In order to form a sustainability strategy which makes the most impact, organisations need to focus on ‘controlling the controllables’. That’s the verdict of Mark Perera, CEO of supplier collaboration platform provider Vizibl.
Scope 3 emissions, defined by the Carbon Trust as all other indirect emissions that occur in a company’s value chain – outside of emissions from the generation of purchased electricity, steam, heating and cooling – are underreported by up to 43% according to 2008 research.
These emissions can include leased assets, waste disposal, and business travel for employees, as well as purchased goods and services. For Perera, he knows that his company’s scope 3 output is concentrated predominantly on the latter. Yet while these emissions by their nature can be somewhat vague, Perera argues there is more than enough information to go on. Not being distracted is key. “If we falter at what we don’t know, we risk another year wasted on data capture while we fail to act on the growing crisis for our planet and its people,” he says.
Sustainable Future News spoke with Perera on the key goals and challenges of supply chain sustainability, as well as going beyond an organisation’s four walls.
Tell us what Vizibl does, the gap that it fills in the market, and what makes you in your opinion better than your competitors?
At Vizibl we’re enabling complex enterprise organisations to achieve their most ambitious goals through truly valuable supplier relationships. Where our competitors frequently look at supplier relationships in purely operational terms, our solution is a holistic one: a platform which integrates supplier relationship management and a supplier collaboration workspace together with innovation management and supplier sustainability management. This combination allows procurement to work alongside both internal and external stakeholders to deliver on the broad set of challenges now facing large businesses.
What are the biggest challenges larger (enterprise) organisations face in terms of moving to more sustainable supply chain management?
The biggest challenges facing enterprise organisations in moving to more sustainable supply chain management is that, unlike internal sustainability initiatives, supplier sustainability sits outside of their direct sphere of influence. Supplier diversity, fair living wage in the supply chain, child labour free supply chains, and driving reductions in value chain GHG emissions (scope 3) require well-aligned and deeply collaborative supplier relationships to be forged if any meaningful action and progress is to be made.
What are the key benefits of supply chain sustainability in your opinion, and why?
The key benefit of pursuing supply chain sustainability is that it provides the most bang for your buck; CDP’s 2021 Global Supply Chain Report, for example, found that the GHG emissions of a company’s supply chain are, on average, 11.4 times higher than its own operational emissions. The majority of enterprise business’s impact on land, sea, air, biodiversity, and natural resources will sit in their value chain. As such, at Vizibl we would argue that if you’re not pursuing supply chain sustainability and instead focusing solely on what falls within your four walls, you’re not making concrete steps towards true sustainability whatsoever.
Are the ancillary benefits – e.g., investor relations, culture, marketing – key in helping organisations provide a company-wide shift?
The benefits from investors, staff, customers, and suppliers are indeed key to helping motivate change, but really, it’s the buy-in from these stakeholders that’s key to providing a company-wide shift; internal stakeholders, especially, are much more crucial than commonly regarded to be. While we talk a lot at Vizibl about alignment with suppliers, we talk to a lot of procurement professionals who struggle to get their supplier sustainability programmes off the ground due to a lack of sponsorship from executives, leaders, and other functions – lots of initiatives are launched, but they ultimately cannot be scaled, and their ancillary benefits realised be seen without this buy-in from leadership and the wider team at an early stage.
What are the key challenges of supply chain sustainability in your opinion, and why?
The first, of course, is always data; it’s hard to get visibility, to aggregate and normalise it, and even difficult to know what to measure in the first place. Beyond that common issue, key blockers arise time and again around the ability to influence beyond our four walls – cementing alignment around goals and collaborating closely with suppliers is key for driving any supplier sustainability programme but doing this at the scale required to make a real difference is very difficult to do at present with the processes and tools that procurement uses day to day.
What advice would you give to organisations who are looking to improve their operation’s sustainability?
MP: My key advice would be not to get too bogged down in baselining – if we falter at what we don’t know, we risk another year wasted on data capture while we fail to act on the growing crisis for our planet and its people. Instead, we should be controlling the controllables and focusing on what we do know. Take scope 3 for example – I know most of it sits in my purchased goods and services, I know who the biggest culprits are likely to be, I know what those suppliers provide me with, and I know what I spend with them. That’s a fair amount of information to go on, and it gives me somewhere to focus my efforts while the data collection and analysis takes place in the background.
What can we expect to see from Vizibl in the next 12 months with regard to general roadmap?
We are continuing to grow in size in terms of both our team and our customer base, and the next twelve months will see some exciting expansions to our supplier collaboration and innovation solution. Chiefly among them: we will shortly be launching our extended Supplier Sustainability Management functionality, enabling our customers to baseline supplier sustainability performance with commonly-recognised disclosure frameworks, align on goals with suppliers, set a roadmap of targets, collaborate on improvement projects, and source sustainable innovations, all in one place.