Segregating sustainable product sourcing practices from the larger company strategy and culture can be an easy mistake to make. However, businesses that have long been working to decrease the environmental impact of their procurement processes are well aware that isolated attempts at sustainability are often left behind or discredited over time. What many companies find they need is an emphasis on eco-friendliness that is central to their operations rather than peripheral.
While each firm's approach will differ based on its unique supplier network, some tried and true principles can be adapted and applied across the board. Here are three strategies that can help ensure sustainable sourcing is as effective and fully integrated as possible.
1. Increase communication
In order to avoid sustainability initiatives taking place in a vacuum, they need to be understood across the company. Visibility and communication have been a critical part of the success that Campbell Soup has enjoyed with its green initiatives. Dave Stangis, the company's vice president of public affairs and corporate responsibility, recently gave Sustainable Brands an instructive example of this principle.
"Someone in our communications department aims to tell a better sustainability story from our plant level; he's taken this objective to understand what sustainability work is happening in our 30 manufacturing plants around the world and help communicate that better externally," Stangis told the news source.
Without a solid understanding of sustainable practices internally, it's extremely difficult to communicate these efforts to the public in a cohesive way.
2. Make strategic partnerships
Firms also need to bear in mind that consumers will judge them based on the business relationships they foster. Growing companies looking to make acquisitions, for instance, need to do so with sustainability in mind. According to Sustainable Brands, Campbell chose to acquire Plum Organics, a well regarded company with a reputation for its green mission and employees' involvement in those goals.
3. Consider supplier practices
Lastly, it's key that companies consider the processes of their distribution and sourcing partners as an extension of their own operations. Suppliers need to be factored in when firms calculate their environmental impact and plan for improvements. Sustainability consultant Bill Barry recently began working with book publisher Macmillan to lower carbon emissions across the company's production chain, GreenBiz reported. Barry helped the firm calculate and plan to reduce its direct and indirect environmental impacts by 65 percent over the next five years. He did this by helping Macmillian restructure its paper milling, transportation and other partnerships.
Sustainable supplier management is critical, rather than optional, for companies that are serious about green procurement.