Sustainability; procurement protecting the future of business

The businesses that will stand the test of time are undoubtedly those that look to the future; planning strategically to ensure that their brand, products and services will flourish in changing economic, social and environmental situations.

For those that embrace this way of operating, sustainability is likely to be a key focus, and in this respect, Procurement has never had a more important part to play, not just around the long term future of a business, but in relation to brand reputation where sustainability is not just a partnering of economy and ecology, but an opportunity to demonstrate values and integrity.

Well-known brands  such as Aviva, Marks and Spencer and Unilever have lead the way with this by committing to big initiatives such as using only 100% renewable energy. This has massively reduced their carbon footprint and ensured a future proofing of business operations for the inevitable demise of fossil fuels. It has also positioned them as a brand of choice for talent and consumers, in a market where both are more environmentally aware and more likely to align interests and loyalties to companies displaying sustainable programmes.

Another way in which procurement is encouraging responsible behaviour and environmentally sound practice is through careful selection and management of suppliers; securing contracts and building relationships that add value from a commercial and an ethical perspective. Many have achieved this by embedding environmental, social and economic criteria into their contracts and sharing business goals and objectives with suppliers to encourage a unity of approach.

There are also sustainable trends emerging that procurement teams will be integral to such as the promotion of a sharing economy where resources are kept in use for as long as possible or products are swapped, shared or rented from suppliers in a bid to reduce waste.

Sustainability may still be a sub-category on the corporate agenda for many, but considering the long term effect of corporate behaviour is something no business should ignore. Shareholder return and next month’s figures may enhance the present but taking into account how corporate actions will deplete resources, cause pollution and affect future generations is the only thing that can protect organisations from what lies ahead.