Bosses get behind sustainable procurement

4 August 2011

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4 August 2011 | Adam Leach

Senior management is taking a greater interest in what their buyers are doing to develop sustainable procurement, according to research.

Purchasers across Europe told a study published this week that bosses were now more supportive of such initiatives, as well as taking greater responsibility for projects by signing them off.

The Sustainableprocurement: Back to management report conducted by consultancy EcoVadis and French business school HEC, found more than a third (36 per cent) of senior purchasers had made significant progress in securing top-level management’s interest in sustainable buying.

The study, which surveyed 80 senior procurement officers across Europe, found 92 per cent believed their organisation considers sustainable buying to be an “important or critical” initiative. The three main motivations for this were improving risk management, cost reduction and value creation.

As a result, the number of purchasers who think it is still a challenge to get senior executives to agree to sustainable purchasing initiatives fell by five per cent to 12 per cent, when compared to the corresponding study from 2009. 

But while engagement from the very top of an organisation in sustainability is increasing, buyers said the momentum trickles away as you go further down the chain of authority. Senior purchasers highlighted a “reluctance” on the part of middle managers to implement these initiatives.

The growing importance of sustainable procurement was highlighted by the fact 56 per cent of buyers saw their budgets for sustainability projects increase, while just 8 per cent reported them being cut. Some 36 per cent said their budget in this area stayed the same.

However, purchasers indicated that short-term financial targets often overshadow the need to develop sustainable procurement. Some 44 per cent cited “contradictory objectives” as a major challenge, with only 11 per cent saying they had made progress.

The 2011 edition of the HEC-EcoVadis sustainable procurement report is the fifth study conducted since 2003.

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