The need for sustainable business practices is just as urgent today as it was 10 or 20 years ago. Global carbon emissions rose at a greater rate between 2001 and 2010 than between 2011 and 2020. So why has sustainability become such an important topic in public discourse over the past few years?
Advances in technology made it easier to measure business impact on the environment. Consumers, led by Generation Z, are increasingly vocal about their preference for ethical consumerism. Businesses have responded by investing in ESG and sustainability initiatives, and key among them is sustainable sourcing and procurement.
What is sustainable sourcing and procurement?
In short, it’s a strategy for purchasing goods and services from suppliers who demonstrate a commitment to sustainability, ethical labor practices, and environmental protection.
This approach seeks to support an organization’s social responsibility goals while simultaneously ensuring profitability.
Sustainable procurement also helps to reduce environmental impacts by increasing the use of recycled materials. This explains the rise in businesses adopting circular supply chain practices.
Sourcing and procurement teams are in a unique position to lead their companies’ ESG efforts by adopting sustainable sourcing policies.
From leveraging supplier data to reducing environmental and carbon footprints, sourcing and procurement teams can help companies reach their sustainability goals.
Below, we explore 13 ways these teams can lead the ESG charge from within their organizations.
1. Leveraging Supplier Data to Assess Sustainability Performance
Aim to leverage supplier data to assess how your suppliers are performing in terms of sustainability. This can include tracking metrics such as waste production, water usage, and energy consumption.
This can help you identify potential areas for improvement while facilitating accurate ESG reporting.
2. Contracting Suppliers with Robust ESG Programs
As part of your sustainable sourcing strategy, you should ensure that your suppliers have established robust environmental, social, and governance (ESG) programs in place.
This will ensure that all suppliers are committed to reducing their environmental footprint and fostering positive workplace cultures. It is also important to select vendors who are willing to reinvest resources into their own ESG initiatives and infrastructure.
3. Driving Innovation with Sustainable Sourcing
Innovation is always a good thing, particularly now in the supply chain. By working with forward-thinking suppliers leveraging the latest technologies and processes, you can ensure the material used in the production process are environmentally friendly.
4. Collaborating with Suppliers for a More Sustainable Supply Chain
To achieve sustainability goals together, it is important to start an open dialogue with suppliers about sustainable practices within their operations.
Involving them early in decision-making will foster cooperation and help to introduce more sustainability-focused practices throughout the entire supply chain.
Engage stakeholders from every level of your supply chain and introduce sustainability programs through contractual agreements. This will help you avoid risk while simultaneously improving upon ESG performance.
5. Reducing Risk through Sustainable Supply Chain Management
Sustainable sourcing increases legal compliance when it comes to ESG initiatives. Environmental and labor standards and regulations are becoming stricter.
Forward-looking companies are pre-empting the risk of penalties or fines by proactively adopting sustainable procurement and sourcing policies today. You should consider following suit.
6. Encouraging Supplier Adoption of ESG Practices
One particularly effective method for boosting ESG impact is by guiding suppliers to adopt sustainable supply chain strategies, such as responsible waste management.
This is most easily done through long-term contracts and relationships with suppliers that share your company's vision and goals.
By using rewards programs, you can incentivize suppliers to adopt a sustainable mindset. As a result, you can guide them to transition to renewable energy sources or responsible waste management.
7. Improving Corporate Reputation
Your company's reputation with stakeholders, employees, and consumers is increasingly impacted by your ESG practices.
Consumers are increasingly aware of ethical issues in the marketplace, so engaging in sustainable practices can be an effective way to signal a commitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR).
Having credible third-party certifications to back up these claims is an even better way of showing dedication to sustainability.
8. Providing Visibility into Corporate Sustainability Goals
Companies need to provide transparency in their sustainability goals and objectives when it comes to sustainable sourcing and procurement activities.
An effective way to do this is by developing detailed reports about supplier performance against goals like reducing carbon emissions or water use.
This information can then be shared publicly through both internal and external channels to maintain a positive brand image.
9. Achieving Cost Savings through Sustainable Sourcing
One great benefit of sustainable sourcing is the potential for achieving cost savings along the entire supply chain.
For example, sourcing from local suppliers may yield lower transportation expenditures, or choosing organic materials can result in higher quality products with fewer environmental risks associated with them over time.
By evaluating inputs based on sustainability criteria like resource conservation or less packaging usage, businesses can reduce costs while remaining compliant with ecological standards by industry or government regulations.
10. Creating Brand Affinity and Customer Loyalty
Sustainable sourcing is an effective tool for creating stronger brand affinity and customer loyalty, as it demonstrates that your company puts sustainability at the forefront of its decision-making process.
The more your customers understand and appreciate the thought and care you put into sustainable sourcing, the more they’ll feel connected to, and loyal to, your brand.
11. Boosting Employee Engagement and Workplace Morale
Sourcing from more sustainable suppliers can have positive impacts on employee engagement and morale.
Your employees will be proud to be part of a company making a serious commitment to sustainability through its procurement decisions. This type of pride fuels commitment, passion, and proactive participation in the workplace.
12. Attracting Top Young Talent to Procurement
Sustainability is often seen as an integral part of employer branding for young professionals and job seekers.
By demonstrating your company’s dedication to sustainability through sustainable sourcing and procurement practices, you have a greater potential to appeal to younger generations looking for employers who share their values.
13. Preparing for Future Legislation & Reporting Requirements
Sustainable sourcing helps your company prepare for stricter environmental regulations or reporting requirements in the future.
You’ll inevitably need to report on the material aspects of ESG performance in the years ahead—and having already implemented sustainable sourcing policies will make this process much simpler and quicker when it comes time to do so.
Sourcing and procurement teams are well-positioned to drive ESG initiatives that create economic, environmental, and social benefits for companies and the communities they serve.
From leveraging supplier data to reducing environmental and carbon footprints, procurement can help companies reach their sustainability goals.
As younger consumers age, pressure on brands to adopt sustainability measures will certainly grow. Adopting sustainable procurement and sourcing practices is an effective and strategic way to future-proof your business.