Here’s looking for our first chief sustainable procurement officer

Farid Yaker from UNEP encouraged us to determine and then quantify the real costs of NOT having sustainable procurement through our supply chain.
Farid Yaker from UNEP encouraged us to determine and then quantify the real costs of NOT having sustainable procurement through our supply chain.

What a wonderful thing to have international guidelines to do the right thing and to drive values through business in order to achieve mutually beneficial value for the business, our own community and across the globe.

Sydney was the centre of attention recently for the mirror committee gathering and Global Forum on Sustainable Procurement at the Australian Technology Park on 2 May, which many attended, including myself. GECA also had our own standards manager participate in the five day long negotiations.

Congratulations also to Jean Louis Haie for making it happen.

The Global Forum was the showcase event but what was happening behind the scenes and what was the five days all about? Leaders and sustainability specialists from all around the world gathered to refine the upcoming release of the ISO 20400 expected early 2017.

It was very reassuring to me to witness leaders across the globe, professionals from all countries and all skillsets and industries coming along to support sustainability through sustainable procurement in a real, practical way.

The longer I am in sustainability and look at the challenges at hands, the more I understand that our best chance of solving our 2 degree warming dilemma is to move to sustainable consumption and production across all industries and across the whole supply chain as soon as possible.

With the amount of current global support for ISO 20400 we have the potential to access about 85 per cent of the world’s GDP and 65 per cent of the world’s population – not insignificant numbers.

Are you and your company ready to commit to such guidelines?

How much preparedness is in Australia?

At the Global Forum, Farid Yaker from UNEP encouraged us to determine and then quantify the real costs of not having sustainable procurement through our supply chain.

When people are making purchasing decisions are people considering CO2 emissions, the cost of health on ourselves and our loved ones. What is the cost of future generation’s water, or ability to grow healthy food, or exhausting our natural resources.

And if you are not concerned about our future society in accessing clean food and water, ultimately what is the cost of your reputational risk? How much is the name and trust in your organisation worth?

Reputation risk is immense in today’s global economy where information travels across the globe.

Trust takes a long time to earn and can be lost in an instant. How much is this trust worth to you?

Perhaps we need some more inspiring stories within Australia.

AGL shared their transition plan to the new sustainable economy.

We need more stories and more successes. At the forum we heard from an inspiring chief procurement officer Rosimeri Fauth from South America.

I used to get excited about CSO roles – yes that’s it, chief sustainability officers – someone accountable for sustainability at the executive level as opposed to the token add on into communications or marketing.

So it was wonderful to also hear of a CPO.

One would think that building a dam for clean renewable energy might be enough “doing good” but no, this company’s story was an inspiration to how we can go above and beyond what is expected or even seen as best practice

I am awaiting the arrival of the indestructible CSPO – similar but not to be confused with C3P0, one of my favourite Star Wars characters – whose roles will be to achieve best practice procurement for all sustainable consumption and production –  not lobby and justify its business case.

We also need to remember the SMEs, our future large organisations and emerging industries and not leave them behind in the complexity.

How can we support them to get on board and prepare for sustainable procurement both up and downstream? How can we share tools, knowledge and processes? Let’s not let them get left behind.

Sharing is going to be instrumental to our business success, the success of ISO 20400 and perhaps the success or even survival of our species.

So where to from here Australia?

What can we do now the Global Forum is over and we await the release of the ISO guideline?

Here is a suggestion. In France, the government has called for the top 20 CEOS to sign a sustainable procurement policy in support of sustainable procurement and ultimately a sustainable future.

How marvellous would it be to see this here in Australia? Who is ready to step up?

I urge you to contact connect challenge and champion each other whoever your organisation may be, to step up for our future through actualising sustainable consumption and production.

I hope to see lots of CSPOs in the future, all coordinating and collaborating the change that needs to happen.

May the force be with you!

Kate Harris is chief executive, Good Environmental Choice, Australia

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