Beyond Procurement: Sustainability as a Way to Engage and Retain Talent

April 30, 2019 Dave McClintock

sustainable energy

The current labor market is tight, with many countries seeing the lowest unemployment rates in decades. The U.S. and U.K. have rates staying around 4 percent, and the European Union overall saw 6.5 percent unemployment in January of this year. Given the market conditions, the race to recruit and retain top talent is competitive to say the least, and procurement and supply chain management teams are feeling the pressure — not only to hire for their own teams, but for their organizations as a whole.

Of course compensation, professional development and job security rank high on any applicant’s list of priorities, but there is a new attribute that is motivating potential candidates — an organization’s sustainability initiatives.

Much like the consumer trend of wanting to understand where their products come from and if they are responsibly made, people are questioning their jobs and want to know how their roles and their companies are impacting the world. In fact, the chief procurement officer of a Global 500 food company recently mentioned to me that “the No. 1 question I get in interviews with young graduates is: ‘Why is your Responsible Sourcing program better than your competitors X & Y in the food sector?’ ”

At EcoVadis’ annual Sustain conference in April, Conception Ribaud, Head of Procurement at MTR CrossRail, and Olivier Vairon, Head of Integrated Supply Chain at Anglian Water, spoke in depth about the HR issues facing procurement teams.

How Do You Win the Right Talent?

When it comes to hiring, Ms. Ribaud noted that procurement teams are facing a changing dynamic, saying, “We are not recruiting people, they are recruiting us.” Actively communicating the organization’s values, sustainability initiatives and the hands-on contribution of a potential hire is critically important to winning the right talent that will drive results.

Also, showing that sustainability is part of the culture is enormously important, and confirming a match between the company and candidate on the value of sustainability is key. Generally, the procurement industry needs to do more to promote what they do and the value they bring — not just to impact positive change within their organizations and global supply chains, but to attract the right talent and develop future procurement and supply chain management leaders.

How Do You Keep Your Talent Motivated?

Procurement’s work is not over with a signed offer letter and completed on-boarding — it is really only beginning. To get the most out of talent resources, coaching and mentoring is paramount, along with creating an environment where people learn from each other.

Vairon also noted that leadership needs to guide their teams, knowing that a “one size fits all” approach doesn’t work in procurement when it comes to hiring, retaining and incentivizing staff.

Given the diversity of generations working together and the differences in approach and values, managers require a deeper level of knowledge of staff and what personally motivates them. This includes creating customized development plans that align to procurement’s goals and that stay true to the sustainability values and initiatives that attracted talent at the start.

Why Hire Candidates who Prioritize Sustainability?

Similarly aligned to the broader value of sustainability initiatives, having talent that cares about and prioritizes sustainability is important to overall supply chain resilience, risk mitigation, and cost and quality control.

According to Ms. Ribaud and Mr. Vairon, these candidates’ long-term mindset is more aligned with changing the industry for the better and foreseeing the downstream impact of resource availability and issues.

Overall, no one is arguing with the value of supply chain sustainability, but achieving success in this area requires personal commitments and drive. Organizations who give their people the skills and training to embrace the issues and improve will be the ones who ignite change for their companies, employees and the world.


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