Sustainable Purchasing and Supply Summit – 5 rules for Supplier Engagement

May 4, 2012 EcoVadis

EcoVadis’ was present at the Sustainable Purchasing and Supply Summit last week in London, UK. We addressed the audience of procurement professionals on five basic rules to follow in order to establish a winning sustainable procurement program, and to effectively engage suppliers into it.

1. Scope of engagement – implies leveraging international standards when assessing suppliers or carrying out audits. There is a wealth of information on sustainable development and procurement already out there, there is no need to duplicate! The Global Reporting Initiative, UN Global Compact and the new ISO 26000 standard are all there to help, and are the basis for the EcoVadis’ Supplier Assessment methodology. These should form the basis of any committed sustainable procurement program.

2. Internal adoption – provides buyers with easy to use and reliable ratings that they will actually use. A sustainable procurement program should be designed with buyers in mind, making their jobs easier.

3. Supplier adoption – providing value and rewards to ensure high adoption amongst suppliers. Suppliers must be helped to see value in sustainable procurement; sticks must be used with carrots to ensure effective uptake. Industry examples include making CSR 10% of an overall RFP evaluation.

4. Performance management – recognize that sustainability is a journey, not another compliance initiative. Integration takes time and is not a race, but a marathon. Whole management systems being re-hauled or introduced is time-heavy work.

5. Change management – communication, training and rewards are fundamentally important. The goals is ultimately continuous improvement for suppliers, not a one-off box-check, and communication, training and rolling out rewards are all necessary to see that happen.
In order to create an integrated sustainable procurement approach, he also raised some key mistakes to avoid. These include acknowledging that:
audits on only a handful of suppliers is not sufficient for a “world class CSR audit program”
supplier assessments go beyond simply asking about ISO 14001 certification achievement.
placing too much value on self-assessment questionnaires is risky because there is no verification
keeping audits in a drawer and not integrating them into a sustainable procurement program

The presentation ended with the emphasis that collaboration is essential for sustainable procurement success. Collaboration was a “common thread” running through the entire conference, and this speaks volumes about how far we still have to go to achieve a true sustainable procurement approach and to engage fully and effectively with suppliers.

This article was written by Maria Mursell, a CSR Analyst at EcoVadis.

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