Buying into Copenhagen

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As more than eighty heads of state jet in to support the Copenhagen climate change summit this week, few can be under any misapprehension that carbon reduction is falling from importance. The political will to pursue carbon reduction as a co-ordinated international process is highly evident. So where does this leave corporate policy on green issues?

Corporate agendas may have been skewed towards addressing the impact of the economic downturn over the last few months, but there can be little doubt that companies will have to redress the balance in favour of green initiatives if they are going to keep in step with the political direction being taken by world leaders. US president, Barack Obama’s expected presence at the summit stands testimony to that.

Many companies are looking to their supply chains for ways of cutting emissions, and in the great majority of cases initiatives centre on cutting unnecessary transit mileage, improving vehicle utilisation or introducing more environmentally friendly fuels or means of transport. Tesco is committed to halving emissions per case of goods delivered by 2012 and to cutting emissions through its supply chain by 30 per cent by 2020. But as leading retailers, such as Tesco, are trying to influence consumers in the way they buy goods, making them more aware of environmentally friendly products, shouldn’t corporate procurement practice become more aligned to buying goods and services from suppliers that are actively pursuing a policy of reducing their carbon footprint?

A number of companies are keen to collaborate with suppliers that are of a “like mind” in reducing their carbon emissions, but few if any are sourcing on the basis of a low-carbon footprint. But this might not always be the case.  

In many respects, the problem for procurement departments may be in identifying those suppliers that are pursuing a programme of reducing their carbon emissions under an internationally recognised certification scheme – so creating a level playing field. Of course, there are one or two industry-wide initiatives underway, such as the one championed by the utilities sector, where a substantial number of utility companies are behind the CEMARS scheme for providing a framework and audited process for certification of suppliers to the internationally recognised CEMARS standard, but then these are few and far between.

However, if suppliers want to stay ahead of the game with regards the way procurement departments might soon be making their purchasing decisions, then they should act now rather than wait and see. The path ahead looks pretty set.

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