SPLC Summit 2023
The Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council (SPLC) hosted their Annual Summit back in person this August! Amanda Chouinard, of the Reeve team and CCSP Program Manager, headed down to Atlanta Georgia for the three-day event to speak, network and learn – here are her reflections:
1. It was great to be back together in person.
A common theme of conversation emerged at the opening networking session: how appreciative everyone was to be meeting people in person again. Remarks like “you’re in 3D”, “its nice to see you without a rectangle box” and “now I know how tall you are!” were commonly heard. People were noticeably joyful to be reunited in person, and silliness aside, it marked the importance of establishing personal connections; especially in a line of work than can sometimes be isolated within an organisation. This was carried through the rest of the summit and noted as a critical factor for maintaining momentum beyond the event.
- Carbon, carbon, and more carbon.
Carbon was one of the most, if not the most, represented topics throughout the event this year. Sessions on methods for tracking Scope 3 emissions, case studies on how certain product categories can contribute to or minimize GHG emissions, and discussions on procurement’s role in supporting an organization’s carbon reduction goals were prevalent. With the backdrop of raging fires across North America, its no surprise this was top of mind. Everyone knows supply chain decarbonization is important, yet it seems only the leading organizations who have ample resources have made the most progress towards tracking and reducing Scope 3’s. For others who are still figuring it out, three strategies emerged:
- Focus on high impact areas. Start with 2 or 3 product categories that are know for high emissions and work on introducing procurement criteria that can address this.
- Engage with suppliers. Encourage all suppliers who are able, to track their emissions and set reduction targets. Large suppliers will likely have started this journey, while small suppliers may need some education and support.
- Leverage technology and data solutions. More and more technology solutions are available, like SupplyShift, EcoVadis, and Kloopfiy, that can help organizations gather and analyze data from suppliers to support Scope 3 emissions tracking.
- Don’t just collect data, use it.
While the importance of data popped up throughout several panels, it was of particular focus during Dr. Elouise Epstein’s plenary talk. She spoke about the power of data – its use, misuse, and underutilization. AI and digitization will play a critical role in the future of procurement and advancement of sustainability. But there is risk in collecting data and then not using it to inform better decisions moving forward; especially when suppliers are inundated with information requests. Once you have data on something, ensure you take the time to analyse it to find gaps or opportunities where new actions and improvements can be implemented.
- An emerging question: how to handle trade-offs between environmental and social objectives.
In both planned panels and side discussions, the question of how and when to balance potentially competing environmental and social objectives came up a number of times. This often manifests as tracking and reducing Scope 3 emissions vs supporting SME’s and diverse businesses. We know that addressing social inequality and the green economy transition are mutually reinforcing concepts. But in practice, procurement professionals have described difficult choices when it comes to working with suppliers that can really help their organization’s carbon reduction goals versus supporting local SME’s who often don’t have the knowledge or capacity to do the same. Despite the fact that SME’s environmental impact is usually much smaller and often local means less transportation related emissions. Regardless, this was a question many were struggling with, and it was often simply met with an acknowledgement of the challenge and taking a case-by-case approach.
As is the nature with wicked problems, the take-away here is that there is no simple answer. That said, we should aim to pursue systems thinking and support solutions that can advance multiple priorities at once when possible.
- Prioritize efforts on high impact categories.
This year, I had the pleasure of presenting on a powerhouse panel of all young women from diverse backgrounds, including Daniela Osio from Kloopify, Madison Barton and Nazifa Rahman both from Etch Sourcing. I spoke about the Reeve process for identifying and implementing High Impact Procurement Opportunities (HIPOs), while Daniela and Madison spoke about tools their organizations offer to support organizations in getting started with impact on sustainable procurement. The theme of our panel resonated throughout the event as many discussed the value of being able to focus efforts on purchases where there is most opportunity for change and simply getting started. Our audience appreciated hearing that they don’t have to do it all, all at once, especially in the early stages.
At its heart, the SPLC summit is a chance for sustainability and procurement professionals (and sustainable procurement professionals) to connect not only over the importance of our work but also as person to person in a common community. SPLC does a great job of fostering human connection and knows how important it is to have an outlet for fun, silliness, and human connection amidst the seriousness of the issues we’re facing. … time to keep the momentum going!