While the holding of COP26 points to the urgency of formulating, for a majority of countries, collective and lasting commitments, companies must also show more involvement, thanks in particular to the integration of CSR. And even if its positive impact on the activity is now demonstrated, all the departments do not yet have real strategies to make it sustainable in their operations and are struggling to achieve their intentions in this area.
Its relevance? A debate that no longer needs to be
It is becoming difficult if not impossible to ignore CSR for companies. Praised by employees, they would be ready, for 70% of them, to get more involved in a CSR policy according to the Ekodev "responsible company" barometer, produced in 2020. A trend that can also be found among consumers who are now more concerned with the values and commitments carried by brands.
Companies that have taken this subject seriously can attest that CSR is not an obstacle to their activities, on the contrary. As part of a study conducted by Forrester Research in August 2021 and evaluating the different approaches of companies in terms of CSR, nearly 69% of the decision-makers questioned who have undertaken initiatives in this direction have indeed observed an increase in their turnover. Among the priorities of CSR policies, sustainable development comes first (33%) followed closely by social and ethical priorities. Beyond the positive impact on the activity, companies can also benefit from the popularity of these themes to improve their brand image with their teams as well as their partners and customers.
The difficulty of Purchasing in taking the CSR turn
Although companies seem to attach great importance to these issues, many do not yet have a well-defined strategy, particularly with regard to the CSR performance of suppliers and their supply chain. In fact, more than half (58%) of European Purchasing departments never, or rarely, include responsible working practices in their contracts or agreements according to a study carried out in 2021 by Coleman Parkes Research from 300 suppliers located in France, United Kingdom, Germany and Switzerland. This inability to effectively assess suppliers' CSR initiatives deprives the Purchasing departments of data useful for the development of CSR policies but also for the company's resilience in the event of sudden movements in the market.
As a result, nearly 4 in 10 decision-makers consider their company to be truly efficient in meeting their priority CSR goals, according to the Forrester Research study. This is not necessarily due to a lack of resources, skills or even technology. One of the main bottlenecks is the difficulty in setting up effective collaboration processes with suppliers. In this context, Purchasing cannot move in the right direction and deploy a sustainable CSR strategy without strong sponsorship from general management.
From good intentions to their application, the challenge for companies
While each company follows its own pace in terms of integrating CSR policies, it is also wise to target immediately the elements to be improved to promote the acceptance and the feasibility of this type of strategy. And it starts by giving suppliers the means to make their CSR initiatives a reality. By setting requirements for them, purchasing must also give them more flexibility to respond effectively. It is by proceeding in this way that it is possible to improve collaboration between actors in the supply chain. Companies would do well to continue in this direction by digitizing these collaborative processes which, in the long term, will offer greater visibility of the supply chain allowing purchasing to improve planning, execution of commitments and other positions. strategic.
We understand that general management, in connection with purchasing, will not be able to do without effective digital collaboration with suppliers. There is an urgent need to improve this relationship if we want to include more CSR objectives in purchasing. The digitalization process will be as useful for business issues as it is for maintaining a certain level of commitment among suppliers. Better communication will benefit the gradual transition of the logistics sector towards more ethical practices. And in this sense, it will be necessary to show firmness towards the suppliers who would not take this direction. Why not then establish a minimum level of commitment when selecting the latter? Those who have adopted this posture have already made a strong choice, that of favoring an ethical and responsible work environment over the long term.
Op-ed by David Khuat-Duy, Founder and CEO of Ivalua (LinkedIn).