Five sustainability questions for procurement professionals

A businesses’ largest environmental impacts often result from the impacts of the companies it purchases from. For example, did you know that a company’s supply chain can produce up to four times more carbon emissions than its direct operations? 

Yes, supply chains have huge environmental impacts. But looking at it through a different lens, finding ways to reduce these impacts can transform a company’s sustainability record. If you have any procurement responsibilities at your company (or know someone who does), that transformation can start with you. Whether you’re in IT, administration, finance or purchasing, you can influence your company’s purchasing habits by incorporating sustainability-related criteria into what you buy – something known as sustainable procurement. Want to get started? Here are a few questions that can help you start your journey. 

Image © HP Canada

Do you speak regularly with your sustainability team? If you have a sustainability team or green team at your organization, have a conversation with them to get on the same page. Use your different perspectives and expertise to explore mutually beneficial sustainable procurement solutions. 

Do you know the environmental performance of your suppliers? Practicing sustainable procurement will be difficult if you don’t know the environmental performance of your suppliers. Get your sustainability questions answered by creating a vendor survey that asks key questions about your suppliers’ environmental progress to date, targets and metrics. This will let them know that you’re serious about sustainability.  

Are sustainability criteria included in any of your contracts to suppliers? One of the most effective ways that your organization can practice sustainable procurement is through embedding sustainability language into your purchasing contracts and giving it significant prominence during evaluation. As a first step, consider adding minor sustainability criteria to a single contract and tracking success. See ECPAR’s sample product sustainability criteria for more information. 

Have you heard of total cost of ownership? Using this metric can help you build the business case for choosing environmentally preferable products.Learn more here. 

Have you thought about access over ownership? Many businesses are changing the way they purchase goods by buying access to a service instead of purchasing the good outright (for example, purchasing a printing service instead of purchasing a printer). This can help your business keep up with the latest product innovations, reduce costs and keep the ownership on the service provider to ensure their equipment is durable, long-lasting and efficient. For example, HP Managed Print Services is a service-based printing solution that has helped customers reduce printing-related energy use by up to 40%, decrease printing costs by up to 30% and reduce paper waste by at least 25%. 

Starting your sustainable procurement journey doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, it can be as simple as changing the type of coffee you buy in the office.  

Read HP & WWF-Canada’s Guide to Buying Responsibly for more information on practicing sustainable procurement at your organization.