Using Supply Chain and Procurement CSR Program Success for Marketing

My old friend Paul Teague recently wrote a blog post over on Procurement Leaders introducing a topic that might seem a no-brainer to do. However, it’s something that we rarely see procurement organizations pursuing, and that is working with marketing to show all the “goodness” happening in the supply chain in terms of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability.

As Paul writes, “consumers will turn to brands that make them feel less guilty about the damage their consumption could have on the planet. That sentiment elevates the impact of your efforts to insist on sustainability and CSR activities in your supply base. If your marketing and sales teams don’t recognize that, you should remind them. Doing so is one more way to demonstrate value to the organization.”

It’s a quality observation that Paul makes. But the question is what to do with it. Here are some ideas:

  • Measure, measure, measure. Metrics are an anchor of nearly all marketing activities concerning CSR and sustainability success. Need help? Contact our friends at Mission Measurement, a consultancy that specializes in the area.
  • Get on the radar of your CMO and set up a meeting with the agency of record (ideally creative, not PR) to brief them on sustainability and CSR activities. Bring stories and metrics to the meeting. Then let them run with the possibilities.
  • Publish an annual supplier management and corporate social responsibility report that quantifies activities and measurement and ideally shows a positive trend line for overall program involvement and success.
  • Hold a supplier summit that encourages top vendors to share ideas for reducing waste and improving sustainability in the supply chain. Invite the media to cover it.
  • Define a process that aims to explore the point at which an existing product or service is really something “new” based on CSR and sustainability activities in the supply chain. Can a new SKU or even product line or brand be launched based on these CSR activities in the supply chain?
  • Invite suppliers to share their CSR success stories through a public or private extranet (portal) or even blog. 
  • Create a fund for co-investment in CSR and sustainability investments with suppliers. Document investments and the results they create and return.
  • Find out dirty laundry – you know you have it and what you don’t know your suppliers can tell you – on what your competitors have not done relative to your CSR and sustainability efforts. Keep that information in reserve for showing comparative investment and improvement when talking to the media.

This list, of course, is just a start. Don't let it be the end of the creative ideas that can extend procurement-led CSR and sustainability initiatives from targeting just supply concerns to potentially serving as demand drivers as well.

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