I think the Guide provides companies - large and small - with many helpful suggestions and recommended approaches. The Guide frames the process of developing a sustainable sourcing program in the following logical steps:
Developing a strategy
Understanding which raw materials are most prominent or relevant to your business will help you establish appropriate priorities. Your resources will be limited. Strategic planning up front will help ensure that you apply resources to those areas where you will realize the greatest impact, influence, and benefit.
A successful sustainable sourcing strategy must support your core business strategy. The Guide recommends focusing initial efforts in what the authors call the "Smart Zone," where sustainability initiatives provide improved economic, social, and environmental value.
You must also identify the issues that should be included in your strategy. The Guide provides a good overview of the issues that most stakeholders are concerned with along the supply chain. These include food security, biodiversity, animal welfare, labor conditions, responsible marketing, and food safety.
Focusing on the value drivers - both for your business and your supply chain partners will prove to be helpful over the long run. You will need support from business partners within your organization as well as from your suppliers and other supply chain actors. These partners will be more likely to support you if they understand and recognize the value to their business or organization. The Guide provides good examples of some typical value drivers, including brand differentiation, improved knowledge and competencies, and access to new markets.
Establishing a standard
Establishing an appropriate "sustainable raw material" standard warrants research and consideration within the context of the raw materials, sourcing regions, and company culture. An organization can use existing certification schemes or standards or they can be developed from within. You may want to focus on a few primary ingredients or you may instead choose to address "overarching" issues that apply to multiple crops or raw materials. The costs and resources required to implement the standard, the structure and nature of partnerships within your supply chain, and the value created to your buyers and customers should also be considered.
I particularly like the Guide's suggestion to consider best practices, alignment with leading standards, and industry collaboration. No business will be able to affect significant, scalable change on its own. When you align your requirements with those of your peers, competitors or suppliers, you will be more likely to succeed than if you were to create yet another standard with which suppliers must comply.
Implementation will require support from senior management, business partners, and your suppliers. You will have to understand your supply chain structure and seek input from your suppliers as you develop your sourcing program. These players can help you understand their own priorities as well as otherwise unrecognized challenges, costs, opportunities, and risks.
The Guide also provides good coverage of other subjects that must be addressed, including: incorporating sustainability issues into supplier requirements, supporting farmers and suppliers in improving operations and products, collaborating with other companies, monitoring impacts and practices, and validating claims.
Adapting business culture, processes, and structures
Another critical program element to consider is the need to adapt your business's culture, mindset, processes, and systems to support the integration of sustainability into your business. This step will include assessing corporate values, needed skill sets and resources; defining goals, roles and responsibilities; determining how the program should be rolled out; and recognizing and rewarding effective performance. All of these elements must work well together. They must also be supported by senior management and be well understood by managers and directors.
Communicating to stakeholders
I was pleased to see that the Guide presents the need to communicate your efforts to employees, including those not directly involved in sourcing. Each employee is a potential critic of - or ambassador for - your company. When you help them understand your goals, efforts, challenges, and achievements you will facilitate their shift into the ambassador role.
The Guide is a valuable resource for food and beverage companies that are exploring (or are in the process of developing) a sustainable sourcing program. I hope the authors will incorporate knowledge and experiences gained during the pilot phase to create a guide for the next evolution of sustainable sourcing programs - one that can help scale up industry and multi-industry efforts.