Sustainable Sourcing – The Ultimate Guide for 2022

In this day and age, sustainable sourcing is a must. We must all do our share in protecting our Earth’s natural resources.

As such, companies are now shifting towards sustainable sourcing. For this article, we are going to study what sustainable sourcing is and what this means for industries all over the world.

Once you’re done reading this article, you should have an idea of how to apply sustainable sourcing for your company or department.

What is Sustainable Sourcing?

The world is pretty much still recovering from a global pandemic that might be slowing down as of the moment, but could be still far from over, as most health experts believe. Despite the economic crunch though, sourcing and procurement still function on normal levels. It’s all because the modern technologies of today allow companies to incorporate sustainable sourcing.

What does sustainable sourcing mean though? According to procurement experts, sustainable sourcing is the process of selecting sources of supplies that is not detrimental to the environment. It is also the process of sourcing supplies that are sustainable at the core; it means it doesn’t hurt the environment and that it can be renewed through natural means.

Sustainable sourcing is also defined as the obtaining of materials, products, or services from suppliers in a manner that is socially and environmentally responsible.

Editor's note:

Hi there! My name is Marijn Overvest, I'm the founder of Procurement Tactics.
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The Three Factors of Sustainable Sourcing

The procurement process must have the following three factors for the process to be considered sustainable:

1. Socially Responsible

Supply chain activities should always have a social dimension. This means treating the workers equally. The workers must have social security and benefits that will ensure that they are cared for by the company employing them.

Examples of this are companies who are very particular with their employee’s salaries and benefits, as well as ethical issues that may affect a company’s moral stand in with the rest of the world. Nike’s involvement in child labor in its factories in the 1990s is one such example.

2. Environmentally Responsible

A huge chunk of sustainable sourcing always has something to do with the environment. This means that any supply chain activities that will naturally deplete a source of the supply or may cause pollution to the environment are discouraged and discontinued. Sustainable sourcing is one of the means to push suppliers for alternate sources of supplies needed.

One famous example is fashion giant Dolce & Gabbana’s decision to stop using fur in its materials for its products. The fashion brand is the latest among many fashion brands to promise the general public to find sustainable means to replace animal fur.

3. Economically Sound

While trying to save the environment and trying to be ethically right are some of the best practices for sustainable sourcing, it also needs to be economically sound. It means that the practice is not as wasteful when it comes to a company’s natural resources. 

The Difference Between Sustainable Sourcing and Ethical Sourcing

There is currently a great deal of confusion regarding the terms ethical sourcing and sustainable sourcing. From the way you look at the words, they do look and feel the same. But just like most words, the difference can be seen in their actual meaning. 

While ethical sourcing is choosing your suppliers based on how ethical and responsible they’ve produced or come up with their supplies and services, sustainable sourcing is the process of looking for a sustainable solution to keep up with the demand for a certain product.

One perfect example of sustainable sourcing is the development of synthetic ivory. Companies that wish to avoid getting implicated by the ivory trade ban are buying and using synthetic ivory to dissuade poachers and hunters from hunting elephants, seals, and walruses in the wild for their ivory tusks.

What joins sustainable sourcing and ethical sourcing together though is that both are needed due to supply chains are still going to expand globally into developing countries and are always on the lookout for lower prices. Companies must meet the expectations of its stakeholders to take responsibility for their supplier’s ethical and social practices.

The Benefits of Sustainable Sourcing

There are several benefits that a company can expect to receive should they start leaning towards sustainable sourcing for their procurement processes:

1. Complying with national and international laws, securing the “license to operate”. 

Operating responsibly helps a company to meet or exceed the requirements set by laws. Failure to comply with these laws can result in sanctions being imposed on a company, in heavy fines, or even imprisonment for company officials.  

2. Protecting business reputation and being an attractive investment prospect. 

Business practices that exploit people or the environment are a huge reputational risk. Poor practices and mistreatment of workers can turn into international scandals, generating significant negative press coverage and deterring both consumers and investors. Operating responsibly protects companies against these risks. 

3. Better business performance with reduced operational costs.

Protecting workers and providing safe working conditions reduce injury rates, absenteeism rates, employee turnover rates, and worker error rates, all of which cost a company.

FAQs

What is sustainable sourcing?

Sustainable sourcing is the process of getting suppliers who follow ethical and sustainable ways of getting supplies.

Is sustainable procurement better than regular procurement?

Sustainable procurement is better for companies who are very particular with their reputation and with the quality of the supplies.

Who is in charge of sustainable sourcing?

The sourcing manager is often the person in charge of sustainable sourcing.

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