Clarify Roles


Clarify how sustainability accountability and related roles are allocated and incentivised across your procurement and supply chain teams.

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Most procurement and supply chain practitioners believe sustainability is important, yet many still do not recognise it as their responsibility.¹ ² Here is how you can resolve this disconnect:

Implement an organisational procurement operating model

Consider where specific sustainability expertise needs to reside within the business, fostering a culture of collaboration and providing resources and leadership engagement at all levels. Additionally, look at the balance of your procurement model - centralisation provides standardisation and buying power, while decentralisation can avoid bureaucracy and leave room for innovation and outcomes-based approaches.³ You could achieve this balance by establishing sustainability centres of excellence⁴ to provide expert guidance to category managers and other procurement staff for effective implementation and by promoting cross-functional team coordination to manage risks effectively.⁵ ⁶ ⁷ To reinforce your sustainable procurement model, consider how you can drive internal sustainability behaviours and accountability through aligned KPIs and incentives.

EXAMPLE: A. P. Møller-Mærsk considers adding centres of excellence to its two existing sustainability teams

The integrated container logistics company has a Group Sustainability Team driving company-wide sustainability efforts, a CSR compliance team within its procurement function, and sustainability responsibilities attached to each procurement role. The company is now evaluating the benefits of creating a procurement sustainability competence centre to further support its procurement team.⁸

EXAMPLE: Sustainable Procurement Targets and Performance Indicators at Rijkswaterstaat

Rijkswaterstaat, the Dutch infrastructure agency, sets and tracks sustainable procurement targets across six themes. It integrates these themes into procurement decisions, continuously monitoring progress and identifying improvement areas to meet targets.

Define new roles

You may need to augment job descriptions and/or create new roles as you transition through your sustainability journey.¹⁰ For instance, this may include roles related to measuring and reducing Scope 3 carbon emissions, addressing human rights and modern slavery, and supporting circularity and waste reduction in your value chain. Clearly define these new roles in job descriptions and titles to reinforce that sustainability is now a core requirement.

Establish clear accountability for individuals

Implementing sustainability in procurement hinges on clear individual accountability.¹¹ Translate your organisation's sustainability commitments into personal goals for your procurement and supply chain team.¹² Establish individual performance plans, ensuring your team is prepared to integrate sustainability into their everyday work and drive your organisation's sustainability agenda. Drive behavioural changes by aligning KPIs and incentives with sustainability priorities, considering performance bonuses for certain KPIs, and senior management oversight for key sustainable procurement KPIs. Ensure that feedback sessions and performance reviews address individuals' contributions towards sustainable procurement and value chain initiatives. This could be through their innovative ideas, project execution, or efforts toward achieving sustainability goals. Additionally, consider individual's efforts to drive sustainability initiatives during promotion decisions.

EXAMPLE: The City of Portland sets sustainability goals for procurement team members¹³

The City of Portland's Sustainable Procurement Program mandates sustainability training for each team member and includes sustainability goals in job descriptions. The program embeds sustainability into the procurement process by tracking metrics such as training attendance and contracts with sustainability requirements.

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Strategies for Engaging Staff and Establishing Accountability

This practical tool by the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council (SPLC) provides a framework for deciding how to engage staff in sustainable procurement. It includes a table for mapping out who you will engage, why they are relevant, their values, where sustainability aligns with those values, and what collaborative opportunities exist.

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Making Sure Your Employees Succeed

This article from HBR discusses how to use employee goal-setting to motivate employees and help them connect their day-to-day efforts to larger business objectives. The insights it offers are broadly applicable to supply chain and procurement practitioners.

Tool 3: Embedding Decent Work into Corporate Processes and Systems cover

Tool 3: Embedding Decent Work into Corporate Processes and Systems

The UNGC's Decent Work Toolkit for Sustainable Procurement consists of three modules with key learnings, training exercises, and practical case studies to enable procurement staff and their suppliers to take action to improve labour conditions for supply chain workers. Tool 3 covers Embedding Decent Work into Corporate Processes and Systems.

Identify Gaps: This includes the section "Resolving Dilemmas Around Decent Work." It offers practical guidance on addressing what may seem like competing objectives between cost saving and sustainability.

Clarify Responsibility: This tool includes a "Buyer KPIs" section that provides a list of example KPIs that you can adopt or use as a source of inspiration to help embed sustainable procurement into your processes and systems.

Develop Talent: Tool 3 also includes a training exercise package on decent work in supply chains. You can use these practical exercises to engage your colleagues on the topic.