Procurement should reframe sustainability conversations ‘beyond cost’

Sustainability conversations need to focus on how procurement can increase value rather than reduce cost, said speakers at the World Sustainable Procurement Day.

Despite price rises and market uncertainty contributing to concern over the viability of sustainable packaging in products, attendees of the World Sustainable Procurement Day were told procurement should “reframe the question” of cost.

Packaging manufacturer Klöckner Pentaplast vice-president of sustainability, Yui Kamikawa, said: “The cost question needs to revolve around value rather than absolute price.”

He said procurement should think about collaborating more, and how it can establish a better dialogue around what value-adding projects could cut across the commoditisation of packaging. 

“Ask yourself 'what is value to me?', he added. “Market uncertainty over the last year and a half has been more of a hindrance than cost itself. Recycled materials are actually much, much cheaper. So, I would consider whether you are positioned to take advantage of what the markets are doing. 

“I would also ask what is it that we can do together to drive value across the value chain that ultimately might help bring down cost?”

Kamikawa said packaging companies are uniquely positioned in the global value chain to enable greater circularity, and procurement should actively engage and partner with customers, suppliers and logistics partners to improve sustainability initiatives and credentials. This would, he said, enable them to better respond to customer demand.

Tetra Pak senior sustainability specialist Francisco Ballas agreed that attempts to improve sustainability would be impacted by everything from pricing, to regulatory frameworks, investor expectations, and customer needs and shared three considerations for  procurement professionals.

Ballas said in the first instance, teams should secure internal alignment to ensure new initiatives connect with the organsation's working practices.

They should puruse progress on sustainability as soon as possible, adding that it is always possible to adjust direction while inaction is “not an option any longer”.

Finally, that teams should work closely with their organisation’s supplier managers, as these people make a “huge difference in making the sustainable transformation a reality”.

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