A recent survey by Accenture, summarized on their newsroom in June (Source found the same thing the Trade Extensions survey found five years ago — while customers say they want sustainable, the most important factors are quality and price, with 89% and 84% of customers, respectively citing those as their most important considerations … with environmental impact only cited by 37% of respondents.
So, even though slightly more than half of consumers indicated they would be willing to pay more for sustainable products designed to be re-used or recycled, you can bet that the premium is still limited to 5% or less (which is the maximum amount of cost increase an average consumer would tolerate, as per Trade Extensions’ 2014 survey as reported here on SI in do as I say, don’t do as I do).
So even though the inclination of your senior buyers might be to forego sustainability and ethics when sourcing on the go for the supplier that provides the best value for money, quality, or price, especially since that’s what the average buyer wants, this approach is, now more than ever, the exact opposite of what you should be doing as you need to be quadrupling down on sustainability efforts.
Inflation is here to stay, raw materials are getting scarce and increasing at multiples of the inflation rate, and with Trump inciting the trade-wars to new heights, if you’re not sustainable to the full extent possible, you can expect costs to skyrocket much faster than you can increase prices (as average salaries aren’t going up as fast as cost, and with GDP growth slowing globally, you can expect salaries to stagnate due to lack of market exuberance).
And when we say raw materials are getting scarce, we mean it. Let’s remind you as to what the average consumer wants to buy. Fashion. Electronics. Media. Now consider what these items are made of. Cotton. Rare earth Minerals. Paper. All of these items are in limited, decreasing, supply. Increased drought and increased need of limited farmland for food production are causing cotton prices to increase. (If even leading global clothing brands are starting to invest in recycling programs to try and harvest back cotton, you know scarcity is real and project cost increases significant.( Rare earth minerals are decreasing but demand in modern electronics gadgets is steadily increasing. And paper, well, there are only so many trees and some take decades to grow.
In other words, costs are going to go way up — and, at some point, costs are going to go up to the point the product becomes unaffordable to produce (as it won’t be able to be sold at a profitable price point … and then what does the organization do?). At that point in time, the best strategic sourcing and negotiation skills in the world aren’t going to be worth a dime because you can’t source for less than cost, and if costs skyrocket because there is (much) more demand for the materials than there is supply, your costs skyrocket and your consumers go elsewhere.
But if you quadruple down on sustainability, and source products that use alternative, more readily available, and if possible, renewable materials, from suppliers that focus on recycling and material recovery, then your costs will stay down while your competitors’ costs go up. That’s why, despite your inclination to follow your customers, you have to do a 180 in the other direction to make sure that you keep those customers as time moves on.
And if you design your products for reuse and recycling, even better!