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Jun 28, 2024

Collaborative efforts in Sustainable Procurement: Insights from the Humanitarian Innovation Programme Webinar

In the quest for a sustainable future, one of the most significant misconceptions around sustainable procurement is that it is solely the responsibility of procurement departments. However, as Claire Barnhoorn, CEO and founder of Solvoz, emphasized during a recent webinar, sustainable procurement is a collaborative effort that must be driven from the management level and integrated into broader organizational strategies: "It's about setting sustainability targets in our policies and how we specify the technical criteria of our products and supplier assessments."

Hosted by the Humanitarian Innovation Programme, the "Greening the Humanitarian Sector through Innovation Friendly Procurement" webinar brought together industry leaders and experts to discuss overcoming challenges and implementing greener solutions in humanitarian operations. In collaboration with WORM - Waste Management Challenges in Humanitarian Operations and Solvoz, the event provided a platform for insightful dialogue and shared experiences.

Key insights and recommendations

Three companies, each offering innovative solutions to humanitarian responses, shared their perspectives on the challenges and opportunities in promoting sustainable procurement. Here are some key takeaways:

Dialogue and open communication

Deepak Goel, General Manager at Geetanjali Textiles, emphasized the importance of ongoing conversations between humanitarian experts, procurement professionals, and suppliers of green solutions. Goel emphasized that this dialogue is essential to learn about new and more sustainable solutions so that requests can be shaped according to what will make the best impact.

Performance-based specifications

Vegard Landén, Operations Manager at Laerdal Global Health, highlighted the difficulties of rigid specifications in the procurement process. He showcased their innovative up-right resuscitator bag for infants and children, which, despite proving more efficient than traditional models, took eight years to be included in humanitarian procurement catalogs due to these rigid specifications. He stated that the transition to performance-based specifications can significantly speed up the adoption of innovative solutions.

Innovation-friendly procurement processes

Lorena Muñoz Carmona, Sustainability & Partnership Manager at BRIGHT Products, shared her experiences with an innovation-friendly procurement process. This approach focuses on the performance and functionality of solutions rather than detailed specifications, allowing private sector suppliers to present their best ideas.

"Engaging in a dialogue that focuses on performance enables the private sector to leverage their creativity and expertise, leading to the discovery of the most sustainable and effective solutions."

The path forward

The discussions underscored a shared motivation among humanitarian and private sector actors to achieve a sustainable and high-impact humanitarian response. With two-thirds of humanitarian organizations' expenditures related to procurement, procurement is evidently not just an operational function but a powerful force for change.

To truly harness the potential of sustainable procurement, organizations must:

  • Embed sustainability targets in their overarching strategies and policies.
  • Foster open communication between all stakeholders involved.
  • Adopt performance-based specifications to encourage innovation.
  • Engage in innovation-friendly procurement processes to benefit from the private sector's best solutions.

By making these changes, the humanitarian sector can significantly reduce its environmental impact while enhancing the effectiveness of its response efforts. Sustainable procurement is a collective responsibility, and its success depends on the collaborative efforts of management, procurement teams, and suppliers.