As the global marketplace increasingly looks for solid sustainability credentials, Good Environmental Choice Australia is urging companies to take a pledge to elevate them above the greenwash.

The soon-to-be-launched Positive Procurement Pledge will enable companies doing good things in their supply chain to be recognised and rewarded, GECA chief executive Kate Harris said.

It’s about putting the spotlight on those going “above and beyond business as usual” and cutting through the increasing amount of greenwash out there, she said.

“A lot of people have talked a good [corporate social responsibility] story, but when there is money involved, are they really walking the talk?

Kate Harris, Good Environmental Choice Australia

“There are some exceptional companies, but there is also a lot of greenwash and confusion.”

The pledge will enable those looking for quality suppliers to see who really is doing the right thing, she said.

“That makes it easier for other businesses across their whole supply chain.”

By signing the pledge, companies make a public commitment to the pledge to develop, document and implement a positive procurement policy to govern all purchasing decisions by 30 June 2020 – or sooner.

Ms Harris said the initiative also aims to attract companies “willing to go on a journey” in terms of improving the sustainability of their procurement choices.

For those who are “aspirational”, the pledge not only means they can be held to account, they will also be able to get support and encouragement for increasing the share of eco-labelled and responsible products they procure.

Help with understanding and interpreting labelling is part of the process.

What does sustainable procurement mean?

Sustainable procurement considers both people and the planet, and those going the extra length to undertake it are finding it doesn’t mean procurement has to cost more, Ms Harris said.

She said the pledge process would not only involve the GECA label, but all available reputable tools and labelling schemes, with interest already from Australian and international companies.

Australian companies are attracted by market opportunities created by increasing pressure from the European and Asian governments driving the sustainable procurement agenda. These governments understand the long-term environmental and public health impacts of not acting sustainably.

That is impacting import decisions.

Building wellness movement having an impact

The growing emphasis on health and wellbeing in buildings is also having an impact.

People have a right to question the health impacts of their buildings, Ms Harris said.

The bottom line is that making the supply chain a sustainable one enables a business to help the big sustainability picture by acting within its sphere of influence.

No additional costs and better outcomes

Recent research by the Supply Chain Sustainability School (SCSS) has shown that greater sustainability knowledge in construction and infrastructure supply chains is increasingly helping to minimise risk and improve how business is done, leading to higher quality outcomes with no additional cost.

A survey was undertaken of all the school’s members, and 52 per cent reported that sustainability was more important to their business now than in the past 12 months.

Early engagement on the topic with suppliers is being undertaken by 49 per cent of companies, and 72 per cent now have a sustainability program or plan.

“Almost a third, or 32 per cent, of school members have seen economic, environmental or social benefits from improved supply chains,” SCSS chief executive Robin Mellon said.

Robin Mellon

“The benefits being captured by members include increased awareness of their priorities and objectives, better reporting and reduced waste.”

The most important factor for the success in sustainability programs, according to 90 per cent of members, is commitment from management.

Mr Mellon said there were many different examples of how firms were actioning sustainability.

Mirvac is an example of a genuine leader, he said.

It does an annual supplier report, where they ask suppliers questions that have become increasingly detailed.

These now include asking if the supplier has an environmental management system, and whether they are doing any social giving.

The report’s findings are then made public.

Mr Mellon said transparency drives change. The number of tools, certification systems and ratings available is also a positive.

It means companies can use the tool best suited to them, as each is geared to different needs and organisations.

Mr Mellon said that over the coming years, more people would choose employers based on whether they have a sustainability strategy and a rating for the office space.

“They will want to somewhere that will improve their health.”

Currently, graduates are looking for employment at companies that have B Corp status or a JUST rating, but increasingly a Green Star or WELL rating for the space will become a deal-maker or breaker.

“If you look five years into the future, people will be choosing jobs based on the organisation’s rating,” he said.

That includes not just the building, but also how the organisation behaves in the community, and how it has a positive impact on its own people.

This will come right down to what type of coffee is served and whether the chairs have a green label or a public health declaration that makes it clear the materials in them won’t make people sick.

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