Now is the time for buyers to take the lead on sustainability

Gurjit Degun
2 July 2014

Gurjit Degun © Akin Falope3 July 2014 | Gurjit Degun

Sustainability is clearly a “burning platform” for procurement professionals.

It was the topic of the CIPS Fellows Summer Dinner at the Design Museum in London on Tuesday evening, and gave delegates a strong sense of what they should be doing within their business.

Guest speaker Inder Poonaji, head of sustainability at Nestlé, explained businesses need to take a “whole system approach” if they want to be sustainable.

Poonaji used civil engineer Isambard Brunel’s way of thinking to explain this. He said: “Brunel wasn’t saying ‘what am I going to build?’. His question was ‘how do I get to New York?’.” Poonaji explained Brunel’s work links the journey from the west of the country to Paddington Station to the Great Western ship to sail to the US.

“So that was the kind of visionary thinking, and that’s what we need to do in sustainability. The future is about making sure that we can say ‘how do I get to New York?’ or ‘how will my company be sustainable in the future?’. That’s the thinking you need to bring in but you need to do it with a holistic approach.”

Another guest speaker, Martin Chilcott, founder and CEO of 2 Degrees Network, added sustainability is “an absolute tripwire if you don’t address it”. And design management consultant Ellis Pitt explained the importance of sustainability during the design process.

The debate around sustainability is a complex one but there is no doubt it is something that must be on every procurement professional’s agenda.

Chair of the CIPS Fellows Committee and director of client development at Lorien Resourcing, Shirley Cooper summed up Tuesday’s debate very well. “While there will be departments titled sustainability [within your company] there’s no reason why procurement can’t take a strong lead," she said. "It is our case for change, and it is a burning platform for us.”

So what should procurement professionals do to take the lead on sustainability? 

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