Supply Chain

The Purchaser’s Role in Sustainability

Many would agree that the sustainability of an industrial facility extends far beyond the fence line, starting at the sources of its raw materials, supplies and consumables and ending with the eventual return, recycling or disposal of its products. Fabrication, packaging and transportation are integral parts, as well as environmental, safety and human rights considerations throughout the supply chain. 

Those responsible for sourcing and stewarding an industrial facility’s myriad streams of materials and components, as well as utilities such as electricity, natural gas, water and sewer, are increasingly called upon to consider the sustainability of their supply chains. 

In addition to conventional price and quality considerations, procurement professionals may be called upon to weigh environmental, economic and social factors into the purchase decision. Some see supply chain sustainability as a broadening of purchase criteria to maximize net benefits for the world, not just for their facility. Some define it in terms of reducing total lifecycle cost, and some calculate it as minimizing risks of supply interruptions, cost volatility and product or environmental liabilities. 

Many industrial companies have defined their own internal reasons to embrace sustainable supply chains. Many are under increasing external pressure to establish and certify sustainable purchasing practices as a condition of supplying government, institutional or specific private-enterprise customers. 

Supply chain sustainability is complex and rapidly evolving, and the available guidelines are widely fragmented. Procurement professionals are advised to consider the recommendations of organizations certifying sustainability in each of their suppliers’ industries as well as government guidelines and, especially, their customers’ requirements.

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