Implementing Sustainability in Procurement

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Sustainability is THE imperative for future-oriented business. Procurement organizations that focus on values ensure the competitiveness of companies. But this requires clear structures.

What hardly anyone knows is that the modern principle of sustainability has its origins back in the early 18th century. In 1713, i.e. more than 300 years ago, the term „sustainable use“ was first introduced by Carl von Carlowitz in the work „Sylvicultura or Domestic News and Natural Instruction for Wild Tree Breeding“), which is fundamental for forestry and cameralistics.

Forestry as a Model

Von Carlowitz called for „sustainable“ forest management, in which no more wood is harvested than grows back. He summarized the goals of sustainable forest policy as follows: „The economy must serve the welfare of the community. It is obliged to treat benevolent nature with care and to take responsibility for future generations“. These are words that the German forestry industry has consistently adhered to this day. Otherwise the approach was forgotten. How else can it be explained that we consume up to 16,000,000,000 liters of the extremely slowly renewable raw material crude oil every day. Only the dramatic consequences for the climate have led to a rethink.

Key function Procurement

Today, it is impossible to imagine the social debate without sustainability. Procurement, with its responsibility for the supply chain, plays a key role in the implementation of sustainable goals in companies. However, not all companies are yet focusing on sustainable goods procurement. This is partly due to a certain helplessness, because sustainability affects many fields of action. In addition to the demands of society, investors and politicians, there is also the „War for Talents“, which will take on new dimensions in the coming years. Forming a procurement system that corresponds to the values and visions of tomorrow’s employees is also an important milestone on this path.

Which first Steps make Sense?

The goals of Agenda 2030 for sustainable development demand for significant changes in the way we do business. Legal regulations for the responsibility of companies for their supply chain have been implemented in the first EU states. The obligation to provide evidence for conflict raw materials, the obligation for non-financial reporting or the current EU recycling package further increase the urgency. Nevertheless, it is difficult to take the first steps and many companies are holding back large investments because they consider other problem areas to be more acute.

Transparency about production methods, waste of raw materials and supply chains are only a small part of what is meant by sustainability. Two approaches that give the term a little more, if not completely clear, form are

  • the classification into social, economic and ecological sustainability, and
  • the 17 objectives of Agenda 2030 for sustainable development.

amc at the BME Sustainability Summit

At the BME Sustainability Summit on 28/29 of August 2019 in Frankfurt am Main we will moderate a discussion for further clarification. The Round Table „Roadmap for sustainable procurement“ will address the following questions, among others:

  • What areas of procurement does the term sustainability cover?
  • At which points do concrete possibilities for action arise?
  • What fields of action are there and what potential is associated with them?

What Procurement needs

In order for investments under the heading of sustainability to achieve the desired results, the changes of the coming years require clear structures. Whether the focus is on social standards in the supply chain, internal consumption of resources or the use of clean energy, it should always be the first question before initiating projects for a sustainable future. The aim of the Round Table is to jointly develop transparency and structure for sustainable procurement.

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