With the world’s atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration exceeding what is considered a permanent threshold at 400ppm last month, there’s now more cause than ever to think a little differently about where we’re going – and that’s what the push toward the “circular economy” is all about. Companies and consumers are now thinking not just about the sustainability of their purchases for the planet, but are also looking at ways to help renew the natural environment through their supply chain choices.
When companies purchase with the goal of contributing to a circular economy, they are typically purchasing something originating from what would traditionally have been waste, used in an innovative way. Most often, this sourcing is understood to go beyond products from traditional recycling streams (e.g. recycled paper and plastics), employing materials or inputs that would otherwise have been left to generate some form of pollution.
The following are a few examples of how companies are driving circular economy initiatives through their supply chain choices:
Although not yet a huge portion of the market, some companies are producing paper from agricultural waste, such as sugarcane waste and wheat straw. Much agricultural waste is normally burned, releasing large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. By using the agri-waste for paper, some emissions from its disposal are actually avoided, while forests are conserved.
Similarly, innovative food companies are now using ingredients that would traditionally be considered food waste to create desirable products, such as teas, jams, and even chocolate whisky. Given the lower cost to these inputs (often only involving time spent to collect or retrieve them) using food waste as an input lends itself well to small and medium sized enterprises, thus having a dual benefit of promoting local economic development where they are located.
Method, a home and body care product company, have packaged their ocean plastic 2-in-1 dish + hand soap in bottles made from recovered sea plastic and post-consumer recycled plastic. They partnered with local beach clean up groups in Hawaii to source the plastic for their bottles, thereby decreasing plastic pollution in our oceans.
Clothing companies using recovered plastics are more controversial, given recent concerns about tiny plastic fibres entering our water system when synthetic fibres are laundered, but they may at least present an opportunity to use some of the plastic that is already in our oceans, while we transition to more preferable materials for textiles across the board. Bionic Yarn, a textile company that sources the material used to make its unique yarns from recovered plastic. The company has partnered with nonprofit Parley for the Oceans to source plastic recovered from the sea, thereby avoiding the use of new materials, while helping to clean up this big problem for our oceans. Bionic has also created partnerships with big brands downstream in the supply chain, such as adidas and G-Star Raw, to make apparel and shoe products with their yarns.
Diverting waste from landfills and recycling systems into the supply chain is not a perfect environmental solution to over-consumption, but it certainly conserves new material inputs and reduces negative impacts from existing waste – and this renews our conviction in the positive potential of the supply chain.
In sustainable purchasing, there is often talk of “market readiness” for sustainable products and services. The idea is that sometimes organizations or consumers wish to purchase a more environmentally, ethically, or socially sustainable option, but the market has not yet produced this option, or does not produce it at scale. In these cases, purchasers can leverage their collective power to help influence the market to develop in a sustainable direction, through advocacy, or even direct investment. When it comes to sustainable services, sometimes the commodity that needs developing is the available labour itself.
A few weeks ago we posted about a new trend in sustainable procurement and global economic development called impact sourcing. Driven by initiatives from organizations such as the Rockefeller Foundation, “‘Impact sourcing’ is an inclusive employment practice through which companies intentionally connect high-potential, disadvantaged youth to available jobs.” The practice is taking off, with tech giants such as Microsoft beginning to capitalize on a win-win opportunity.
However, the jobs created when companies are practicing impact sourcing are only one half of the equation: these high-potential youth still need the education and training required to successfully perform at their jobs. Impact sourcing requires capacity-building. In order to develop this market of young and promising employees, we must find ways to invest in their education.
The African continent is a place where there is an abundance of high-potential youth who are desperately in need of sustainable employment. In many African countries, such as Uganda, education is prohibitively expensive for much of the population, and youth cannot access loans to defray the costs. As a result, even if jobs appear through impact sourcing employment creation, many prospective applicants would find themselves under-prepared to fill the positions.
So what can be done? Reeve believes in grassroots capacity-building, which is why we are helping to support a young and promising Ugandan student to fulfil her higher education dreams. Please check out Rosemary Nakasiita’s story here, and consider how you too might help push toward market readiness for impact sourcing.
In June, Tim visited Houston, Texas for the sixth annual Green Sports Alliance Summit. Tim moderated a panel discussion on green cleaning at sporting venues, and exchanged ideas with leaders throughout the green sports world.
In 2016, it was environmental stadium design and operations that stole the show. From green building practices to food sourced from on-site gardens, the innovative work happening in new sporting venues reinforces the importance of supply chain considerations in greening professional and collegiate sports.
A couple of notable green gems in development are:
Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, the new home to the Atlanta Falcons and the Atlanta United FC. Overseen by the stadium general manager, Scott Jenkins, the Mercedes-Benz Stadium is targeting the highest LEED certification, under the new LEED v4 standards, which place an increased emphasis on the sourcing of materials and operational products. Eco-features of this new venue will include rainwater capture and reuse, solar energy, natural ventilation and lighting, and building control systems to monitor and reduce overall energy use.
Golden 1 Center, new home of the Sacramento Kings and the venue for next year’s Green Sports Alliance 2017 Summit. In addition to using 100% solar electricity and targeting LEED Gold certification, the Golden 1 Center will source 90% of the ingredients for its food and beverages services from responsible sources within 150 miles of the arena, as per its Food and Sustainability Charter.
The structures in which we live, work, and congregate to play are some of the largest single contributors to our collective environmental footprint. With greener design, and sourcing in the construction and operation of venues, professional and collegiate sports are seizing the opportunity for leadership in sustainability and work toward a circular economy.
For more information on greening the sports world, check out the Green Sports Alliance Resources page.
Tim visited Washington, DC in May for the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council’s 2016 Summit. There, he co-presented on municipal sustainable purchasing, representing the Municipal Collaboration for Sustainable Procurement (MCSP), alongside Alicia Culver from the Responsible Purchasing Network, and Jonathan Rifkin from the District of Columbia, and learned from other leading sustainable purchasing professionals.
One major sustainable purchasing trend at this year’s Summit was Impact Sourcing. According to the Rockefeller Foundation, “Impact Sourcing means employment for high potential but disadvantaged people in the services sector. This innovative model can help business meet and exceed their cost and quality objectives. It also provides an innovative new offering to clients in an industry looking for innovation.”
In its early stages, sustainable purchasing was geared toward ensuring that suppliers met basic criteria for environmental and ethical protection. These were steps toward positive change, but the focus was squarely on screening out the worst environmental, social, and ethical offenders: organizations had yet to capitalize on their potential to drive positive outcomes.
Fast forward to 2016 and the focus of sustainable purchasing has begun to shift from simply mitigating risks and dangers to capitalizing on opportunities for meaningful change. Over time, the market for environmentally, ethically, and socially preferable goods and services has evolved and matured quite substantially, and organizations across North America have made great progress in working with their suppliers to make positive sustainability contributions to their local and global communities. Impact Sourcing is part of this shift.
The SPLC Summit’s keynote panel focused on Impact Sourcing, and included Microsoft’s Responsible Sourcing Manager, Tim Hopper, who spoke about the global tech giant’s work alongside the Rockefeller Foundation to capitalize on Impact Sourcing opportunities on the African continent. Hundreds of millions of young people across many African nations are in need of sustainable employment opportunities and are well-positioned to fill the need for labour in the global information communications technology (ICT) sector. Companies such as Microsoft are now making the conscious choice to capitalize on this opportunity to drive their business, and ICT sector growth in these countries (read more about this work here and here).
Clearly, the sustainable supply chain conversation has moved from simple risk mitigation toward opportunities to drive and share benefits – both globally and locally – and we eagerly anticipate more of this to come.
On April 27th, 2016, Earls Restaurant made the surprise announcement that they would be the first chain restaurant in North America to source all their beef from Certified Humane farms. The Montreal Gazette recorded Earls spokeswoman Cate Simpson “the company’s commitment to “conscious sourcing” deepened, it spent nearly three years searching for a Certified Humane producer in Canada that could meet its large supply needs.”
The move to Certified Humane beef would allow Earls customers to enjoy top quality beef, that was ethically raised without the use of antibiotics, it indicates a major shift in the attitudes of corporations. It also highlights the increase in the overall education of consumers who are demanding sustainable and ethical products. Sadly, there was one major drawback: Earls stated that they were unable to locate any beef farms in Alberta with third party certification that were large enough to meet their demand. Thus, Earls disclosed that they were going to be sourcing their beef from a certified ranch in Kansas, USA.
The backlash from Canadians was immense. Especially on social media, where people began suggesting boycotting Earls restaurants until they put Alberta beef back on their menu. Many Albertans believed that, if given enough time, farms in the area would be able to meet the requirements to be third party certified.
A week after their initial announcement, Earls was back on social media with an important update. The Globe and Mail notes Earls president, Mo Jessa, apologized for the move away from Canadian beef and stated that “Earls was committed to sourcing beef from local farmers who, importantly, meet their new criteria.” It seems they learned the hard way that, while consumers are willing to pay more for ethically sourced food, but not at the cost of local producers.
By choosing to engage with the local suppliers to improve their practices, Earls has finally struck the right balance with consumers and farmers alike. The road to conscious sourcing has been rocky, but things generally are for pioneers. Earls’ decision to work with Alberta farms, will ensure a few less bumps along the way for other Canadian companies looking to source local and ethical beef in future.
Reeve is heading to Washington DC in May to attend and run a session at the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council’s 2016 Summit. The Summit runs from May 24th to 26th, but there are also pre-summit short courses that will happen on May 23rd.
What’s the 2016 Summit? Following up on the Council’s well-reviewed 2015 Summit, the 2016 Summit will bring together 300 leading sustainable purchasing experts and practitioners from a wide variety of sectors and regions for two days of best practice sharing, training, and relationship building. This year’s Summit features 100+ speakers, 45+ interactive workshops, and a Leadership Awards banquet.
What are some of the things we’re excited about at the 2016 Summit?
Our roundtable, “Wider Training for Improved Results: Engaging P-Card Holders in Sustainable Purchasing” at the Innovation Accelerator session: The Innovation Accelerator session takes place from 10:40 AM – 12:10 PM, on Thursday, May 26, and features thirty roundtable presentations and discussions about innovative projects and concepts that are ready to be launched, joined, expanded, replicated, or shared for thoughtful feedback! Reeve will be running a roundtable to share the benefits of eLearning as a tool for engaging employees across the organization in sustainable purchasing activities, how to roll out this training, and the initial results of a pilot project we have been conducting with the Green Learning Centre. The best possible results of sustainable purchasing initiatives come from employees across the organization who are engaged and informed – our roundtable will help participants learn how to make this happen in their own workplaces. (Learn more about the Innovation Accelerator’s purpose and format)
Pre-Summit Short Courses: Short Courses will give participants an opportunity to go in-depth on a number of topics: Fostering Sustainable Purchasing Behavior, Supply Chain & Climate, Spend Analysis for Sustainability Leadership, Evaluating the Credibility of Sustainable Product/Services Claims, and Building a Renewable Energy Purchasing Strategy. (Summit registration is not a requirement for participating in the short courses, which take place on Monday, May 23rd).
We think the Summit will be a valuable networking and educational experience for us, and we think you’d benefit from attending too! In the hope that we’ll see you there, we’d like to extend a discount code for your use: input the MCSP2016 discount code to get 10% off when registering as a non-member.
Reeve Consulting and the Municipal Collaboration for Sustainable Procurement (MCSP) are pleased to release their sixth annual MCSP State of the Nation Report. Each year the report has provided the most comprehensive and up-to-date discussion of the latest trends, best practices, examples and case studies in municipal sustainable purchasing in Canada.
The report offers a national snapshot of how Canadian municipalities are implementing sustainable purchasing programs and is an invaluable resource for municipal decision-makers looking to implement impactful sustainable procurement programming.
View the full report at https://blog.reeveconsulting.com/resources/
The release of the report also marks the kick-off of the 2016 programming for the Municipal Collaboration for Sustainable Procurement. This year, the MCSP welcomed post-secondary institution members alongside municipalities to its Canada-wide network of professionals engaged in developing and leading the charge in best practice sustainable procurement at the local community level. Through its collaboration and resource sharing programs, the MCSP will help participating municipalities and post-secondary institutions address challenges and priorities raised in the 2015 State of the Nation report.
For more information on the collaboration, visit the MCSP website.
President, Reeve Consulting