Best Practice Framework Series #2: Don’t Get Your Sustainable Procurement Program Stuck on the Side of your Desk!

Best Practice Framework Series #2: Don’t Get Your Sustainable Procurement Program Stuck on the Side of your Desk!

Sustainable procurement is strategic initiative with the potential to power the most important organizational priorities. But to improve the sustainability of our supply chains, we can’t expect procurement professionals to implement Sustainable Procurement out of the goodness of their hearts: big impacts can only come with adequate support and resourcing. In this Best Practice Framework Series blog, we will discuss the effect resourcing can have on making Sustainable Procurement programs impactful.


Far too often, organizations are trying to create and implement high performing Sustainable Procurement Programs off the side of someone’s desk. Organizations tend to assign Sustainable Procurement responsibilities to a senior procurement leader, who is often consumed with keeping a full head count and executing various supply chain transformations. With Sustainable Procurement becoming increasingly important, it is unrealistic to expect these folks to be able to make meaningful progress: they need help. No matter how thorough a company’s Sustainable Procurement Strategy and Action Plan may be, without adequate resources, these plans typically fall by wayside. This leaves companies struggling to achieve impact.

What does adequate resourcing look like? Well, to ensure Sustainable Procurement is impactful we all know it can, it is vital that companies invest in a combination of:

  • Human Resources,
  • Technological Resources,
  • Financial Resources.

Just like they would for any other significant internal program enhancement.


Human Resources: A Dedicated Sustainable Procurement Manager

Presently, industry best practice is to have a dedicated full or part-time Sustainable Procurement Manager. Organizations like BC Lottery Corporation, CBC/Radio-Canada, City of Winnipeg, University of British Colombia, and City of Edmonton have hired full time employees to fill Head of Sustainable Procurement roles. Sustainable Procurement objectives are embedded into these roles – like ensuring Sustainable Procurement Tools are used and delivering training. If your organization isn’t yet at a place where an FTE can be hired, ensure that sustainability is an active part of the entire purchasing team’s responsibility.


Work it out! Using Working Groups to Add Strength and Value

Though a dedicated manager is a great start, even they need support to see their Sustainable Procurement program get the best results. A working group can be a significant addition to program managers. Most frequently, working group members include representatives from Sustainability/ESG, Procurement key clients who account for a large percentage of sales, Communications, EDI, and/or Indigenous Relations. These working groups are helpful in being able to review new policies and procedures, identify high impact procurement opportunities (HIPOs) and procurement tools (blogs to come later in the series), as well as amplify key communication messages.

Technological Resources: Supporting the Program Online

The information technology industry is continuously improving the efficiently of information gathering and data analysis. Companies like EcoVadis and Supply Shift are some examples of Sustainable Procurement specific software platforms to help organizations assess and track activities. Additionally, e-procurement platforms like Bonfire, Ariba, and SAP are evolving to provide better data tracking and reporting capabilities. In our future blog on Tools, we will uncover some of the key methods organizations are using to gather information and measure the impact of their Sustainable Procurement programs.

Financial Resources: Don’t Forget the Funding!

Any good internal improvement program will require some funding to optimize it’s impact: Sustainable Procurement is no different. Funding is necessary for subject matter experts to help create policies, tools, procedures, specialized training, or to help pay for memberships communities of practice. Often sustainability teams support the start-up of Sustainable Procurement programs; after all, they have a vested interest in seeing Sustainable Procurement be successful, as it drives impact on their goals. Other times Finance and Supply Chain will have some discretionary funds they can use to ensure this isn’t driven off the side of an overworked Buyer’s desk. External sources of funding could include project specific funding, such as provincial energy rebates for energy saving equipment or other technological innovation funds for pilot projects; or through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Green Municipal Fund; or team up with peer organizations to mutually hire an external consultant.


Driving ESG Goals Through Sustainable Procurement

Sustainable procurement should be seen as the engine of an organization’s sustainability program and a driver of top-level strategic goals. Important issues like eco-efficiency, climate mitigation and resilience, Indigenous Procurement and EDI can all be impacted by making better procurement and supply chain decisions.


Are you dedicating enough resources to Sustainable Procurement? If you’d like to learn more, contact us at to learn more about resourcing and all the other practices for implementing a high-impact Sustainable Procurement Program. Check back next month for our Best Practice Framework Series #4: Policy.