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Sustainable procurement is where it's at right now. CPOs up and down the country are mobilising their teams to purchase with a conscience. And they're doing a great job – so why aren't companies shouting it from the rooftops? Procurement has a compelling story to tell your stakeholders about putting sustainability pledges into action, but maybe they aren’t hearing it.

Sustainability is on the agenda

Sustainability is at the heart of behaviour for many UK firms. The recently published 2020 Sustainable Business Leadership Survey from Edie, 84% of UK CEOs are engaged with the sustainability function of their business and just behind them are procurement departments.

Sustainable procurement, which looks beyond short-term business needs and focuses on bigger picture environmental, social and economic impact, has been steadily climbing up corporate agendas for years. Edie’s 2020 survey shows a significant increase from 2019 when in a Deloitte's Global Chief Procurement Officer Survey, just 43 percent of CPOs saw managing corporate social responsibility as a top area of focus. So with procurement being central to business sustainability efforts – the decisions made here can bring a company's CSR promises to life, ensure compliance and limit reputational risk.

Time to Challenge Perceptions

So, why is it that procurement teams still seem to be suffering an image crisis when it comes to the way they are perceived by stakeholders? In a Hackett Group survey 74% of stakeholders feel procurement in their organisation consists of gatekeepers or administrators.  And their biggest failing as a function, is a perceived inability to communicate effectively. 

Businesses that fail to address this perception, or aren’t ensuring their procurement team has the tools it needs to effectively communicate sustainable procurement in action, are missing out.

The World Economic Forum has asserted that, beyond the obvious benefit of reducing supply chain costs by 9-16 per cent, sustainable procurement practices can increase brand value by 15-30 per cent. But they can't do that if your investors and customers don't know about them – not to mention your employees, who are increasingly looking to their employers to take an ethical lead.

By letting your procurement experts shine a spotlight on their sustainable buying policies and achievements, you underline the importance they play in moving your business towards its sustainable goals – helping to reassure investors, sway customers and attract talent.

Being able to say, 'here's how we rank and select our suppliers based on their ethical performance;  here's where we've made purchase decisions that have directly reduced our carbon footprint or here's how we've switched suppliers to support more community-based businesses', can be highly effective. Move your sustainable procurement reasoning away from simply being about regulatory compliance and you will boost engagement.

Tell the story - Pictures Speak Louder Than Words

It's here that data analytics and visualisation tools really come to the fore. The latest spend analytics offerings enable procurement teams not only to gather, analyse and visualise data on what they buy from suppliers, but also to benchmark supplier CSR behaviours and performance in areas such as carbon efficiency and gender pay.

Procurement and CSR professionals can access specific sets of data and reports, which presents supplier performance against CSR KPIs in simple, but informative, graphs and charts. This makes it easy for the team to identify risks, trends and opportunities to develop effective strategies and inform everyday decisions, as well as the larger, more impactful ones.

It also means they have a ready-made, real-time dashboards to demonstrate, clearly and effectively, how sustainable procurement is making a difference and enabling your business to attain its sustainability goals. These tools can help overcome the stakeholder perception that procurement professionals are poor communicators. But, wider than this, they provide powerful, easy to digest insight, on an internal and external basis - the value of being able to convey a simple and clear story at an investor meeting, on your website or at an employee engagement event is huge.

Procurement teams are at the forefront of driving sustainable change within supply chains and finding better ways for businesses to be socially responsible in their buying habits and align themselves with consumers. So, it's time you asked if you have the tools and technology to harness the value in your data?  Can you tell your story and showcase your efforts to enhance your brand in the process?

Ian Yates – Director, Barcanet

To talk to us about any of the information in this blog, please contact We’d love to hear from you.


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