Grasp the sustainability nettle

7 January 2013
With 2012 firmly drawn to a close, most procurement professionals will breathe a sigh of relief. It has been a tough year, full of economic uncertainty.

On the plus side, none of the doom scenarios such as the collapse of the euro have played out, but on the negative side the OECD recently slashed its global growth forecast to 2.9 per cent in 2012. This, coupled with growing public sector debt, has presents a host of challenges.

So should we all be excited about a new dawn in 2013? The short answer is no. The OECD is only forecasting growth of 3.4 per cent for 2013, with many of the underlying causes unchanged. While the US will no doubt find a solution to the ‘fiscal cliff’, there is no obvious source of economic growth. It is likely that we will be facing more of the same - a need for savings and an increasingly precarious supply base. However, what is exciting about 2013 for the procurement professional is the sustainability agenda. A recent report, Green game-changers published by the World Wide Fund for Nature - which is well worth a read - predicts that sustainability initiatives are likely to be taken to the next level this year in both the private and public sectors. More companies are now publishing ambitious and specific targets and working together on specific goals. The Consumer Goods Forum, a group of more than 400 companies, is working to targets of zero deforestation throughout the supply chain by 2020 and phasing out HFC refrigerants by 2015. It will be exciting to see more plans like this in 2013 to stimulate further debate about what best enhances our corporate responsibility. Delivering competitive advantage from sustainability is based upon taking a longer-term view founded on value generation. The key questions to consider are:
  • How could product or service innovation drive sustainability, and where can this be found in the supply chain?
  • How can customer requirements be best understood?
  • How can I collaborate to develop an industry-wide commitment/target?
Procurement has a huge opportunity to drive the sustainability agenda. It is a challenge we should grasp as part of our journey from the back office to part of a company’s leadership team. We may look back upon 2013 as having been the seminal moment. ☛ Tom Woodham is director of Crimson & Co
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