Celine Suarez, Manager, Advisory Services BSR

Note: This is the third in a series of blogs on collaboration.

During its inaugural year, BSR’s Center for Sustainable Procurement (CSP), a three-year initiative co-launched with Hilton Worldwide, worked with three companies to address the challenges of integrating sustainability into purchasing decisions. In year two, we are using what we learned to expand the Center, which will enable a more collaborative approach to sustainable procurement for companies within our broader network. The goal is to create a space for companies to share what they learn and to facilitate discussions between companies so that we can work faster and more effectively in pushing forward sustainable procurement practices.

The timing for our expanded efforts is auspicious. At the end of 2012, the EU announced its plans to include greener and more socially responsible public procurement policies that account for sustainability considerations, such as life cycle costs or social objectives, in public contracting decisions. In addition, a survey conducted by Rackspace found that a growing number of companies are lowering their risks and improving efficiencies by selecting partners in their supply chains who factor sustainability into their strategy. In fact, 72 percent of U.S. companies and 91 percent of companies outside of the U.S. reported that they have sustainability metrics included in sustainable procurement on either a periodic or standard basis.

Through both individual company work, and a collaborative learning process, CSP is:

  • Developing a common methodology that helps companies identify opportunities to improve sustainable purchasing across product categories
  • Helping procurement professionals make sound, informed purchasing decisions that incorporate the best available sustainability information
  • Creating a repository of information (research, articles, case studies, articles, etc.) to share with other companies on sustainable procurement

We believe that sustainable procurement bridges the gaps between supplier engagement, management, and product lifecycle analyses. We aim to build on the work that has been done on supplier responsibility and engagement by working with procurement teams to integrate the best available product sustainability data—along with price, quality, and delivery time—into their purchasing strategy. We look at organizations like The Sustainability Consortium and other product certifications like Forest Stewardship Council as resources for information on what qualifies as a “sustainable product” and aim to help people in the procurement functions at companies integrate this information into their purchasing decisions. 

In order to make this initiative effective and relevant, we want to hear from you:

  • What are the internal challenges you face when it comes to purchasing sustainable alternatives for the products you depend on?
  • What kinds of collaboration would help you advance sustainable procurement in your own company?
  • Do you have the buy-in from your procurement team and from senior management to explore these ideas, and if not, what would help facilitate this level of internal engagement?

Leave a comment below, and learn more by visiting our Center for Sustainable Procurement web page.

BSR's upcoming report on the CSP will share what we learned during our first year working with companies on sustainable procurement, and how we plan to work collaboratively in 2013.