Procurement ethics

How to implement a sustainable purchasing policy?

Published By
Olivier Audino
Procurement strategy

Sustainable procurement: techniques for implementing a good policy

In a world facing increasing environmental challenges, such as climate change, resource depletion, and biodiversity degradation, it has become imperative for businesses to take action in favor of sustainable development. One of the ways to do this is to put in place a policy ofsustainable purchases or responsible purchasing. The latter consists of integrating environmental, social and economic dimensions into the purchasing process, ensuring that products and services are produced and delivered in a responsible manner. We also talk aboutCSR responsible purchasing. This article presents the key steps to implement a policy ofsustainable business purchasing.

Responsible purchasing: definition

Before going any further, it is important to define what a sustainable or responsible purchasing or even a policy ofsustainable purchases.

By this we mean a set of strategies, principles and guidelines that aim to guide a company's purchasing practices towards sustainable environmental, social and economic criteria. That's why behind the term” sustainable purchases ” are also hiding” CSR responsible purchasing ”. This means integrating the concept of sustainability or sustainable development into all company purchasing decisions, from the selection of suppliers to the evaluation of products or services, including the management of the supply chain.

Why is sustainable procurement so important for businesses that want to reduce their carbon footprint?

Unless you never leave the house, you know that environmental responsibility is becoming increasingly important in the business world.

Businesses assess their impact on the environment by measuring in particular their carbon footprint (a measure representing the quantity of greenhouse gas emissions generated by a company's activities).

“Our data indicates that this 60 to 70 percent increase in a company's carbon footprint is found throughout their supply chain,” says Annie Berger, Relationship Director at “We think [improving supply chain performance] is the key to making a real difference.”

So what are the first steps in a policy ofsustainable development purchasing ?

To identify these alternatives, she suggests including the following queries in your selection process:

  • Does the supplier publish an annual sustainability report?
  • Does it assess its subcontractors on environmental performance criteria?
  • Does it maintain a list of chemicals to be excluded in order to ensure that its processes are free of chemicals that are harmful to the environment?
  • Ask them to explain their reverse logistics (return logistics) program, so you can understand how to manage the end of life of their products.

Supplier site visits can also help you assess a supplier's environmental responsibility. “First, ask him if he has a formalized environmental program, and review that part during your visit.”, says Berger.

For Berger, a successful site visit means observing a formalized environmental program, continuous improvement indicators, reports involving management, and the ability of supplier employees to describe the environmental program in their own words.

How can you implement a sustainable purchasing policy ?

The establishment of a policy ofsustainable purchases must go through several steps:

Identify needs and goals

The first step in setting up a policy ofsustainable purchases consists in assessing the needs of your business as well as the specific goals you want to achieve in terms of sustainable development. This may include reducing your company's carbon footprint, preserving natural resources, minimizing waste, promoting social equity, or improving the health and well-being of workers.

By clearly identifying these objectives, you can guide your purchasing decisions and assess the performance of your purchasing policy.sustainable development purchasing over time.

Identify sustainable suppliers

Choosing suppliers who share the same values as your company in terms of sustainable development is essential for the success of your sustainability policy.sustainable purchases. The process of selecting sustainable suppliers includes several steps:

  • Define your own sustainability criteria : before starting the actual research, define the criteria that you consider to be important in terms of sustainable development: ecological practices, transparency, certifications and labels, ethical working conditions, etc.
  • Look for suppliers : with the emergence of the Internet and online commerce, the search for sustainable suppliers is mainly carried out online nowadays. It's easier and more convenient. It's also faster. There are several ways to find sustainable suppliers on the web: supplier websites, sustainable supplier databases...
  • Evaluate their sustainable procurement practices and policies : review suppliers' sustainability policies and commitments. Feel free to consult testimonials from existing customers, annual supplier reports, or ask for references. This will allow you to gain valuable information about their practices insustainable purchases and their real commitment.
  • Check certifications and labels : they are key indicators of a supplier's commitment to sustainable development. There are numerous labels linked to sustainable purchases in France. Among the best known, we can cite the NF Environnement label, the AB label, the European Ecolabel, the Fairtrade label, etc.
  • Meet the supplier face to face : if possible, organize meetings or site visits with pre-selected suppliers. This will give you an opportunity to discuss their sustainability practices, ask additional questions, and see their operations up close.
  • Establish a process for the continuous evaluation of suppliers : this allows you to constantly evaluate them according to your sustainability criteria and to promote long-term partnerships based on the principle of continuous improvement.

Integrate sustainable development criteria into the purchasing process

To promote sustainable purchases, it is important to incorporate sustainability criteria into the purchasing process itself. This involves establishing clear guidelines for the procurement function in order to ensure that purchasing decisions are consistent with the procurement policy.sustainable purchases, or the sustainability goals set by the company. These guidelines should consider aspects, such as the carbon footprint, the use of recycled materials, the use of recycled materials, sustainable waste management, fair working conditions, minimum energy consumption, the absence of dangerous substances,...

Integrating sustainability criteria into the purchasing process also involves raising awareness and training Purchasing teams in the principles of sustainable or responsible purchasing. Organize sessions of sustainable purchasing training in order to make them aware of the importance of sustainability criteria and to familiarize them with the practices ofsustainable purchases.

In addition, incorporate an assessment of the environmental impact of products into the purchasing process. This may include indicators, such as life cycle analysis (LCA). The latter assesses the overall environmental impact of a product throughout its life cycle, from production to disposal.

Finally, a process ofsustainable purchases involves establishing collaborative relationships with suppliers (see next paragraph). You can work closely with them to encourage them to incorporate sustainability criteria into their product or service offerings, to innovate and to offer more sustainable alternatives.

Encouraging innovation and collaboration

The establishment of a policy ofsustainable purchases also involves encouraging suppliers to adopt sustainable practices. By encouraging innovation and collaboration with your suppliers, you are creating a mutually beneficial relationship where you can work together to find sustainable solutions.

Encourage them to propose innovative solutions that contribute to more sustainable purchases. Organize brainstorming sessions or innovation competitions to stimulate creativity. Encourage them to develop new products, materials, or technologies that reduce the environmental footprint, improve energy efficiency, or promote more responsible use of resources.

Communicate regularly with your suppliers to discuss your sustainability goals and trends or advancements insustainable development purchasing. Organize regular meetings or conference calls to discuss your expectations.

Involve your suppliers right from the design phase of your new products or services. Work together to incorporate sustainable features or materials, reduce waste, optimize resource use, or promote repairability and recycling. By collaborating closely from the start, you can incorporate sustainability criteria by design, making it easy to achievesustainable purchases. Collaboration can continue during the research and development phase. This may involve looking for new technologies, alternative materials, or more sustainable processes.

Finally, implement a system of recognition and rewards for suppliers who excel in promoting practices ofSustainable Development Purchasing. This may include special certifications, recognition labels, or preferential long-term contracts. These motivates suppliers to continue to innovate and improve their sustainability performance.

Track and Evaluate Performance

The establishment of a policy ofSustainable Purchases Does not stop at its design. It is essential to put in place a monitoring and evaluation system to measure progress. Define relevant key performance indicators (KPIs), such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions, reducing water consumption, or increasing the share ofSustainable or Responsible Purchasing, and monitor these indicators regularly.

Use this information to identify areas for improvement and to make the necessary adjustments to your policySustainable Purchases.

Also, encourage transparency by sharing the results achieved with your internal and external stakeholders, thereby increasing your commitment to sustainable development.

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