Where next on sustainability?

18 March 2013
More and more CPOs are being asked to lead the sustainability agenda by their board. This is not always wanted, but as soon as supply chains are raised, the natural home is with the CPO. Consumer behaviour, societal pressures and enlightened employees means corporate social responsibility (CSR) is rising back up the agenda, but what are the next steps you should take on behalf of your organisation? This is a theme raised with me by CPOs from different industries in recent months and it is clear that many are grappling with the same question of what to do next. First, you need to determine the ‘as is’ position for your organisation. Where do you stand?
  • Laggard. No clarity about business impact of CSR issues within the supply chain. Organisations should identify potential risks and issues with a cross-functional team and draft policy for the senior management team to review.
  • Early adopter. Significant CSR issues in the supply chain have been identified. There is board-level buy-in, a policy in place and primary activities have been initiated internally. Further progress should include the implementation of CSR projects on operational levels and development of a communication plan to cascade importance throughout the business and board-level ownership (beyond awareness).
  • Exemplar. The sustainable supply chain has been embedded within strategy and day-to-day activity. Ownership and accountability is clear throughout the organisation. Cross-functional teams are fully established. Further actions should be to implement management systems and dashboards to include supply chain and CSR; introduce management systems to proactively review potential issues; and ensure staff are rewarded for success.
Today, companies have to choose whether to start on the path of sustainability or to maintain the more traditional route. Changing consumer behaviour, political pressure and evolving investor expectations will only increase the pressure on organisations to review their sustainability model. Key thoughts for discussion at your next CSR roundtable.
  1. This is a complex issue that will require innovative and creative solutions. How can technology enable change?
  2. Can old dogs be taught new tricks? We can’t expect the old dogs to change overnight (if at all). Where will you find the new thinking required?
  3. Cross-functional effort is required to drive the change agenda. This is not just a procurement activity.
  4. Buy in from senior management is key to success and they must help create the cultural environment to change. Is your CEO a believer?
Matt Denham is general manager at Xchanging Procurement Services and currently researching for a doctorate in sustainability
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