment’
Does that sound like the approach your organisation has to buying?
Or are you primarily concerned with what your purchases cost, whether they’re up to the job and whether or not they can be supplied on time, when you need them?
If you’re focused on cost, quality and availability, then you’re missing out on a host of other business benefits which, according to the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply, include:
Minimising business risk;
Providing cost savings;
Enhancing corporate image;
Securing the supply of goods and services;
Reducing waste; and
Improving resource efficiency.
A 6 point plan for sustainable procurement
So if you’re not already buying sustainably, how can you fix that? Easy – with this 6 point plan!
1. Commit to sustainable procurement and set some goals. Numerous studies show that when we commit to goals in writing, we are significantly more likely to achieve them. So start by thinking about what you want to achieve and set some goals.
2. Set the tone by creating a written sustainable procurement policy. This is your statement of intent and can be used to communicate your ambitions to colleagues and external stakeholders, showing everyone that you’re serious. Be sure to link your policy to your stated goals.
3. Embed sustainable procurement in your purchasing process with a written procedure. By following the same steps every time a purchase is made, you’ll be able to ensure that purchasing decisions are always aligned with your sustainable procurement policy and goals.
4. Achieve even more by buying from sustainable suppliers. The economic, social and environmental benefits of sustainable procurement are amplified when entire supply chains are mobilised to do more. You can encourage this by selecting suppliers that share your goals.
5. Audit adherence to your sustainable procurement processes. As with any written management system, it’s important to periodically check and make sure everyone is doing what you expect of them.
6. Report your progress. If you’re making good progress towards your sustainable procurement goals, make sure you share that – firstly with colleagues, showing how it makes a material difference to your business, then with wider stakeholders. Then revise your goals upwards for next year and start over!
Example sustainable procurement policy
At about this point, it’s customary in blog posts like this to supply readers with an example policy document that they can adapt to suit their own purposes.
We’re going to break with tradition though (which is why they link you’ve just been clicking didn’t do anything) and here’s why: there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach to sustainable procurement, and so template policies aren’t much use.
Your specific circumstances are important and should be used to shape your goals and the policy and procedures that will deliver them.
If we hand out a template that everyone starts using and without variation, it would quickly become meaningless and completely undermine the benefits of sustainable procurement practices.
However, here’s an example of how to link a goal to a policy and then a procedure so that following the latter achieves the sustainable procurement outcomes you seek:
Goal: to source at least 20% of goods and services locally, cutting down on delivery miles, costs [economic], and associated carbon dioxide emissions [environmental], whilst helping to maintain local jobs [societal].
Policy: subject to cost, quality and availability, we will seek to prioritise supply chain companies within 30 miles of site for contracts to supply goods and services used by the business. We will measure our success every 3 months by reporting our %age spend according to postcode and adjust accordingly.
Procedure: when purchasing goods and services, add a weighting factor that levelises the costs across different quotations received such that local suppliers within 30 miles of site, and which are likely to be smaller, are able to compete on price with larger organisations from farther afield taking account of economic, environmental and social goals.
To help you, here’s a handy infographicÂ for you to download and keep.
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