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COP26 gets mixed reviews – “Procurement with Purpose” gets published

11/23/2021 By

Please welcome this guest post from Peter Smith, MD of Procurement Excellence and author of Bad Buying and Procurement with Purpose.

It is not often that Glasgow sits at the centre of the world’s media attention, but the COP26 climate summit was big news in most countries. It was positioned as being a significant moment for individuals, businesses and governments in the fight against emissions and climate change. But since it ended, the commentary has tended to be somewhere in a range bracketed by “faint praise” at one end and “outright scorn” at the other. Many of the largest countries in terms of emissions did not participate as fully as they could have, and even where commitments were made, too often they were vague, or lacked real plans, timelines and measures.

Foolishly, my collaborator Mark Perera and I only realized in about September that really, we should be launching our new book, “Procurement with Purpose,” to coincide with COP26. We didn’t quite manage it in terms of the physical publication, but the e-book appeared and was available to buy on schedule during the event. And I’m delighted to say that hard copies can now be ordered from all good book shops (as they say).

The primary focus for COP26 was of course climate change and global warming. That is understandable; it is probably the most obvious existential threat to the human race, although despite the gloomiest predictions we are unlikely to be wiped out as a species unless warming goes well beyond the 2 or 3 degrees currently discussed. That’s not to say it does not matter; we might not be wiped out, but millions could die and we could see widespread war, famine and disaster.

But other issues are also important and we should not neglect them even if we focus primarily on emissions. The problems around waste, plastics and pollution are vast – and the opportunities in terms of new materials and circular economy approaches are exciting. Deforestation and the destruction of natural species is another mega-issue. I suspect there won’t be much future for humans if we destroy every forest and eliminate every other species on earth, even if we avoid a climate holocaust.

Then there are the social and economic issues that affect huge numbers of people around the world, from modern slavery to persecution of minorities. Such issues can feel enormous and impossible to tackle for individual businesses or people. Yet I hope one of the messages in our book is that everyone and every organization can contribute to improving the planet and life on it for our fellow humans.

For businesses, there will be increasing regulatory requirements in terms of actions and reporting across a number of these issues. But there are also positive steps organizations can take that generate real business advantage, not just a vague “feel good factor.” Customers and consumers are drivers of change, and firms will respond to key issues if they want to retain and grow their customer base. But increasingly, we will see other issues such as the cost of capital coming into play too – that will be lower for firms with a strong ESG performance. And employers will struggle in the “war for talent,” which is hotter than ever, if they don’t have a decent story to tell prospective and existing staff about their social and environmental policies and actions.

In the book, we have described a wide range of purpose-related issues, with some practical advice on how to build purpose into every stage of the procurement process. That is key – “purpose” can’t just be at the level of vague aspirational statements. If you are serious, it has to play constantly into how you identify, select, contract with and manage your suppliers and supply base.

If as a business you are choosing procurement tech to help you meet your ESG goals, try using TechMatchSM to generate and benchmark a vendor shortlist

What is exciting is how important procurement is to this agenda for virtually every organization. For instance, most find that 70% or 80% of their total emissions are “scope 3,” so generated in their supply and value chains rather than internally. So this agenda has the potential to be a great boost for the credibility and importance of procurement professionals and functions, as well as giving us the chance to contribute to these vital initiatives and priorities.

If you are interested in acquiring the book, and you would like to support a small business rather than a mega-corporation, you can do that. Our publisher has an online bookstore and we are pleased to offer a discount of £3 per book to Spend Matters readers – just use the code PWP2021 at the checkout — valid until end January 2022.