Our first ever ECO-Buy Leaders Forum on April 1 brought together members of the State Government and Business Sectors.
To kick off this new series, we did some future scenario planning, considering what the sustainable procurement environment might look like in 5, 20 and 50 years’ time. While participants struggled to foresee major changes in the short term, it was clear how small shifts today would lead the way to positive transformations in the future.
Future Scenarios - 2019
- Many organisations have 5-year or 2020 sustainability targets and plans in place – these will be coming to their end, and hopefully achieved their goals
- Though progress has been slow, requirements from risk averse investors have moved sustainability up the business priority list and we're seeing changes made.
- Pricing carbon globally has had an impact on unsustainable businesses, and encouraged investment in renewable energy.
- Leading businesses are starting to focus more on long term targets rather than short term stakeholder returns, which allows a greater focus on big picture sustainability and value.
Future Scenarios - 2034
- After issues with food sourcing and political instability brought on by the impacts of climate change, we've returned to sourcing most of our food locally.
- This local focus has reinforced community values, and social structures that prioritise local engagement have become the new normal.
- Product stewardship legislation has been introduced across the board to ensure companies have greater responsibility over waste resources, previously considered an externality, pushing for better recycling and cradle to cradle business models.
- Formerly "developing countries" have strong sustainability frameworks set up, which were born from necessity, but have become a strong source of leadership, competitive advantage and innovation for local businesses.
- Sustainability has become the new normal in business practice, similar to quality and health & safety, as CEOs who did not embrace sustainable business models have been phased out, and now thriving businesses are proactive and thinking longer term.
Future Scenarios - 2064
- We've found new primary resources to use as fuel but hardly need them.
- We consider waste a valuable resource and now actively mine old landfill sites to capture materials for reuse.
- We've largely adopted cradle to cradle systems processes in manufacturing. Supply chain transparency is a high priority, and has been responsible for dramatically shortening supply chains.
- Our economy is much more focused on the provision of services to meet business and personal needs rather than the ownership of goods.
- The provision of some big services like education and some older institutions have entirely changed. For example, physical universities have shifted almost entirely to online delivery models.
Following on from this, we had some great insights from attendees on the challenges and benefits of prioritising sustainable procurement:
- Support at an executive level is key. Top level support makes it much easier to implement policies and makes them more likely to with stand organisational/personnel change. This also encourages longer term planning – 2 year plans influence 5 year plans, and so on.
- Sustainable procurement decisions are subject to perhaps more scrutiny than “non-sustainability” purchases, perhaps down to cost pressure, but it is frustrating having to over-justify this investment, when the line between short term spend and long term benefit is difficult to marry to 12 month budget.
- Asserting organisational goals makes it much easier to engage suppliers on why sustainable procurement is a priority, and implement a code of conduct. Making this transparent and easy to understand is still a challenge as there is no single standard or scoring framework across product categories, but this does provide flexibility for each organisation to define their own goals.
- As all organisations are facing similar challenges, it makes good sense to collaborate, share resources and form partnerships. After all, the end goals of sustainable procurement go beyond protecting intellectual property or competitive advantage. That’s what the ECO-Buy Network is about! We can facilitate project partnerships for organisations that have shared challenges and opportunities. But opening communication and discussion is always the first step.
The Leaders’ Forum is a new initiative exclusive to ECO-Buy Members. If you'd like to join our network and be involved in future events, contact Sara. You can also subscribe to our newsletter to hear about these and other events in the future. The next Leaders’ Forum is scheduled for May.