Southern Africa must focus on sustainable sourcing

6 October 2010
6 October 2010 | Nick Martindale

Sustainable and socially responsible sourcing will become an increasingly important part of procurement in southern Africa in the coming years, a senior supply chain professional has warned.

Neels de Jager, country supply chain manager at power and automation technology company ABB South Africa, said purchasing professionals have a key role to play in ensuring improvements are made throughout a company’s entire supply chain.

“Companies have to re-align their vendor approval and evaluation strategies to include sustainability as a major priority, in order to manufacture products with the lowest possible carbon footprint,” he said.

Social and environmental responsibility is already the biggest criteria in ABB’s global supplier qualification programme, he added, while ABB South Africa hosts an annual event to bring together customers, suppliers and non-profit organisations to examine how sourcing and manufacturing processes can be made more sustainable.

Having such conversations can make suppliers aware that this is an important issue to buying companies, added de Jager. He gave the example of a photocopier manufacturer which recently approached the business to make it aware of its new low-carbon devices.

“We’re currently in a contract with them for three years but they’ve already made us aware that when we upgrade these are the machines that we can use to make our environment greener,” he said.

The company is also working closely with suppliers at its new headquarters in Longmeadow, near Modderfontein, Johannesburg, which incorporates many environmentally friendly features in its design.

“When we moved into our new facility we ensured that the sub-contractors we are using – for example, the cleaning company – are green businesses,” said de Jager.

“It doesn’t help if you have a green building which works with solar panels but you have a cleaning company which sprays aerosol cans, for example. That’s been built into our tendering process.”

ABB has offices in more than 100 countries and a strong presence throughout southern Africa, with bases in Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana and Angola.

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