The concept of sustainable sourcing, also known as green purchasing or social sourcing, is nothing new. Sustainable sourcing is impacting nearly every area of corporate business and the consumer’s mindset. Everything from sourcing materials, talent attraction and consumer purchasing habits is changing because of sustainable sourcing growth. However, the term gets thrown around in the procurement industry quite often and is often misunderstood or misused. So, here’s a guide with all the basics you need to know about sustainable sourcing.
WHAT IS SUSTAINABLE SOURCING
First and foremost, we have to define the term. Sustainable sourcing is the integration of social, ethical and environmental performance factors into the process of selecting suppliers. It includes purchasing sustainably preferable products and services (products made from recycled or remanufactured materials), as well as green purchasing guidelines that might pertain to certain products or commodities.
It is incredible how many companies are still using a basic RFP platform with minimal scope for optimization. Even the platform Excel has no capacity for optimization or sourcing processes to manage the sourcing of highly complex categories. None of these methods can deliver any substantial savings or ROI.
A simple and easy-to-use sourcing platform is all you would need – even if you are not a sourcing specialist – for a three-bids-and-a-buy sourcing project to source a single item. But if you have hundreds of suppliers and thousands of possible scenarios, a simple platform does not make the grade. As for trying to manage (and more importantly, analyze) complex sourcing events in Excel, that will require a full-time mathematical genius or a team of full-time employees for weeks or months on end trying to figure out the best outcomes.
To manage the sourcing of complex categories and create business value, you absolutely must use a solution that takes full advantage of the power of optimization complemented with artificial intelligence and game theory.
To be “complex” in the sense of the word here, a sourcing category needs to meet some combination of the following criteria:
The supplier community plays an integral role in improving enterprise diversity standing. I’d like to share some observations from my career, along with tips for the supplier community and enterprise procurement teams to improve diverse supplier access, expand opportunities and provide support.
A Risky Approach to Client Management
Historically, client management and sales practices have been disjointed and focused on winning by dividing and conquering. A generation of sales teams has been trained to get as much information as possible out of the client organization to sell them what they have, instead of what the client needs, and have been somewhat siloed in the process.
In large supplier organizations, clients doing business with them on the applications side would struggle to engage from the marketing or infrastructure side. This short-sided view usually led to the client chasing the supplier organization to find the right resources.
The "whole client" management approach is necessary to transform the sales process to fit the more modern and sophisticated enterprise customers. Not having a modern sales approach is one area where clients, both Procurement and business stakeholders, get incredibly frustrated when dealing with a supplier organization. Many of the practices considered “old-school sales tactics” have become relatively visible to the enterprise client. For example, taking enterprise employees (particularly business stakeholders) to lunches or dinners at fancy restaurants, sporting events in private boxes and conferences in an attempt to build relationships, with a focus on gaining commitment to sales, early visibility and access to opportunities.
Purvee Kondal, Senior Director of Technology & Engineering Sourcing
SIG University Certified Sourcing Professional (CSP) program graduate Kevin Schofield details why business leaders need to maximize communication within the company while focusing on strategic and sustainable sourcing to further educate team members on process controls and root cause analysis.
Merging the focal points of a diverse corporate system with the outside world's needs while managing a profitable business is always a challenge. Given the additional issues with value stream, inventory management, and transportation in the era of globalization during a worldwide pandemic make it even more challenging. Corporate leaders need to maximize communication within the company using new and different platforms while focusing on strategic and sustainable sourcing to further educate team members on process controls and root cause analysis.
Streamlining with Effective Communication
The first step in developing a more efficient and effective business is better managing people and communication. By clearly laying out responsibilities and dividing our individual and group tasks, we can more easily interweave those lines with other groups and branches. One of the issues in defining supply chain duties is developing a logical means of resupply and inventory management. Because each separate project has long been viewed as an “island” unto itself, the build-up and inventory waste that comes with it have grown.
Kevin Schofield, Manager of Supply Chain Management, ONEOK
Each year, organizations spend over $20 trillion globally on all kinds of services, according to some estimates. Services in the U.S. make up, on average, nearly 60% of organizations’ total non-payroll external spend (and that can be significantly higher in some industry verticals). The effective management of services spend has been a perennial topic of discussion (and limited action) over many years. And technology used to address complex services in an organization is not well understood.
Spend Matters and Sourcing Industry Group have partnered to field a survey of procurement professionals (CPOs, procurement directors, category managers, etc.) that is described briefly below.
The purpose of the survey is to better understand how and to what extent procurement is using enterprise procurement technology and other solutions to process and manage an organization’s service categories and with what level of satisfaction.
For this survey, the term "services" encompasses a broad range of spend categories, like consulting, facilities management, legal, temporary staffing, marketing and so on.
Despite the size of this mega-spend category, procurement leaders we talk with have agreed that most categories of services are not, to put it kindly, optimally managed and there are few best practices.
There also seems to be agreement that purpose-built technology for specifically managing different services categories, strategically and tactically, is lacking.
Andrew Karpie, Research Director for Services and Labor Procurement, Spend Matters
For those who work in any area of the supply chain, diversity is a word that comes up often. Supplier diversity or diversity in contracting are programs that can be either mandatory (i.e., requirement to fulfill state or federal contracts) or voluntary (i.e., procurement/social responsibility strategy).
Whether your organization chooses diverse suppliers for advocacy and social responsibility reasons, to comply with state or federal regulations, or to simply meet your stated requirements and work scope, the benefits of supplier diversity can have lasting impacts on your community and your organization.
Starting a Supplier Diversity Program (SD Program) in your organization requires input and collaboration from various stakeholders at all levels. The SIG Resource Center has a wealth of information to help you begin the process to implement an SD Program, including how to make the business case to internal stakeholders, best practices and benchmarking studies from your peers.
Mary Zampino, Senior Director of Global Sourcing Intelligence
SIG University Certified Sourcing Professional (CSP) program graduate Karina Swanson discusses the RFx process and how it allows you to analyze real-time market dynamics to ensure you are receiving the right service or product.
There are several reasons you may be considering an RFx strategy as the correct process to pilot for your business. If so, I highly recommend taking a closer look at your portfolio and ask yourself these questions:
- Have you seen a pricing change in the last 12 months?
- Do you have a diverse number of suppliers?
- Do you see small gaps in pricing from dual or multi-sourced products or services?
- Is your portfolio consolidated?
- Have you eliminated all risk factors from your portfolio?
If you answered “no” to any of those questions, then launching an RFx will bring value to your business.
RFx is a term used to describe multiple types of requests. Choosing the right requests for your business is dependent on your end goal. Start by having discussions with your team and stakeholders to identify what you aim to accomplish.
If you are looking for a general understanding of services or products, you can launch a Request for Information (RFI). Most people use this as the first step in their RFx strategy to evaluate their suppliers’ capabilities. An RFI is a useful tool to involve new suppliers on a new project, assess the market for better suppliers, create a short list of suppliers for your portfolio or the next phase of your strategy.
SIG University Certified Sourcing Professional (CSP) program graduate Silver Chaudry discusses how category management takes sourcing initiatives out of silos to create shared objectives and continuous processes across business units that drive efficiency.
Category management is a strategic and collaborative approach to procurement involving the segmentation of related goods and services to proactively manage and consolidate spend, track savings and identify areas of improvement. Category management was first developed in the 1980s, evolving from strategic sourcing but differing as it is an end to end process where the analysis is continuously refreshed to keep up with changing market trends. (Strategic sourcing was typically reactive in nature, conducted for immediate requirements and taking place as a one-time event.) Category management also places emphasis on supplier development, where category managers work closely with suppliers to foster innovation and achieve superior outcomes.
In previous blogs, SIG has covered the basic concept of sustainability, including an overview of its various dimensions. In this post, I will touch on the role that sourcing professionals can have in meeting corporate sustainability goals.
Why should sourcing have a role?
Sourcing is uniquely positioned to contribute to meeting a corporation's sustainability goals because sourcing typically has expertise in:
Creating alignment to corporate goals
Building frameworks to measure success
Researching market conditions and supplier capabilities
Conducting strategic negotiations
Designing innovative methods for value creation
Ranking the priorities of stakeholders with supplier offerings
Identifying risk and mitigating responsibly
The reduction in costs after implementing a sustainability program can exceed the costs of implementation – in other words, you’re spending money up front but in the long run, you save more than you spend. For example, if an organization were to target the spend category of corporate services and facilities management (FM), capital may be invested in working with a supplier to install a new system that reduces energy consumption at the company's North American headquarters, but in the long run, the reduction in energy costs saves the company money – which of course, can then be reinvested.
In this example, procurement and sourcing are uniquely positioned to make this happen. Most likely Sourcing negotiated the original FM contract, understands the innovative capabilities of suppliers, has heard many recent pitches on new products, and is adept at performing the analysis that proves an investment can have a significant return in hard costs, and even soft costs.
Mary Zampino, Vice President – Content, Research & Analytics
SIG University Certified Sourcing Professional (CSP) program student Kimberly Morelli works at Driven Brands. She shares how essential components such as soft skills and change management can be and how she is implementing newly polished tools and best practices to tackle organizational challenges.
In the CSP program, students focus on the hard and soft skills of sourcing, including strategic sourcing and outsourcing methodologies, as well as best practices in negotiations.
My enrollment in the CSP Program from SIG University has proven to be timely and I am excited at the opportunity to have lessons that can be readily applied to our procurement organization. I also was heartened to find emphasis by SIG on positive supplier relationships versus an adversarial stance as used to be popular. The procurement team I am on has been in a state of transformation over the past few years, shifting from transactional buying to category management with a specific focus on increasing our sourcing processes. I found the CSP program to have laid a strong framework that is applicable to my organization, both in procurement and business areas.