Marketing procurement leaders can help their colleagues deliver on sustainability goals and boost their standing as strategic advisors, says Laura Forcetti, WFA's Global Lead, Marketing Sourcing
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Sustainability matters for brands. And it’s only going to matter more as time goes on. Consumers want brands to be partners that can help them live more sustainable lives and marketers know this is going to become a critical challenge in the near and medium future.
WFA’s Marketer of the Future study found that 80% of current global, regional and local marketers think sustainability will become more important to their role in five years’ time. Eighty four percent think marketing should transcend business goals and have a positive impact on the wider society.
This is powerful stuff and two recent meetings of WFA’s Sourcing Forum in July and September gathered senior marketing procurement practitioners from 23 companies to discuss the role that they can play in helping brands to deliver on a broad range of sustainability goals.
As trusted advisors to the marketing team and true business partners, this is an area where procurement can demonstrate its ability to deliver value in line with the goals of WFA’s Project Spring.
While the company representatives at the meetings admitted that it’s not always straightforward to establish a link between an organisation’s sustainability agenda and marketing services, many had exciting initiatives they could share.
Most members shared examples of great initiatives to make marketing materials or physical assets more environmentally friendly; often around Point-Of-Sales materials or creative eco production. Examples included “sustainable POSM around the world”, “new fulfilment and order system for POS and sales materials – focussed on just in time and a reduction in excess material distribution”, “POS designed for reuse and repurposing”, “leading for Print FSC as well as no PVC”, “eco production in our internal studio and with our content studios with strategic partner” and “reduced travel this year”.
For many in marketing procurement, sustainability initiatives come under three broad headings: People, Planet, Profit. That means they also include initiatives that seek to make marketing services more diverse and inclusive. Examples included “fair labour practices and ensuring the respect of human rights”, “building a more diverse supplier base”, “giving full accessibility of our products across the globe” and “captioning in countries where it is not a habit or obligation”.
As Belinda Smith, WFA’s Global Diversity Ambassador, told the meeting in July: “diversity is above all a story of inclusion: it is about giving the same opportunities to employees, partners, vendors… across the board, irrespective of what they look like, what countries they’re from or the services they’re offering. Diversity includes what you create within your own organisation, but also what you enhance within your Supply Chain. Whatever you are asking of yourself internally, you should also ask it of your vendors.”
Sourcing is well placed to protect and ensure equity and diversity of vendors within the entire Supply Chain. “Brands should also ensure that their vendors are embracing D&I too, and accountability towards good or bad behaviours should be shared by both brands and their vendors,” Belinda concluded.
From these meeting we developed a range of concrete actions to help marketing procurement contribute to a more sustainable marketing services business.
Some concrete actions to take include:
1. Get the house in order
Ensure that your organisation has clearly set an overarching sustainability goal that will serve as a reference base for any concrete top-down roadmap that you want to help achieve;
Create linkages between your organisation’s high-level company sustainability commitments and what you do (in marketing procurement). Identify the services that can fall under that sustainability umbrella. Find out if there is a sustainability corporate team in your organisation to help set common goals;
Educate both your marketing and procurement colleagues around the topic of sustainability; bring everyone up to speed on why it is the right thing to do. A member mentioned the creation of “sustainability for dummies guidelines/playbooks” to increase awareness and knowledge;
Together with your steering committee and all relevant marketing and/or finance counterparts, define a “should-cost” and levels of sustainable investments that can be made and that will help your organisation meet their sustainability targets. As shared by a member, “having a more sustainable approach does not always mean higher costs. It is really a question of mindset.”;
Define the sustainability scope of work and identify concrete actions to contribute to each sustainability pillar with a clear RACI to drive change. Sustainability is a broad topic and has to be defined in the context of the products and services that your organisation provides;
Have the contractual option to immediately terminate an agreement if a vendor does not uphold your company’s sustainability or D&I requirements that you clearly stated at the beginning of the relationship;
7. Walk the talk
Involve diverse suppliers in your RFPs; track given opportunities versus actual wins.
Ask your agencies or marketing suppliers to share a copy of their D&I policy; if they do not have one in place yet, help them to draft one; share learnings and/or good practices that your company has already put in place so it inspires them to follow a similar path;
Set intermediary goals and track progress towards the overarching company goal e.g. improvement of Ecovadis score for marketing materials, waste reduction, increase of supplier diversity, etc. Marketing procurement metrics may have to be updated as you may not always go for the cheapest option available but will contribute to an overarching company goal;
Communicate the good work internally as well as externally; facilitate learnings sharing amongst suppliers who work on your account.
Incentivise partners or marketing suppliers who put sustainability or D&I at the forehead of your relationship or made considerable progress since you initiated these discussions with them.
In taking this journey brands, marketing teams and marketing procurement do not have to go it alone. Many of those present had worked with NGOs or advisory partners to help them drive progress.