Firms act on global crisis

Top procurement teams tackle climate change against backdrop of international summit

Forward-thinking procurement professionals should be considering issues such as inclusivity and the environment as climate change claims headlines around the world.

The UN Climate Change Summit in New York in September focused minds on the challenge with firms including Google, Nike and Amazon taking the opportunity to make major announcements.

Google made the world’s largest corporate procurement of renewable energy, while Nike opened a new distribution centre that operates on 100% renewables.

Paul Alexander, who is leaving his post as head of indirect procurement, EMEA, at BP to become a teaching fellow at the University of Portsmouth, told SM: “A good procurement strategy and capable team will be thinking about diversity and inclusivity, and they will very much be thinking about the carbon challenge.

“I’ve read about people saying, ‘Our initiative was so successful we decided to have a meeting’. Well, things have moved on and now it’s about actually doing something about it, and shame on us if we don’t fix it.”

Google has secured 18 wind and solar deals to produce 1,600 megawatts of renewable energy for its facilities around the world. Terms dictate the energy has to come from yet-to-be constructed facilities.

The company says its carbon-free energy portfolio will produce more electricity than entire countries, such as Lithuania or Uruguay, use in a year.

Nike’s new 1.5m sq ft warehouse in Belgium was built to reduce material use and waste. Technology consolidates orders and enables digital shipments, while transport infrastructure will eliminate around 14,000 truck journeys each year.

Amazon boss Jeff Bezos said the company would become carbon neutral in 2040, 10 years ahead of the Paris Agreement target. However, his announcement came as thousands of Amazon employees in Seattle walked out as part of global climate strikes, while Greenpeace called for Bezos to spell out exactly how the company would stop using fossil fuels.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF) said a new approach to manufacturing was required to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. This was because renewable energy could only account for a 55% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

A circular economy approach to the design, production and use of products could make up half the 45% shortfall, while emerging technologies, carbon capture and food sector changes would be needed to go further, said the EMF.

During the summit, a coalition of 60 corporations and shipping firms, including Cargill, Maersk and Shell, also committed to developing zero-emission vessels by 2030. But the scale of the challenge was made clear in a study by Arabesque S-Ray which found more than a third (39%) of the world’s 200 largest companies do not disclose emissions.

Referring to a quote by HG Wells, Alexander added: “Civilisation is a race between education and catastrophe – that was never truer.”

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