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Book Review: Green Purchasing & Sustainability
The idea of being green is certainly not new to corporations or to purchasing professionals for that matter. That does not mean that the effort is easy, or that the path to sustainable purchasing is clear. ‘Green Purchasing & Sustainability’, written by purchasing professional, author, speaker, trainer and consultant Robert Menard, is a practical book that will help you get started down that road.
One of the key themes in the book is that while we’ve all gotten used to the ‘softer’ side of sustainability as consumers, there are some very real ‘hard dollar’ benefits to be gained by making the right decision – positively impacting the bottom line and the planet at the same time. As stated in the book, “We have shown consistently that translating all initiatives to ‘dollars and numbers’ is essential in selling, understanding, and evaluating any sustainability initiative.” (p. 108). The fact of the matter is that without quantifiable benefits against the right metrics, no purchasing organization will commit resources to sustainability.
But is sustainability purchasing’s responsibility? Menard makes the point a number of times in the book that we are the best place for sustainability to take place, due in large part to our visibility throughout the supply chain. In most cases, it is through our suppliers (and their suppliers) that we make the decisions that lead to lower costs and more efficient resource utilization. After all, sustainability is a long-term play that is carried out through short-term actions.
The book is full of case studies that provide examples of how companies like Wal-Mart, Kohl’s, Home Depot and Maersk Line implemented successful sustainability initiatives. Each chapter ends with an exercise to confirm that you retained the key points from that chapter (a somewhat humbling experience in a couple of the chapters).
Not all companies or industries will carry out their sustainability initiatives through the same strategies or categories of spend. Some of the examples outlined in the book are construction and facilities, energy management, and chemical management. Find the opportunities that work for your situation, clearly state your intent, and put the metrics in place to capture the results.
Menard does address the politicization of sustainability, which tends to (in my opinion) lean towards the ‘softer’ side of sustainability we are faced with as individual consumers. Put a green leaf on a package and we feel better about the purchase. This is not 'public relations' sustainability: this is specific, measurable, and good for business. At the end of the day, purchasing’s mission is to focus on the sustainability of one resource in particular – the company’s working capital.
“Savings, whether achieved through reduction, conservation, preservation, recycling or other means are cost reductions. Cost reductions are the province of purchasing and thus the inviolable contention that purchasing pros can and must lead the green revolution.” (Preface, i).
In the coming weeks we will share some Q&As with the author, where we will dig deeper into some sections of the book as well as the professional opportunities associated with developing certifiable expertise in sustainable or green purchasing.