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What does sustainability really mean to you? Procurement at Imec

08/09/2021 By

This summer, Spend Matters is focusing on ESG, and particularly sustainability in the procurement context, as a discussion topic with the industry, with vendors, buyers and suppliers. This will take the shape of in-depth analyst-written PRO articles, podcasts with procurement professionals, panel discussions and more — all accessible from the Spend Matters site. Why? Because we think it’s time to take a look at the bigger picture, from different angles.

To discover what sustainability means; what ROI can be expected from a sustainability focus; what the tech landscape looks like and why we need ESG-enabled technology; the implications for e-procurement and how procurement can influence the ESG agenda, read our PRO series here.

As our technology analyst Bertrand Maltaverne puts it in that article and in the wake of the failings exposed by the Covid turbulence:

“Many organizations are also victims of a self-inflicted injury that jeopardized their capacity to operate during the crisis …  However, it seems like Covid will be the wakeup call that the supply chain world was waiting for. As a reaction to the events of the last months, the realization that organizations need better supply assurance (and that the Procurement function is critical in achieving this) spreads among organizations and management boards. This shift in priorities and mindset is an opportunity to go beyond ensuring business continuity. It is in fact a chance for building more antifragile, and more sustainable supply chains.”

To accompany our broader look at ESG in practice, this short series captures individual views on sustainability — we’ve posed three questions to a cross section of procurement and supply chain practitioners from the worlds of consultancy, specialist organizations and forums, FMCG, retail, oil & gas, tech and so on, to get a top-level understanding of what being sustainable really means to them.

We hope this will reap a set of interesting and useful answers for procurement software vendors to take note of, and for other practitioners to consider.

Today we hear from Wouter Machiels, Procurement Director at Imec, an international research & development organization and hub for nano- and digital technologies. We asked:

In an ideal world …

How would you ensure in your organization that ‘sustainability and responsibility’ is not just a tick-box exercise?

“Sustainability is not a mere procurement responsibility, it is a cultural behavior that should live throughout the company, and society for that matter. We have sustainability listed as a key objective for procurement, and it is a key objective in the Imec strategy:

  • We have different KPIs that we follow up on, like sustainability questionnaires and scoring, the percentage of spend that is spent locally, avoiding S&H and the CO2 that goes along with that. Also we see it as our responsibility to buy locally to allow the local businesses to survive.
  • All these initiatives mean that sustainability is not something we are working on now to satisfy EcoVadis or similar organizations’ business ratings today, but to create a more sustainable future for the long years ahead.
  • The main differentiator is ‘people,’ as is so often the case. If you market sustainability as a necessary evil, it will remain a Powerpoint exercise, but if you sell it and you believe it, it becomes a living thing, which is the case for our team and the company.”

What would help you ’embed’ sustainability and responsible practices/thinking into procurement?

“We have embedded sustainability and responsible practices, since our strategy is about value-driven procurement. Sustainability KPIs are a formal part of our selection criteria and are measured in supplier evaluation. We have just published our sustainability report, and it is strongly colored by procurement. These things together put it high on our agenda. We have it set as one of our 4 Wildly important goals.”

If you could have one wish from procurement tech/software vendors (to help with your sustainability goals/supply chain visibility/operations/measurement) what would that be?

“This is a good question. I don’t see it becoming as measurable as OTIF, but a framework that is accepted would help, that would be the ‘necessary evil’ to make it tangible and to compare apples to apples going forward. To me the process trumps the tool, let’s get that fixed first.”

If you are doing a tech selection, you can get a shortlist fast with TechMatch.

Many thanks to Wouter and Imec — our analysts will take an aggregated look at all our responses in the coming weeks and give their take on the common themes that have emerged.  Look out for the other voices in the following weeks as we hear from the people who are ‘doing’ sustainability.

Here’s an index of what to expect in our ESG series this summer

If you are involved in sustainability in procurement for your organization, feel free to comment below or submit your own answers to

ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance)