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Towards a Sustainable Path: Words of Advice from the SPP Team

Do start NOW, even though the challenge seems daunting. There is not ONE perfect way to approach this ultra complex topic. Start experimenting, accept that you will not get it right immediately but don’t let your fear block progress. You are not alone and we are many who want to help.

Don’t accept the dogma that sustainability and costs are mutually exclusive. Keep looking for a way beyond the zero-sum mindset. Sustainability covers environmental, social and economic progress over the long-term. Don’t get caught with an exclusive focus on the financial results of the next quarter.

by Thomas Udesen

Do collaborate! Your suppliers don’t only supply you. By collaborating with other brands in your industry and finding a common approach to sustainable procurement, you can make life much easier for suppliers and also much easier for yourself as you’ll have more clout and more suppliers will be willing to participate in your initiatives.

Don’t just look backwards. Your targets and goals are in the future. If you’re always focused on past results, you won’t know if you’re going to hit your goals and you won’t see any problems or blockers until it’s too late. Ask suppliers not just what they’ve done, but what they’re planning to do.

Do focus and get started! Better to pick one category or one region of suppliers and start working with them, rather than waiting until you have built your perfect strategy and trying to engage your entire supply base at once. Breaking it down into bite sized chunks will make it feel more manageable, and you’ll get started quicker so you’ll make swifter progress and learn from your mistakes as you go along.

Don’t just collect data for data’s sake. It’ll frustrate suppliers if they think their effort is going into a black hole of information. You need to use the data to make change happen.

Do learn to adapt your message according to your audience. You might believe your sustainable procurement project is a fantastic idea, but if you can’t convince your procurement/sustainability/finance/senior management colleagues or your suppliers, it’ll never work. Think about what motivates each of these groups and individuals and adapt your message to make a rock solid business case.

Don’t just think about what you and your company needs. Find out what suppliers want and need. If you can get your approach to answer your needs and the needs of your suppliers then it’ll be mutually beneficial and you’ll find many more suppliers participate willingly and start to work with you, rather than against you.

Do understand your suppliers and their different needs. Some suppliers will be bigger and more mature than you, others will be right at the start of their sustainability journey. You’ll need to be flexible in your approach and understand that they will have different types of challenges and will want different levels of support from you. How can you tailor your approach to support these different maturities?

Don’t expect to be perfect at the start. It’s a journey. For you and for your suppliers. Learn from mistakes and use the learning to improve your initiatives. Don’t give up when things aren’t as easy or straightforward as you’d like them to be!

by Emily Prior

Do create Transparency. – What we measure we manage. What do we know about our suppliers? Look for existing sustainability ratings. Discuss the results within procurement. What do we learn from it? Which new question are coming up? Which areas are the ones to improve immediately? Create a team momentum, an environment of continuous learnings and improvement; join the SPP community to leverage learnings, drive your agenda and boost your personal and team sustainability impact.

Don’t wait. This is not the solution. – No time or no budget available? Include sustainability in the agenda of procurement team and supplier meetings. Ask suppliers for their agenda and initiatives of today and tomorrow. Reflect and decide with which suppliers you want to engage as a company. Invite suppliers to join company initiatives and strategies. Create an environment of best practices and learnings, tools to measure results along the sustainability agenda, sustainability factors integral part of procurement decisions.

by Bertrand Conquéret

Do communicate consistently, continuously, authentically and transparently! Step out from the pink noise level of all information in a daily working situation. It is essential to constantly feed the responsible sourcing topic and share it with your multipliers & stakeholders. Make them aware, take them along, address them in their role and responsibility and keep on going. Try to set awareness peaks by deep dive or (virtual) events to generate higher impact.

Don’t hide behind your desk – make some noise! Every small step counts and needs to be shared, celebrated and utilized as motivator to move forward. The Responsible Sourcing Journey is a marathon, not a sprint.

Sell the sizzle, not the meat! – Only raising the index finger and showing what is going badly carries the risk of important supporters being left behind. Therefore, find a good balance between drawing a picture of a bright future and ringing the alarm bell to get attention. A good mix is the ideal way!

Top-Down meets Bottom-up! Get the buy in, support and sponsorship from your top management while engaging with the sustainability evangelists in your organization. To lead the change, you ultimately need the support of all levels and a critical mass of at least 30% per stakeholder group to get things going.

Join forces with like-minded! Like #SPP connects and support individuals in a procurement role, there are plenty of initiatives out there that addresses responsible sourcing issues on sector, country, or leadership level. Join those initiatives and accelerate your efforts by benefiting from the power of the crowd.

by Astrid Bosten

(Picture by Vladislav Babienko, Unplash)

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