ECO-Buy Leaders' Forum

As part of our series of Leaders’ Forums, ECO-Buy business and government members got together to discuss a commonly raised challenge: engaging suppliers on sustainability.

Sarah Law, Supplier Sustainability Manager at NAB, spoke about their supplier engagement approach, including their supplier sustainability principles, monitoring compliance and establishing improvement plans with suppliers, supplier recognition through awards and case studies, and communicating their performance through the Dig Deeper report. Information on each of these initiatives can be found in NAB’s website.

We asked participants to discuss the key barriers they experienced in engaging with their suppliers and to brainstorm solutions and ways of addressing those barriers. One key theme of the session was lack of buy-in – not just from suppliers but also from staff, senior management and government. Some ideas on building that buy in are below.

  • Supplier buy in – communicate expectations early and often; ask the sustainability question – suppliers are often looking for ways to differentiate and win your loyalty; build relationships with a few key suppliers and share those achievements broadly (e.g. NAB’s case studies).
  • Staff buy in – don’t work in isolation; build relationships with contract managers; establish clear policy, process and procedures that staff are expected to follow; embed sustainability in personal objectives/KPIs; share lessons learned and recognise achievements.
  • Executive buy in – ‘manage upwards’ by establishing a business case of the benefits (meeting stakeholder and customer expectations, avoiding reputation risk, cost savings, competitive differentiation, etc.); benchmark against other organisations & competitors who are taking action.
  • Political buy in – promote the issue through industry groups; getting involved in the regulatory environment (e.g. EPA, ESC).

Another key barrier discussed was the common issue of lack of time and resources. Some suggestions for addressing that included: recruiting help from other staff through a working group or establishing champions in other teams; collaborating through an industry group or others to develop tools, templates, and guidance to reduce duplication of effort; and prioritising efforts by identifying specific categories or supplier relationships to address.

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 September.