The imperative to address sustainability issues is evident to all. Hopefully, you will have a clear edict from your leadership team, board members or equivalent.
It is now down to procurement teams to lead the charge on creating more responsible, ethical and sustainable supply chains that will continue to add value to their organisations, as well as minimise the impacts on the planet and its citizens. Easy, right?
The dial on sustainability has moved away from storytelling to a more authentic and increasingly science-based approach. It would be easy for us to set carbon neutral targets by 2050 safe in the knowledge we won’t be around to check whether they are realised. But perhaps what CPOs should focus more on is instilling a culture or mindset within their wider teams on how to ensure sustainable decision-making becomes second nature.
As leaders, we must be clear on what our values and ambitions are, and make sure everything we do reflects this. Walking the talk in all aspects of our professional and personal lives. Authentic leaders develop teams that are engaged, enthusiastic and motivated to meet their ambitions. So we need to make sure our teams feel their actions are making a difference towards solving global issues; that they are succeeding in helping to solve global issues by doing their part in alignment and collaboration with others.
Your purpose as a procurement team should be aligned to your business strategy, so setting the right tone at a strategic level is key. Putting ESG goals and targets on everyone’s agenda encourages active participation. It’s often procurement teams driving the change, but a clear purpose and culture sets an open path for those conversations and decisions to happen with our business partners. Universal performance targets on everyone, no matter how senior or junior they are, also helps to align thinking and actions.
Then how to make it stick?
Reflect on operating models, processes and roles. Is the way you operate conducive to embedding sustainable solutions? Do you give your teams the time to research and reflect on how things may be done differently? Are you extending this culture to your suppliers, and do they know that you are open to more innovative, sustainable solutions – that may sometimes cost you more, but align to your values and the requirements of your customers?
Measurement is also critical to making any transformation stick because if we can see the difference we are making, we are driven to do more. Setting credible SMART short and long-term goals will continue to motivate people to do the right thing. There is no one size fits all approach to sustainability, so make sure your commitments are aligned to your organisation and don’t be tempted to jump on a bandwagon, setting greenwashing targets which are too far removed from your starting position. There is nothing more demotivating than a goal that seems utterly unachievable. Realistic, reachable targets that are aligned to your core values and business strategies will more likely engender real commitment to permanent change.
The right people and skills
Having the right people with the right skills and competencies is the final part. Working across all roles, make sure you equip your teams with the skills to tackle these issues. We need analytical minds, inquisitive thinkers and expert relationship builders to bring suppliers and internal stakeholders on this journey. And don’t be afraid to celebrate and shout about your successes, to create some buzz and excitement about the difference you are making, and even highlight some friendly internal competition between teams to strive for more!
As leaders we must be cognizant that it is our role to not only set this agenda and embed an authentic culture that people are committed to following, but to facilitate personal growth in our talent pool. To give people the space to grow, make mistakes and learn from them. We are sitting on an opportunity of a lifetime to show business leaders just how much impact procurement can make in this space. Lets grab that chance right now.
Sustainable procurement summit
Finally, we hope many of you can join us at our inaugural Sustainable Procurement Summit on 17-18 May, in partnership with the Sustainable Procurement Pledge. We will bring procurement leaders together to collaborate, to share their insights and best practices and collectively go out and make our planet a better place for all. This is a critical agenda, one which the procurement and supply profession is uniquely well-placed to lead. Let’s take every opportunity to make our planet truly sustainable.