Good Practice
New Guidance Encourages Leadership In Sustainable Purchasing

The Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council (SPLC) has developed a handbook of ‘guidance’ for organisations that want to improve the environmental, social and economic performance of their purchasing. It outlines how organisations can optimise the functionality of their supply chains, throughout the entire product and service life cycles, by establishing a sustainable purchasing programme. The handbook can be downloaded for free via the SPLC website.

“Guidance for Leadership in Sustainable Purchasing Version 1.0” is based on the SPLC’s Principles for Leadership in Sustainable Purchasing v1.0, which encourages organisations to be responsible in the marketplace. Organisations across various sectors and regions can use the guidance to identify what actions can be taken to improve the impact of their purchased goods and services, as well as benchmark progress towards their goals. Chapter four of the guidance even offers advice on how to apply strategies in specific categories of purchasing, including chemically intensive products, building construction and renovation, transportation and fuels, electricity, food and food services, IT hardware and services, and professional services.

The first chapter of the guidance gives an overview of sustainable purchasing and the strategic opportunities involved. Chapter two outlines how organisations can create their own strategic sustainable purchasing programme and breaks down the process into key stages. The first step involves preparing a vision for the sustainable purchasing programme. In stage two, organisations enlist support from key internal and external shareholders. Organisations should then design the proposed purchasing programme, and finally commit to the programme. According to the guidance, this chapter is useful for those in purchasing, operations, sustainability, management, investor or customer roles.

Chapters three and four outline how the programme should be run, including a continuous improvement process that can be employed to develop strategies for achieving environmental, social and economic performance goals. This section of the handbook explains how organisations should first set goals, timelines and policies as well as training staff and engaging suppliers. Organisations should then track and evaluate their own performances for continuous improvement, before launching a cross-functional team needed for the cycle’s objectives. They should then analyse the impacts of their spending and prioritise categories for action. Finally, organisations should identify and select proven strategies for mitigating impacts and commit to the strategy. Chapters three and four are of most use to programme leaders and members of cross-functional teams.

Chapter four offers guidance on how strategic thinking can be applied to specific purchasing categories, and is a good gateway into the guidance for buyers.

According to the handbook, organisations that have used the guidance have been able to save money, reduce supply chain disruption risk, improve vendor relationships, promote more resilient supply chains, use their influence to promote market innovation and transformed the sustainability of the economy, among other benefits.

As of February of this year, 80 organisations representing over $100 billion (€90 billion) in purchasing power have signed up to pilot the guidance. SPLC says that the voluntary programme will serve as the basis for a future ratings system that will reward organisations that make efforts to build sustainability into their buying process.