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The past is another planet

12 November, 2021 | By DPW

COP26 has focused the minds of governments around the world – now DPW is calling on procurement to step up and deliver.

The COP26 conference in Glasgow has focused minds across the globe as the tick-tock of the climate doomsday clock becomes ever louder. 

Here at DPW, though, we need no reminding of the role that sustainability has to play, not just in the way that we operate, but in the way that we look to harness the power of the suppliers of the future.

Our 2021 conference demonstrated the awesome potential that so many of these suppliers and their ideas can have. Speaking at the event, Pierre-Francois Thaler, co-founder and co-CEO of EcoVadis, struck a positive note when he told our audience that 80% of the emissions we need to reduce come from within supply chains – reasoning, therefore, that 80% of the solution lay in procurement’s hands.  

“In 2030, no one will be remembered for implementing a new cost saving programme or compliance programme, but if you can really transform your supply chain, really engage thousands of your suppliers into carbon reduction, this will have a massive impact for the next ten years.” 

Pierre-Francois Thaler, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Ecovadis

“In 2030, no one will be remembered for implementing a new cost saving programme or compliance programme, but if you can really transform your supply chain, really engage thousands of your suppliers into carbon reduction, this will have a massive impact for the next ten years,” he added.

If ever a quote summed up the opportunity presenting itself to the function, then this was it. And while there are understandable fears about what the future holds, there should also be a huge amount of excitement within our community over the role that supply chain operations can have in tackling the biggest crisis of this, or any other, lifetime.

What was clear from the two days of brain-storming and idea exchanging at DPW Conference 2021 was that the solutions we crave are out there, and that the majority are being provided by some of the smallest startups – companies which are capable of operating at high speeds and with the kind of agility beyond others. As we’ve seen, the timetable for averting catastrophe is short. Time most definitely isn’t on our side, which again places those two key components of pace and manoeuvrability at the very heart of what suppliers can help to achieve.

That was evidenced by the selection of our top five DEMO 2021 winners, DPW’s signature pitching competition, all of which demonstrated the critical role that nimble startups can have, not just in the sustainability space but across the whole of the procurement and supply chain function.  

One of those winners was cirplus, the global marketplace for circular plastics, and a company that is at the forefront of pioneering sustainable change.  

Watch the pitch of cirplus, sustainability category winner of DEMO 2021

What has been clear from the conference in Glasgow, is there’s now a genuine desire for countries and governments to come together to achieve a desired outcome. The global methane pledge – signed by over 100 countries – which aims to cut emissions of the gas by 30% in just nine years, is one example of how world leaders finally appear to be waking up to the gravity of the crisis.

It’s the kind of spirit of cooperation that was very much in evidence at DPW Conference 2021, where there was a clear determination from companies, big and small, to utilise the expertise in the room in order to bring a more sustainable world one step closer to reality. Technology in the modern digital world is a core component of that, as Shazia Hussenbux, global sustainable sourcing lead at Oatley, emphasised in an interview with DPW earlier this year.

“Technology provides an opportunity to not only enable, but to advance and empower sustainability, especially sustainable procurement,” she said.

“Leveraging existing technologies, while tapping into emerging tech such as blockchain, IoT, and AI/ML, can significantly accelerate sustainable procurement through real-time data, information transparency and the ability to derive trends and create forecasts with sustainability in mind.  

Digital solutions for sustainable procurement

Graphic: DPW in partnership with h&z have developed this graphic featuring over 100+ technologies across the sustainable procurement category to provide an overview of top and upcoming solutions.

Hussenbux adds: “A combination of technologies would accelerate sustainable procurement by improving traceability and transparency especially in highly complex supply chains, provide a space for engagement beyond your tier 1 suppliers and, help ease up the manual processes of data collection and management through automation. Personally, I envision a world where you can connect your consumers all the way to the producers. Connecting the actors in the value chain could be the key to empower consumers to make more sustainable choices with validated information while simultaneously, supporting and engaging with your supply chain stakeholders.” 

It’s that empowerment of consumers that holds one of the keys to unlocking the sustainable future we all crave. It’s telling now that so many advertisements across all mediums, now focus purely on the sustainability message, rather than any particular product. 

Yes, that brings with it an element of scepticism, with companies now all too aware of how positive messaging on the environment can impact the way they’re perceived. They’re talking the talk but that means nothing if their promises don’t deliver. However, it’s also an illustration of the role that the consumer has to play in all this, and the inexorable shift from a focus on shareholder value to one on stakeholder value.

Late last year, nlmtd and Impact Sprint – two companies which place the environment at the forefront of everything they do – came together under the banner, ‘The past is another planet’. Their opening statement was unambiguous. ‘It’s no longer a question if you want to make your company planet proof, but how to make your company planet proof’. 

Their presentation, which you can find here, pointed to the examples Microsoft, Ikea and Unilever, as an illustration of how well-established giants are as capable of change as any others out there.

We sit on the cusp of an era defining decade, a fact that’s simultaneously daunting and chock full of possibilities. At DPW, we believe that a more sustainable future is eminently possible, and we want to do all we can to ensure that it’s delivered. We will do our bit, and what’s clear from the discussions we have with our partners and our community is that many, many others will do too. 

As COP26 draws to its conclusion today, it’s clear that sustainability is going to remain at the top of the agenda and at the forefront of news agenda long after the Glasgow conference closes. The hope will be that the focusing of minds over the past two weeks, will open the door to a brighter and cleaner future.   

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