Where sustainability and commerce meet - Supply Management

Where sustainability and commerce meet

26 January 2011
I recently helped run a sustainability workshop for senior directors of a large company. In his opening speech the commercial director listed tenders the company had lost in the past year as a result of poor sustainability submissions. So it seems real competition is emerging around sustainability. I also have a role to provide assurance over sustainability for the London Olympics. It could be said the Corinthian spirit sold her soul many years ago – amateur elite sport has not existed for 30 years or more and now the Olympics are all about big money and sponsorship. And how can the event be sustainable if it is all about money? The structure of London 2012 reinforces this. The organisation responsible for staging the event, LOCOG, is a government-owned private company required to raise all of the £2 billion needed from private sources; mostly ticket sales, sponsorship and concessions. Everything is for sale. Companies are invited to pay cash, provide services for free, or both in return for various levels of brand recognition to a global TV audience. Doubters question how such a hard-headed commercial environment could possibly deliver sustainable outcomes. Actually, LOCOG’s procurement and commercial team are doing rather well. This starts to demonstrate that naked capitalism and sustainability are not mutually exclusive and that profitable and sustainable solutions are there to be had for smart companies. LOCOG has worked hard, ever since the bid, to make sustainability an integral part of the London 2012 brand, the appointment of our independent commission helps to reinforce this commitment. To be associated with such a brand is attractive to sponsors who want to develop their green credentials and offer high levels of sustainability. This starts to create a virtuous cycle of sustainability between partners and gives rise to some amazing deals. A great example of this would be the relationship with Adidas. It is the sportswear sponsor for the Games and has a great track record in sustainable supply. It is attracted to the sustainable proposition of the event and has now decided to increase its involvement to become apparel sponsor as well. This reduces LOCOG’s risk of poor labour standards in the supply chain. It has also inspired Adidas to invest in outdoor gyms (known as “Adizones” in poor communities in east London. Another example is the offer of low-emission cars from BMW and the provision of adapted cars for disabled drivers for the first time in Olympic history. As a result of association with a sustainable London 2012, BT is carbon footprinting its contribution to communications infrastructure and services with a view to creating a new standard for the communications industry to identify and reduce its operational and embodied carbon emissions. This is ground-breaking work inspired by the Games and could lead to massive carbon (and cost) savings in this industry sector. It shows good procurement can act as the catalyst for sustainable development and procurement/commercial teams can act as gatekeepers for sustainability.
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