The Sustainable Procurement Pledge Q&A: ‘It’s exciting to find out how we can contribute’

The Sustainable Procurement Pledge (SPP) has just turned one year old. It’s a community of like-minded procurement people from industry, academia and third sector who are committed to embedding sustainability into their procurement practices, and its ranks are growing.

The aim of the SPP is for sustainable procurement practices to be used across all supply chains by 2030, a tall order but one which the founders believe is possible given the right cadence, strength in numbers and a common mindset.

The community grew from the passion and sense of shared responsibility of two people: Bertrand Conquéret, President of Henkel’s Global Supply Chain B.V. and Global Chief Procurement Officer of Henkel AG & Co. KGaA, and Thomas Udesen, Chief Procurement Officer at Bayer.

They believe that everyone in business has a role in, and responsibility for, sustainability, as the SPP organization says: “We all contribute and have a critical role in ensuring responsible supply chains. We are concerned and care deeply about the future of our planet and its people. We believe in the necessity of leapfrogging the current efforts and in the power of the crowd to foster change. Because of the impact of Procurement decisions on a future sustainable planet, we pledge and commit ourselves to making sustainability the central mindset of our daily decision making.” Given that together we are making trillions of decisions and spending trillions of dollars, we have a duty to do it responsibly. "Procurement is more than a job," they say.

More than 2000 procurement professionals have already made the pledge and signed up to become a Sustainable Procurement Pledge Ambassador, one of whom, Andrew Daley, we spoke to recently.

Andrew is Director at Edbury Daley, a specialist recruitment consultancy that focuses on hiring for the procurement tech and spend management world. We asked him:

Where does your interest in sustainable procurement originate?

“My interest in this whole area comes from wanting to embrace CSR (corporate social responsibility) around issues such as sustainability and climate change in both my personal and business life. Throughout the years at procurement events we’ve all heard from some very high-level CPOs from some very big name firms about sustainability and social responsibility. Where once brand damage was a main driver for CSR, to me the whole mission was all about just ‘doing the right thing’ — not only to protect your brand, but to instill a culture and philosophy in your organization.

"For the more visionary procurement folk that meant a belief that they could really make a difference. Perhaps they had visited farms in Africa or factories in Southeast Asia and saw first-hand the conditions. They realized that they didn’t have to tighten down on suppliers to make a profit, that they could afford to pay those extra few pence and still make huge savings, and that in doing so they could make a massive difference to communities — and that’s where I believe sustainable procurement began for many people.”

What is the Sustainable Procurement Pledge all about?

“Nowadays there’s a huge change in attitude: Take the farms in Africa, for example. Corporations are realizing that instead of committing to a certain size or amount of payments, by investing in a farm’s infrastructure farmers can become more productive, communities can improve their living and working standards, and the corporation benefits from improvements in process and efficiency — a shared responsibility for the supply chain that’s a win-win.

"So the Sustainability Procurement Pledge is about investing sustainably, investing for the long-term viability of what’s being produced — not just box-ticking. It’s about having a common mindset to make change for the better — to share knowledge, experience and tools, and to give support, so that we are all working toward the same goal, together. The idea of procurement teams being the guardians of the CSR agenda is a welcome development for the profession and another area where they can add value over and above the classic focus on savings. The sustainability pledge is an important example of the advancement of the profession in recent years, and it's great to see it gaining momentum across social channels.”

What role can sustainability play in the procurement tech recruitment market?

“As you know, we are very passionate about the development of the procurement profession, hence our interest in working across the ecosystems of the various technology vendors that are enabling the digitization of the profession.

"What we already do in the tech world is help hire people that can advance a company’s progress with technology, so if we can do that with tech, why can’t we do that with CSR and sustainability? There are professionals out there who have that expertise after all. So my desire to work with organizations that are prioritizing the sustainability pledge and other CSR themes — whether they be vendors, end users or the consultancies that work with them — is a big part of why I am getting involved in this, and it's exciting to find out how we can contribute.”

What does the Pledge mean to you personally?

“For me, as an individual, it’s about having a social conscience — for the people around me, my work, my family, and the long-term health of the planet. What I can do to contribute in my personal life might seem small, it might just be about what I decide to buy, for example. But altogether these things add up. At work, for example, I might choose to align myself with tech vendors that are making a contribution in this area, that are enabling their supply chains to be more sustainable and be more socially responsible. It’s all about values.”

Why should people sign up to the Pledge?

“Signing up is a personal thing. We all have a personal responsibility for how we live our lives, and how we act in our jobs. Many people feel that way but often don’t necessarily know how to go about it, or where to start, or just don’t feel they can make a real difference on their own. This is a way for us all to come together, that’s how great things happen. It’s amazing how powerful a few can become once they band together. So just by choosing to get involved, by educating ourselves about what others are doing, we can make choices about how we contribute, whether we are writing about it, implementing it, spreading the word or being an example to others.”

Next steps

Procurement has been involved in social responsibility for a while now, but there’s definitely a sense of acceleration. We have great forces for good from the likes of EcoVadis, SAP Ariba, Givewith and more, but as SPP says: “We are the deal makers.”

Organizations are getting there, but it’s the people within them that will make the difference. We are the guardians of companies’ values, of how they engage with suppliers, of the decisions we make every day; it is we who must take the long-term more strategic view of how we and our companies interact with the world.

And if that rings true with you, you can find out more about the Sustainable Procurement Pledge here and join the Ambassadors here.

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