Improving the State of Sustainable Procurement Reporting

A few weeks ago we reviewed the state of sustainable procurement reporting and found that it still wasn’t very good. Over half of American companies are not effective at communicating their goals and structuring their policies, only half have sustainability targets, only 1 in 10 have a sustainable procurement team, and only 1 in 20 train their suppliers to be sustainable. All in all, it’s just not good.

So what needs to be done? There are a lot of proposals on the table, including this recent article on graduating to the next level of sustainability (in Industry Week), but the reality is that it’s not that complicated, at least in the beginning. It really boils down to these four steps:

  1. Put a Team in Place
    The first thing you have to do is assemble a team with responsibility and authority. Sustainability has to be part of their job duties and their bonus structure partially dependent on the results. Furthermore, at least one team member needs to be a C-suite executive with the authority to actually take action. If all the team can do is make recommendations, nothing will ever happen.
  2. Benchmark Current Performance
    If the current state of affairs is not understood, there will be no way to define or measure progress. The team has to start by defining some basic benchmarks and measuring against them. The team should not spend too much time on benchmark selection, as it’s pretty much impossible to get it 100% right the first time, but on selecting the most common benchmarks and measuring against them. As the understanding of the current, and desired, situation improves, the benchmarks can be modified to be more in tune with company operations.
  3. Define a Vision with Measurable Targets
    Once the current state of affairs is understood, the next step is to define the corporate sustainability vision and to translate it into specific, measurable, short-term and long-term targets. ‘Reduce waste’ is good, but ‘reduce waste by 20% over the current level of 1 Million tons within 24 months’ is better.
  4. Continually Measure Progress and Adjust Performance
    Progress must be measured at least quarterly and operational processes adjusted, or targets revised, if desired performance isn’t being achieved.

That’s it in a blog-shell. It will be a lot of work, but it’s not a difficult task to embark upon a sustainability effort.