Sustainable procurement practices are increasingly becoming top business agendas. Customers are demanding that organisations source goods and services that are socially and environmentally responsible. The question however for many companies is- where to start?
On June 14th, Carbon Smart’s supply chain team was invited by Fit for the Future Network to share expertise at the Sustainable Procurement Event at The Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester.
We were delighted to welcome more than 20 practitioners from a range of organisations, eager to kick-start or boost their sustainable procurement journey. The day was full of engaging discussions and was split into two workshops on supplier engagement and sustainable packaging- two fundamental topics in the area of sustainable procurement.
The aim was to run an interactive workshop and to facilitate dialogue between organisations around challenges and best practices in responsible purchasing. We touched on various topics at the event from supplier relations to best strategy. Following points outline the key takeaways from the event:
Sustainable procurement best practices
The most significant impacts typically lie in a company’s supply chain
Ben Murray, Managing Director at Carbon Smart, kicked-off the day by highlighting a range of issues that are climbing the sustainability agenda; from emissions and deforestation, to packaging and labour rights.
The main takeaway: many businesses target impacts within their direct operations but emissions within a supply chain are on average four times higher.
Likewise, social impacts usually extend far beyond a company’s four walls. As such, reviewing your purchasing decisions can significantly change the type of social and environmental impacts created down your supply chain.
Targeting your top 10 to 20 suppliers is not necessarily the best strategy
Large suppliers often have the resources and targets in place to act on key sustainability issues. The larger the influence of the supplier, the more pressure for them to manage social and environmental risks. On the contrary, more significant risks can lie with smaller and less transparent suppliers.
Sourcing less from organisations that lack the resources to address sustainability issues (e.g. labour conditions) may be riskier than spending more on a supplier that has established management systems in place.
By first establishing the environmental and social themes that matter most to both your company’s internal and external stakeholders, you can then identify areas of the supply chain where material issues are least likely to be addressed.
Leverage the supplier relationships where you have the most influence
Engaging with suppliers is key to sustainable procurement. Understanding the power dynamics with your suppliers can lead to more effective engagement strategies on key issues. Where buyer power can be leveraged, you may be able to impose standards, performance metrics or a code of conduct for your business.
Spotlight on packaging
Different types of packaging have different environmental impacts across the value chain
For many businesses, packaging is a great place to start their sustainable procurement journey. Recently, the world has turned its back to plastic waste. Companies are now considering the environmental advantages of different packaging materials, with many considering the benefits of biodegradable plastics. Other companies are weighing up the benefits of paper- versus plastic-based packaging.
Paper is made from a renewable resource, widely recycled and less harmful to marine life. Yet, it is also more energy intensive to produce and releases a hundred times more CO2 emissions when sent to landfill.
Identify and addressing such complex issues can be a significant challenge for many organisations.
To learn more about conventional, bio-based, biodegradable and compostable plastics, read our blog on ‘Debunking the Compostable Myth’.
When considering changes to your packaging, review impacts across the value chain
Finding the right solutions to each packaging challenge requires organisations to review all aspects of packaging; from raw material sourcing to disposal. To help attendees begin to consider these impacts, Jessica Cresswell, Senior Consultant in Responsible Supply Chains, presented Carbon Smart’s four pillars to sustainable procurement:
- Source reduction: review how you can reduce the amount of packaging used or phase-out single-use plastics completely
- Recycled content: introducing recycled content in your packaging is a simple way to reduce the number of virgin materials used whilst minimising your environmental impact
- Recyclability and materials use: design and product packaging that can be easily recycled by your customers
- Boosting materials recycling: support your staff, customers and communities to recycle more
Considering these four pillars can help you undertake systematic packaging reviews towards more targeted and effective solutions.
Need help addressing your packaging challenge? Get in touch our in-house supply chain experts for a comprehensive review.