Explore Market


Engage the market to assess the availability of sustainability solutions.

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Undertake preliminary market research

Explore the market using desk-based research to familiarise yourself with the relevant sectoral sustainability innovations, practices, certifications, and standards. Look for information in industry journals and news; trade association initiatives; independent sources (consider public filings or databases such as CDP); and company websites and reports. Industry benchmarks are another way to assess how the market regards sustainability. Look also at government procurement portals and databases, as they often transparently list suppliers with sustainability accreditations.

EXAMPLE: Australian Government leverages database to find potential sustainable suppliers

The Australian Government uses the Good Environmental Choice Australia (GECA) Product Database to help identify sustainable goods and services that have an EcolabelClaims Authentication or Life Cycle Analysis & Environmental Product Declaration

Communicate your intentions

Develop a communication strategy for the upcoming procurement cycle to share the procurement aims and approach with a wide range of potential suppliers. Sharing your procurement plan, prospectus, or pre-tender briefing gives suppliers time to mobilise to meet your sustainability needs before the procurement launch. 

EXAMPLE: Transport for London communicates early intentions

When Transport for London (TfL) upgraded its Underground lighting to lower energy alternatives, it produced a Market Sounding Prospectus to signal its intentions. In addition, TfL presented at Europe-wide lighting conferences, used online submission tools and market surveys and hosted a 'Suppliers Morning' event. The work helped TfL acquire information on almost 300 different innovative lighting technologies and informed a whole life-cycle costing method for the procurement.

Actively engage with the market

Share questionnaires or surveys, arrange face-to-face meetings with suppliers, and arrange "meet the buyer" conferences, workshops or webinars to explore potential solutions and gather additional insights on sustainability trends and offerings. Annual reviews or RFx can also be a good opportunity for open dialogue, asking major suppliers to proactively introduce alternative solutions they are developing. For all market engagement activities, consider including an introduction to the sustainability topic, a discussion on your specific needs or products, opportunities for suppliers to pitch their solution or product, and networking opportunities. Market engagement is also a chance to understand what type of data your suppliers gather and how, informing how you award and manage the contract.

EXAMPLE: Bridgestone APAC Supplier Conference

Bridgestone launched its E8 Commitments towards becoming a sustainable services company and wanted to communicate the vital role APAC suppliers and stakeholders would play in realising the goal. The Bridgestone Supplier Conference 2022was a virtual event covering various topics, including Procurement Strategy and Product Life-cycle Assessments. Post event, 96% of attendees reported being able to identify more opportunities for working with Bridgestone and felt they could align their plans with Bridgestone's long-term strategy and vision.

EXAMPLE: HP Inc. prepares suppliers for future pre-qualification criterion

HP Inc. wanted to source from suppliers with 1.5 degrees aligned Science Based Target (SBT) before a sufficient number of suppliers could meet such a requirement. The company pushed forward by signalling that SBTs would become a pre-qualification criterion in the future, allowing suppliers time to prepare for the new requirement.1

Test the market's capacity to deliver sustainable solutions

Use an Expression of Interest (EOI) or Request for Information (RFI) to gauge interest in the opportunity, find potential partners, and get input on how partners will meet the procurement sustainability aims. EOI and RFI are especially useful when exploring the sustainability potential of new suppliers or materials. You may also need to update your knowledge of qualified suppliers from current or previous contracts and their capacity to deliver on sustainability. As appropriate, use this stage to pre-qualify and shortlist bidders with sustainable credentials you will invite to bid in a formal tender process later.

EXAMPLE: City releases nationwide Request for Information (RFI) to Increase Sustainable Purchasing

The City of Madison, Wisconsin, aimed to create a more diverse supplier pool to achieve its goals of making its purchasing more sustainable, equitable and local. To do this, it released a nationwide RFI designed to increase its awareness of local, women or BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour)-owned businesses or suppliers able to help the City reduce carbon emissions.2

Understand diverse supplier needs and support their participation

The planning stage is also a chance to engage and support a broader range of potential suppliers including SMEs, local businesses, social enterprises, and BIPOC- and women-owned business by clarifying concepts, providing training in the procurement process and providing a platform to answer their questions. Other ways to increase opportunities for diverse suppliers to participate include dividing up large contracts, creating offtake agreements, or allocating a portion of your procurement spend specifically to diverse suppliers. You will also need to consider the power dynamics and relative priorities between you and your suppliers. If the burden of meeting sustainability requirements, accreditations, or data requests is too onerous, you may need to rethink how your procurement is has been designed.

EXAMPLE: Global brewer focuses on local sourcing

AB InBev has committed to sourcing goods and services locally wherever possible, allocating 60% of its spending to local businesses in its Africa Zone.3

ISO 20400 cover

ISO 20400

The first international standard for sustainable procurement created by the International Standards Organisation (ISO).

Explore Market: It can help inform your pre-planning process by offering guidance on integrating sustainability criteria into procurement processes, engaging with suppliers, and assessing sustainability risks.

Policies and Processes: The standard can be used to help develop and implement sustainable purchasing policies and processes.

Review: The measuring and improving performance section provides techniques to implement and continually improve sustainable procurement. 

SPP Regions: Market Engagement Best Practice Report cover

SPP Regions: Market Engagement Best Practice Report

An informative report by the Sustainable Public Procurement (SPP) Regions outlines the practical steps to support market engagement. It begins with an introduction to market engagement and explains why and how you should engage using examples of successful processes.

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Supplier Day Case Studies

This set of case studies from Suppler Day will help you learn how companies are running supplier events to engage the market on sustainability and innovation.

Why You Need a Supplier-Diversity Program cover

Why You Need a Supplier-Diversity Program

This article by Harvard Business Review maps the history of supplier diversity programs and their impacts. It makes a case for supplier diversity programs' commercial and social benefits.

How to Source Diverse Suppliers cover

How to Source Diverse Suppliers

A step-by-step guide by The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) offering advice on sourcing diverse suppliers, with examples of race and gender diversity that can be broadly applied to any protected characteristic, such as: age, sexual orientation, disability etc.