Is collaboration on sustainable sourcing going far enough?

Sustainability has been a chief concern among many companies for some time now, but 2013 saw a number of advances that suggest the trend is continuing to gain steam. McDonald's announced its commitment to moving toward 100 percent sustainable sourcing for its beef, while Hershey publicized its efforts to ensure that the palm oil used in its chocolate is both traceable and environmentally friendly. 

Furthermore, collaborative partnerships dedicated to sustainable product sourcing have popped up within a number of industries - one of the most prominent is the Global Roundtable on Sustainable Beef, spearheaded by McDonald's . The promise that such organizations hold for reducing environmental impacts and spreading green logistics globally is considerable. But the question remains: Are these collaborations going far enough to bring about real change to procurement practices?

Signs are looking up

There are many factors that those who would respond positively to this question might cite as support for their position, but one of the more obvious signs is the sheer number of collaborative partnerships for sustainability that have cropped up in recent months. In a column for GreenBiz, the publication's chairman and executive editor Joel Makower noted that there are quite a few of these organizations: the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, the Round Table on Responsible Soy, the Better Cotton Initiative, the Sustainable Manufacturing Roundtable and others. 

"Talk about a collaborative economy!" Makower commented. But he went on to insist that such partnerships aren't always easy to implement, as they "require getting the right people and organizations to the table, having a clear vision, creating effective governance and setting the right goals."

There's still room for improvement

The difficulties outlined by Makower mean that despite the seriousness with which many collaborative attempts at sustainability are undertaken, these initiatives don't always achieve their intended goals, and some firms may be driven off by the potential complications. Accenture and CDP's recent Collaborative Action on Climate Risk report revealed that while progress is being made, there are still opportunities for collaboration that aren't being taken advantage of.

The study found that when sustainability partnerships are implemented, they can produce real impact. Last year, 427 initiatives to reduce emissions among CDP supply chain member companies resulted in a carbon dioxide reduction of 2.3 million metric tons. However, those companies also identified more than 2,100 instances where environmentally minded collaborations could be implemented but have not.

Companies that want to better understand how to reduce business costs while also improving green practices may find they can't afford to let such opportunities go untaken.

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