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Four Easy Ways to Shape a Sustainable World with your Suppliers

At a previous User Conference, our General Manager, Shane McInnes did a presentation on the role of procurement professionals and their suppliers in shaping a more sustainable, ethical world – and stronger supply chains.

Here are four key takeaways:

Supplier non-compliance is not necessarily driven by a bald-faced refusal to adhere to sustainability.

In some industries and locales, the cost of implementing sustainability practices is exorbitant. When we combine these heady costs with long hours, double shifts, and pressure to deliver to tight timeframes in fear of losing work, the driving forces behind supplier non-compliance become starkly illuminated. This is less about refusing to do the right thing, and more about non-existent training, minimal communication, and slim resources all but encouraging suppliers to remain ignorant.

When we traverse further down into our supply chains, towards lower-tier suppliers, our visibility is blurry at best. Directly influencing these suppliers becomes impossible – especially if we have no contracts with them.

Educating your top-tier suppliers to influence their suppliers is vital.

This is where we introduce the importance of directly influencing your top-tier suppliers. They are the key to influencing their suppliers; the suppliers we cannot see. By showing our top-tier suppliers how easy and beneficial practicing sustainability can be, we will pay our knowledge forward, and create a positive feedback loop. Be consistent across your suppliers and with industry standards where possible. Commonality, after all, increases compliance.  Encourage them to join industry associations that champion these policies.

Encouragement is the key word here. Encourage your suppliers to practice sustainability by training them in your organisation’s sustainability practices. Encourage them to involve their suppliers in these training programmes.

Don’t merely encourage, however.

Lead by example.

You can’t encourage involvement in sustainability initiatives if your organisation has none. Train your staff in sustainability regularly and provide incentives. Sustainability is a hot-topic in the business world right now – for good reason. There are plenty of resources and training schemes available that will align nicely with your organisation’s ethos and requirements. Make sustainability a priority in your organisation, so you can lead by example. Remember: commonality increases compliance.

Implementing sustainability across the board isn’t easy. But as procurement professionals, we can make a difference.

Influencing your suppliers to the point that they wholeheartedly commit to elevating their sustainable practices will not happen overnight.

Making a difference involves plenty of small steps. Building a valuable supplier network using a quality verification service – one that maintains the validity of supplier data on an ongoing basis, requiring no legwork from you or your supplier – is one of them. If your network houses easy-to-use sustainability and modern slavery questionnaires that your suppliers can take on the spot, without having to use an external platform, even better. If they can knock off a few of these small steps without using up any extra time or energy, they’ve already made a small difference.

Let’s commit to educating our top-tier suppliers and including lower-tier suppliers in the conversation. Let’s walk the walk by developing, maintaining, and promoting our own sustainability initiatives and quality, user-friendly supplier network. By taking these small steps together, shaping a sustainable world doesn’t feel so impossible after all.