SIG Summit discusses sustainability and storytelling in procurement

The Sourcing Industry Group continued with its 59th SIG Global Executive Summit on Wednesday with discussions about how procurement professionals can help their organizations by using the latest ideas and technology.

Topics discussed in the Summit’s second day included procurement transformation, ROI, adventures of procurement in the year 2020, and automating taxes.

But we’re going to focus on two of the day’s topics that may not come to mind when thinking about procurement: sustainability and storytelling.

The time to plan for sustainability is now

In a session titled “From Crisis to Purpose: Elevating Climate Action in the Supply Chain with EcoVadis,” attendees learned the importance of building sustainable sourcing and developing quality sustainability initiatives.

David McClintock, Director of Marketing at EcoVadis, said companies are beginning to face urgency to address climate change now. Four reasons for the acceleration of this focus within procurement include regulatory and policy changes, social change, customer pressure on brands, and pressure from investors.

More coverage: Check out our Day 1 post about the SIG Summit.

Investors want data on greenhouse gas emissions. As time goes on, more companies will be held accountable for their carbon emissions, especially when it comes to sourcing.

And it doesn’t just affect the largest companies. It involves the entire value chain, McClintock said. No industry can escape it either, as 80% of emissions generated come from the value chain.

For companies reporting data, there are three characteristics of a corporate carbon footprint:

  • Scope 1: Direct emissions from operations
  • Scope 2: Energy consumption
  • Scope 3: Upstream and downstream channels in the entire value chain

“When you first set out on a greenhouse gas emissions journey, many ask where they can make the most impact? Scope 3 must be a part of the answer,” said Hannah Roberts, a sustainability analyst at EcoVadis.

However, EcoVadis data from 2015-19 shows that only 15% of suppliers report their emissions. These data gaps make it difficult to quantify and report on Scope 3 emissions, let alone any emissions. Low reporting is the result of secondary data rather than the use of primary data. Secondary data is only estimated on industry averages.

EcoVadis and other solutions are working to develop technologies that speed up reporting processes. EcoVadis is also turning to not only provide carbon footprint reports, but assessing the maturity of solution providers’ carbon footprints.

Data is at the root of solving this procurement problem. Over time, more companies will get used to reporting emissions data. Ones that implement it now are somewhat ahead of the game and can lead the charge in the sustainability supply chain movement.

As more companies adopt sustainability technologies and models, procurement professionals might question the financial viability or ROI of buying new technologies. To that, McClintock said the tides are changing. For 20 years, companies that have implemented sustainability data reporting and modeling have fared well.

Crises, when unplanned for, disrupt supply chains greatly, as evidenced by the coronavirus pandemic. McClintock said that companies that start planning for climate crises now will fare better in the future.

SIG Executive Summit: Procurement storytelling as an asset

Storytelling is not just for movie makers or authors anymore. In a SIG Keynote Session, attendees learned the role that storytelling can and should play in procurement.

Whether the “story” is explaining to a CFO why implementing a new technology will fit the long-term financial goals of the company, or a category manager helping a CIO in implementing new projects, storytelling is the skill that procurement professionals need to make change in their organizations.

Everyone has a basic human need to be understood. We all know that functions in and around procurement can certainly be misunderstood at times. However, conversations in procurement each day can be improved by simple storytelling structure.

As a procurement leader, the stories you tell and the words you use make a difference.

Josh Brammer of Lantern and Greg Anderson of WNS-Denali presented the keynote we didn’t know we wanted but needed, as SIG CEO Dawn Tiura said on day 2 of the SIG Global Executive Summit.

We live in a noisy world, with each of us getting hit with more than 10,000 messages a day. As such, humans have adapted to become experts at tuning out the noise.

So, how do procurement professionals break through the noise with the stories they tell?

By avoiding one of the biggest mistakes people make when telling a story — making themselves the hero.

Bad stories fail for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to being too long, not enough conflict or too confusing. Brammer said good storytelling can be summed up into a basic formula.

The five key steps in storytelling as detailed by Brammer and Anderson include:

  • Make your audience the hero, not your team or the solution
  • Focus on the problem they want to solve
  • Give them a simple plan — in three easy steps
  • Call people to action
  • Remind them of what’s at stake 

In this way, you can get others in the organization to come alongside you. Your story formula can save time and increase the impact in your organization. After all, to be heard and understood are not only basic human needs but are essential to communicating within and advancing the cause of an organization.

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