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It’s All About the Chain, Gang: Procurement the Link to Sustainable Supply Chains

Date September 26, 2017 Author Lucy Robinson Categories News
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We are transitioning to a low-carbon, circular and inclusive economy. The latest arrival to the party is the procurement department — and none too soon, given the mammoth challenge ahead to make global supply chains sustainable and ethical. If you’re looking to fill your procurement cart with insights on tackling the challenges, read on for information about two tools and a city with a supply chain vision.

There is now an international standard to guide sustainable procurement: the ISO 20400 lays tracks for a sustainable economy. As a member of the Canadian technical committee that advised on the standard, I can confirm it is a robust, comprehensive – and highly ambitious – framework. Supply management teams should benchmark their own practices against this guidance.

Another handy sustainable supply chain tool is the Best Practice Framework for Sustainable Procurement. This tool profiles next-generation sustainable procurement practices such as Risk, Opportunity and Innovation; Supplier Engagement; and Buyer Collaboration as top strategies to proactively identify transition opportunities.

Both tools recognize that effective sustainable procurement goes beyond screening products for their sustainability attributes. It requires measures to incentivize a diverse and socially beneficial supply chain, and to engage suppliers in continuously improving their sustainability impacts. It is through measures such as this that companies such as Unilever and Nike seek to decouple their negative environmental impacts from their growth, while doubling their social benefits.

While the private sector is making sustainable procurement inroads, so is the public sector flexing its procurement muscle. Recently, the City of Mississauga, a large Canadian city that neighbours Toronto, adopted a Sustainable Procurement Policy and Plan modeled on these best-practice tools. Its new sustainable purchasing policy and plan leads the way in several areas. The City of Mississauga:

Commits to a visionary long-term ambition for its supply chain

Social, economic and environmental sustainability is fully embedded in our procurement practices. We have a diverse, inclusive and fairly-paid local supplier base which benefits from our collaborative approach, with new sustainable practices that create value for our suppliers and their customers. Our procurement is a catalyst for social and environmental innovation leading to a low-carbon, circular and inclusive economy.

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