From tiny acorns…

28 March 2011
Thanks to those of you who came along to our sustainable procurement conference on 10 February (You can see Supply Management’s video blog from the event by clicking here). Although I have given many public presentations, this was the first time Action Sustainability had promoted and organised its own conference. The event exceeded all my expectations in terms of quality of its content and the number of people who came along. The majority said they would come back next year if we arrange another event – which we will. The day started with a stunning keynote presentation from my friend Peter Head, global chair of planning for Arup. Peter has a fantastic view of sustainable development and a way of making it simple for us mere mortals. I always think his understated presentation style is the opposite of my own “victory of style over substance”. If you were not there on the day, you can watch an interview with him here. The day ended with an enthusiastic and enlightened keynote speech by Neil Sachdev, Sainsbury’s’ property director, who kindly donated their venue for the day. For the remainder of the plenary sessions, PowerPoint was banned and panels of excellent speakers were asked to engage with the audience in a discussion on key issues related to sustainability and sustainable procurement. We had some negative feedback about the amount of time allocated for each panel being too short. I agree, and we plan to have fewer panels and more time for deeper debates next time. Some of the debate was hard hitting and the procurement profession came in for some criticism. This was not popular with one of our delegates, who did not want to hear criticism of our profession. I cannot agree, so we will be losing at least one delegate next year. I plan to make next year’s event even more edgy, maybe by inviting some people from Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace to spice it up a bit. I believe sustainability represents a major opportunity for the procurement profession to increase its profile and contribution to businesses. But we won’t get there through the usual smug and self-congratulatory conferences I often attend. Constructive challenge from well-informed and influential people can only make us stronger.
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