The sustainability agenda is easier to advance if it has the support of senior leaders in a business. Once a board decides that green credentials are important, and there is a need for progress to be included in an annual report, everything moves more swiftly – however hard it is to measure those credentials.
“That cultural change from the top down is the way to do it; you need that support from beyond the procurement team,” Hari concluded.
Another key driver for change is consumer attitudes. If buyers begin to demand sustainable products, that will motivate a change in behaviour.
Without such motivation, publishing end-of-year green credentials can simply be a marketing ploy without much real substance behind it.
However, in many businesses pressure comes from suppliers rather than consumers. Arnaud Lafontaine reported that many retailers want to prove their supplier has a stance on sustainability and to set targets around recyclable plastic. He added: “I don’t think the customer really minds… but the grocer wants to tick a box.”
We may be at a tipping point between what people believe is the right thing to do in terms of carbon reduction, and the customer who just wants value. As Lance put it: “Many consumers don’t give two hoots about the carbon footprint of the chicken they’re buying, they just want the cheapest chicken.”
Keith Hallam agreed: “The key thing is to still drive the value proposition across the business and sustainability is almost a marker against that.”
In some sectors, however, sustainability is a key element. For instance, if a large defence contractor in the USA requires a supply chain sustainability strategy in order to compete for a contract that might last 25 years; that quickly focuses the minds of business leaders. Situations like this will have a huge impact moving forward.
Philip Molnar said that Costa is catching up quickly with the eco agenda: “There’s a lot of work going on around the sustainability of our packaging; we’re trialling an all-paper cup with a paper lid which is going to be quite innovative.”