More Focus Needed on Sustainable Procurement, IEMA Report Shows

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Companies are taking corporate sustainability more seriously and realizing it is an area that needs to be addressed if they are to maintain a positive corporate reputation, respond to customer demands and transform or grow the business. A recent report from the Institute of Environmental Management & Assessment (IEMA) titled “Beyond the Perfect Storm, The Corporate Sustainability Challenge” shows CSR roles at organizations are maturing, too, but companies can still be doing more. For instance, a number of companies still do not have a policy in place for sustainable procurement and find CSR to be an ongoing challenge.  

Just 12% of CSR practitioners surveyed by IEMA said their organization has a sustainable procurement policy or approach in place that is actively managed and taken seriously, according to the report. Thirteen percent have a sustainable procurement policy in place that is managed, audited, reviewed and improved upon.

However, the majority of respondents, 36%, said their organization has a policy or approach to sustainable procurement that is “managed but variable,” and  22% said their organizations have a policy in place but “implementation is limited.” Seventeen percent of respondents have no sustainable procurement policy at all, according to the report.

One practitioner quoted in the report highlighted the necessity of procurement and supply chain operations being part of a company’s CSR initiatives.

“We cannot create more business value through sustainability without involving the supply chain, which is where, for many, the majority of risks and opportunities lie,” said Phil Cumming director of Koru Sustainability. “This is one of the most important sustainability interventions we can all make.”

Barriers and Drivers of CSR

A large majority of the CSR practitioners surveyed, 75%, said sustainable procurement is proving to be a significant ongoing challenge. Financial barriers top the list of reasons prohibiting CSR initiatives form taking shape, according to the report. A lack of management support and the lack of a clear sustainable procurement strategy were additional barriers practitioners identified.

The report also identified the main drivers of CSR: client expectations, improving and maintaining the company’s reputation and transforming the business. These practitioners also largely said the main purpose of their role at their organization was performance improvement and compliance.


The IEMA also pointed out how collaboration plays an important role in CSR initiatives. This includes collaboration internally with company stakeholders as well as external collaboration with suppliers and industry peers. The report points to collaborative industry groups like the Retail Palm Oil Group, a collaboration of retailers from the around the globe promoting sustainable palm oil.

It’s something we have discussed here on Spend Matters, as well, with experts saying collaboration between industry peers and competitors is needed to make positive sustainable changes and develop best practices for CSR.

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