Sustainability is on the mainstream agenda of both private and public organisations recognising sustainable procurement as a good practice. It inevitably drives the delivery of improved economic, environmental and social outcomes.
It further underpins the achievement of cost effectiveness with capacity to generate value for money and gaining efficiencies internally and across supply chain partners.
This is only achieved if sustainable procurement is integrated throughout the procurement decision-making process.
It immediately sends a clear signal to suppliers with respect to the requirements to meet the highest standards of sustainable procurement.
Integrating sustainability in procurement decision-making implies that organisations apply whole life costing approach to procurement, dumping the traditional practice of selecting solutions on the basis of the purchase price alone.
Purchasing and supply professionals can achieve sustainable procurement if they engage and collaborate with all stakeholders internally and outside the organisation for effective solutions.
Internal stakeholders include user departments, finance and sales and marketing. External stakeholders include upstream and downstream supply chain partners.
This achieves a truly holistic perspective of considering the environment, economic and social aspects of sustainability.
Technical issues such as demand management and specifications optimisation will be paramount to effective sustainable procurement outcomes, achieving value for money.
Sustainable procurement becomes priority when setting policy to ensure necessary issues are brought to the fore.
This is in consideration of the requirements of the various Climate Change Bills that gave statutory force to governments that target to reduce emissions at a gradual base.
The policy on procurement does not need to be in isolation. It must fit into the overall policy of the organisation in both public and private sectors.
It further must fit with the existing sourcing governance and policy structures. It has to be formulated in collaboration with other key disciplines within the organisation. It must, therefore, be aligned with the sustainable policy as a whole.
In order to achieve this requirement, the policy must be robust and meaningful. It must stand up for scrutiny from a wide range of interested parties and must take into account their particular needs, including view points and contributions.
Ownership of a sustainable procurement policy becomes a vital criterion for success.
A sustainable procurement policy that sits outside the overall sustainability policy of the organisation and outside the main sourcing governance structures inevitably create unwanted contradictions and tension.
For the policy to be effective, it must convey a strong, clear message to suppliers and contractors about what the organisation seeks and expects from them.
This is only achieved if the organisations are encouraging supply chain management professionals to embrace the highest standard of governance and transparency and being governed by a relevant code of ethics such as the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply Code of Ethics and other international conventions such as the International Labour Organisation.
Training of the professionals becomes a priority to ensure they are upgraded and developed to master the art and science of responsible sustainable procurement.
In addition to the requirement to recognise the staff employed in procurement, organisations need to accept that procurement is central to the delivery of organisational corporate commitment on sustainability at an operational level due to its contribution and involvement in acquisition of goods and services necessary for organisational activities.
Nyasha Chizu is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply writing in his personal capacity. Feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org Skype: Nyasha.chizu