New operating frameworks could address shipping's vulnerability to global supply disruption © Photo by Chris Gorman/Getty Images
New operating frameworks could address shipping's vulnerability to global supply disruption © Photo by Chris Gorman/Getty Images

Is your sustainability strategy a victim of 'active inertia'?

18 May 2022

Procurement teams must avoid becoming victims of “active inertia” – getting stuck in ways of working out of habit – or they risk falling behind on sustainability goals.

John Glen, visiting fellow at Cranfield School of Management and CIPS economist, said “procurement and supply chain teams can be real game changers" on climate change – as long as they remain active to the challenges at hand.

Speaking at the CIPS Sustainability Procurement Summit, Glen said tackling sustainability issues requires a “change in mindset in terms of how we think about strategy”.

He warned procurement teams against becoming victims of “active inertia”, when companies repeat established operating models, rather than reviewing frameworks in light of new challenges.

Glen explained: “The way in which we think about the world strategically does not always evolve to meet the challenge that is in front of us, and our strategic frameworks are not appropriate for sustainability challenges. 

“Going into the operational context, the processes and systems that have brought us success in the past and that we are comfortable with, risk becoming routines that we do not want to question. And that is something that we have to do, if we're going to address the sustainability agenda. 

“The relationships that we have inside organisations and with third parties risk becoming shackles that don't allow us to do what it is that we need to do. Some of those relationships need to evolve. Some of those need to be broken, and we need to move on to new relationships.” 

He warned values must not simply become “dogmas that we do not question”, and procurement teams must actively work with the business to use supply chains to meet ESG goals.

Glen said: “Procurement has to be embedded in the strategy of the organisation. Procurement has to be involved in the strategic conversation early on if these things are going to be addressed. It is not about bringing procurement supply chain professionals into the conversation after the strategy and organisational development, otherwise our ability to act on these leaders is clearly limited.”

He advised CPOs who are facing resistance from stakeholders to start small and demonstrate the benefits to the wider business.

“What you have to work on are people's hearts and minds and embed values inside your organisation, which are aligned with the sustainability agenda. That's a long game. That's not a game that's going to be won overnight. When it comes to values and getting people to change to where you want them to be, you have to be really clear about answering the question of what's in it for me,” he said.

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