Webinar recap – Net-Zero Procurement: How to engage suppliers in the race to net-zero

Jun 14th, 2024

Buy Social Canada recently hosted a Net-Zero Procurement webinar, with special guest speaker Bob Willard. Bob is the founder of Sustainability Advantage, a Buy Social Canada Community Champion, and a leading expert on sustainability justifications, frameworks, and sustainable procurement.

The webinar outlined what net-zero procurement is, shared templates and tools to streamline implementation, and considered how purchasers can engage suppliers in the race to net-zero.

Bob Willard defines net-zero procurement as:

“Obtaining best value for money by purchasing the most low-carbon goods and services from suppliers who are most committed to science-based net-zero GHG reduction targets, in support of the buyer’s purpose, policies and strategic goals.”

Here are some key takeaways from the discussion:

Net-zero procurement is complementary to social procurement

“Net-zero procurement isn’t instead of social procurement, it’s in addition and complementary to it.” – Bob Willard

Every purchase has a social, environmental, cultural, and economic impact, whether intended or not. Social procurement is about using your existing purchasing to capture those impacts to achieve overarching institutional, governmental, or individual goals that helps shape inclusive, vibrant, and healthy communities.

It’s therefore easy to see how net-zero procurement can be part of social and sustainable procurement programs that consider GHG reduction targets. You can include questions about net-zero goals in your weighted criteria or add net-zero initiatives to your list of social procurement priorities which are considered by staff when making purchases.

This is the responsibility of business and government alike

Bob Willard highlighted that many businesses and consumers see net-zero as the responsibility of our governments to solve. While it’s true that governments play an important role, Bob emphasized that all purchasers – governments and businesses alike – could be better using their buying power as a market force to mobilize suppliers in the race to net-zero.

“Most businesses are sitting on the sidelines waiting for governments to fix this, and that won’t happen. We need businesses to get engaged.” – Bob Willard

Net-zero procurement can be used to influence suppliers throughout the supply chain

Net-zero procurement makes GHG reductions matter to suppliers by significantly weighting the scores on supplier commitment to net-zero targets.

“If it’s important to the customer, it makes sense to suppliers to take it seriously, and at least try to be better than their competitors.” – Bob Willard

The Government of Canada is already doing this. They recognize that they need to engage their suppliers. In particular, they are passing these goals on to their large suppliers with contracts or purchases over $25 million. It is now a requirement that they are taking action to reduce GHGs, or they are unable to bid or work with the Government.

Work towards transparency and accountability

Just like with social procurement, you want to make sure that your programs and processes hold people accountable and include penalties or incentives to ensure suppliers live up to their commitments.

It’s also important that purchasers and their suppliers commit to public reporting on outcomes. Purchasers, especially in the public sector, may also consider creating a process where members of the public can report any bad actors to increase accountability.

There are resources available to make implementing net-zero procurement easier

Bob Willard has created an open-source Net-Zero Procurement toolkit and other resources which are all available through Sustainability Advantage. The Toolkit provides templates that can be easily added on to your existing procurement program or process to expedite integration of NZP.

Buy Social Canada supported the development of a questionnaire for the City of Winnipeg, which is another great example of a method to incorporate NZP and environmental goals in your broader social or sustainable procurement programs.

Remember we’re here to support with consulting, training, and resources. Reach out to Buy Social Canada for custom support, and bring these conversations to your team, family, and friends.

Watch the full recording to learn more:

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