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Building more sustainable procurement practises.

Procurement sustainability: What you need to know about ISO 20400

ISO published a new standard (20400) in April 2017, focussed on sustainable procurement and intended for stakeholders involved in, or impacted by, procurement practises. ISO suggests that procurement is a significant factor in the budget for any organisation, and asks how approaching procurement in a sustainable way could lead to social, economic and environmental improvements worldwide.

Key updates

ISO 20400 outlines details of sustainability practises and considerations for potential use across all aspects of procurement. It also improves upon previous standards through implementing concepts that have recently factored into the sustainability conversation: Life-cycle analysis, due diligence, complicity and global cost. ISO is aiming to guide organisations towards picking up efficient practises to integrate into their existing procurement procedures.

A holistic view of sustainability

In public discussion of procurement there is often some interplay between the terms “sustainable purchasing” and “green purchasing”. ISO 20400 looks beyond green to take a more holistic view of sustainability. While the environmental focus is definitely important, sustainable procurement also factors in social and economic concerns to ensure that practises aren’t merely good for one or the other, but for all.

Old fella drives electric forklift.ISO 20400 is all about ensuring the global conversation about sustainability in procurement is happening on the same page.

A standard for guidance, not certification

Rather than outlining new requirements for ISO certification, standard 20400 is more of a guidance standard. This means that the focus is on creating a dialog with the end goal of establishing a global consensus on the terminology used inside procurement practises. By sharing a common understanding of language and processes, organisations worldwide will be able to work towards refining these practises to ensure a greater level of sustainability.

How will this affect business practises?

“The procurement profession needs to raise its game like never before and procurement professionals need help.”

The standard is going to be extremely useful for small-and medium-sized business who want to implement more sustainable practises into their supply chain. Many larger companies have already taken steps towards this, and may already be exceeding the expectations put forth in 20400. It’s expected that by offering new standards, these smaller companies will be on the same page and moving towards the same end goal as the bigger companies.

Shaun McCarthy, chairman of Action Sustainability and contributor to 20400 described how “societal expectations are rising; climate change threatens our long term existence as a human race, poor air quality threatens our health, the world is running out of resources, species are becoming extinct every day” and “the procurement profession needs to raise its game like never before and procurement professionals need help.”

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