Tuesday, 5 March 2013

What is Sustainable Procurement? Part 2 - The Readers' Response

Authored by Fayaz Haq
Last week I circulated a blog post where I asked the question ‘What is Sustainable Procurement?’ The topic seemed to be very popular and a number of you provided great feedback by sharing your thoughts and views on Sustainable Procurement.

The common view was that in general, products that are kinder to the environment are more expensive and that the majority of governments will have sustainability built into their procurement policy but it is up to individuals and key budget holders as to whether or not policy is upheld, and at what financial cost. One individual stated:

“To avoid the whole cost vs. environmental impact issue many focus on social issues such as selecting the winning contractor on how many apprentices it has employed and trained. There are so many factors that can be built into an evaluation matrix... Each contract is unique and in order to extract the greatest amount of socioeconomic benefit each contract needs to be examined closely”

You are bang on with your observations, it is the often the case that people developing strategy and frameworks are not the ones responsible to implement and manage policy and budgets. However when people are educated and engaged, clear KPI's are established, and performance is measured against these KPI's, then change generally comes quite easily. Let me share a story from a leading public sector organisation I had the opportunity to work with.

The corporation's board of directors issued a directive to complete a baseline environmental audit and develop and implement a social responsibility framework that focused on four areas of paper, energy consumption, water consumption and carbon emissions through transportation.

All employees were educated and empowered to challenge status-quo on areas that they had the greatest influence and impact by asking 3 simple questions:

1. What can I eliminate?
2. Is there an A over B option at the same cost that is more eco-friendly?
3. What’s the end-of-life plan?

Additionally performance objectives were aligned to their year-end performance rating. A few outcomes related to operational efficiency are summarised below:

> Employees were encouraged to work electronically to reduce printing and copying.

> A power down policy was rolled out across all facilities where employees were encouraged to shut down their workstations and turn off the lights if they were the last ones to leave their work area which resulted in a reduction in energy consumption.

> Procurement worked with the contracted vendor for offices supplies, toner and consumables to come up with a solution to eliminate corrugate packaging from shipments delivered at all of the corporations facilities.

> To reduce carbon emissions, video conferencing equipment was introduced which resulted in a reduction in the travel requirement between sites.

Taking all this into account, the lessons learned other than the benefits realised from this initiative were:

1. Change does not happen overnight

2. Link your environmental efforts to tangible business outcomes (i.e. cost savings, gained efficiencies, etc.)

3. Commitment needs to be authentic and built from within –create employee buy-in.

4. Company “readiness” is a factor that influences success

5. What gets measured, gets done (i.e. the Corporation issues an annual online CSR Accountability Report on their website which clearly identifies progress made against targets established)

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