Publications & Thought Leadership

October 2011

Sustainable Purchasing Practices Global Scan

Posted in Implementation and Integration

To help organizations better understand emergent sustainable purchasing practices Coro shares her Sustainable Purchasing Practices Global Scan, research which she conducted for a client. The Sustainable Purchasing Practices Global Scan reviews the sustainable purchasing practices of 17 companies from around the world.

Sustainable purchasing practices are a key driver of sustainability in the economy. It is through the supply chain that buyers signal their commitment to fostering social well-being, economic prosperity and a healthy environment, thereby incentivizing continuous improvement in supplier sustainability performance. With sustainable purchasing goals, policies and tools buyers are also better able to manage the social and environmental risks inherent in their supply chain and pursue innovation and efficiency objectives for their organization.

The integration of social and environmental considerations in the procurement process is a relatively new phenomenon. Over the past few years as more and more organizations adopt a sustainability or corporate social responsibility (CSR) commitment, they begin to embed their sustainability values into their purchasing models as a key means by which they can “walk their talk”.

The Sustainable Purchasing Practices Global Scan concludes that sustainable purchasing is a priority activity of many companies. Companies are developing robust programs that integrate sustainability factors into the traditional procurement process, through the use of sustainability criteria, terms and conditions, codes of conduct, monitoring and compliance programs, and supplier education and engagement.

In addition to “screening” factors (screening in / out on the basis of preferred sustainability criteria), many companies are collaborating with suppliers on continuous improvement.

The scan found that sustainable purchasing efforts are focused on two considerations:

  • the degree to which the vendor manages its operations sustainably, including excess packaging, product take-back, and transportation emissions; and
  • the sustainability features of the products and services to be sourced.

In order to simplify and focus the sustainable purchasing effort, companies prioritize key product categories (such as office supplies) or key suppliers (e.g large volume suppliers) for more in-depth work.

Many of the companies were involved in peer-based collaborations within their industry and across sectors to advance their sustainable purchasing practices.

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