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»Sustainable purchasing – some good advice«

The purchasing process is another area that can make a company sustainable. Developing good procedures doesn’t have to be a pain. I have long experience of purchasing and am happy to pass on a few tips. The first one is about delimitations, and deciding what’s right for your particular company.

Sustainable purchasing is a broad, complex area, but it can be reasonably easy to master – also in small companies that often don’t have a purchasing function of their own. My first tip is to draw up a few useful guidelines on what sustainability means to you. When it comes to environmental aspects, the list might cover areas such as waste, transportation, emissions and so on. Circle a few aspects and start there, i.e. think about how purchasing could reduce environmental impact in those particular areas.

Social responsibility is the other side of the sustainability coin, an area that might feel even more complicated. But it doesn’t have to be hard. Draw up a few rules of thumb around what ‘fair terms’ entail and what are good values for your company. Use this as the starting point in your dialogue with suppliers – just asking the right questions can send signals and make a difference. There are other aids when it comes down to refining your selection. ISO certification, for instance, shows that the supplier has a clear ambition in their environmental work. Many companies choose to go further and incorporate their guidelines into a code of conduct which suppliers have to sign. This is an even clearer way for a company to show what requirements it has on a business relationship.

Alongside guidelines, certifications and codes, there is one area that’s crucial to making purchasing sustainable: the relationship with the suppliers. In my view, a company should have a strategy with suppliers, aiming for a long-term relationship that grows and develops with time. Your supplier is a key player who represents control in the entire supplier chain. Drawing on their knowledge and network makes life easier for you in many ways.

In our company, we have consciously decided to build strong relations with the best suppliers. At the same time, this has meant we have been able to reduce the number of suppliers – by 50% in five years. This makes supplier relations more manageable and cost-effective, while also helping us to get the most out of each supplier. This not only affects sustainability work, but also the level of service and ultimately the quality of our products. Compare this to having a large network of suppliers where you hardly build up any kind of relationship with any one, making it hard to get them to go that extra mile for you.

Supplier evaluations are also easier when there are fewer suppliers to monitor. Regular reviews are a good idea. One tip is that everyone in the company with experience of the supplier should be involved. At FUCHS, for example, buyers work alongside colleagues in technical support when evaluating suppliers. We believe this makes us better at setting requirements – both when it comes to sustainability and quality in general!

Smart Lubrication

Smart Lubrication is a blog from FUCHS where we share our common knowledge about lubricants and lubrication.

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