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Sustainable Sourcing of Products and Services

Sustainable sourcing or green sourcing ensures that the products and services purchased have the lowest environmental impact possible, with positive social results.  For example, those responsible for sourcing must assess their suppliers’ use of nonrenewable resources, along with efforts to replace them with alternative renewable resources. 

An overall sourcing strategy with sustainable policies and principles should be in place, including the decision to make or buy. This will help guide the rest of the sourcing activities.

Sustainable Sourcing Process

Developing a sourcing strategy with sustainable policies and principles requires looking closely at the sourcing process.

Step 1: For new products or services, sustainability requirements should be embedded into the specifications used in the requests for quotation (RFQ).
Step 2: Evaluation criteria should be developed to assess potential suppliers’ sustainability score, and balance economic, social and environmental factors. Guidelines such as the UN Global Compact and ISO 14000 can be used to measure suppliers.
Step 3: New suppliers should be screened to ensure minimum standards are met, as well as ensure that a supplier is compliant with any environmental and social responsibility regulations and legislations for the countries they are doing business in. Questions such as the following can be asked of potential suppliers:

  • Do you currently have a formal environmental policy in place?
  • Are you aware of and do you measure the environmental impacts of your business?
  • Do you have procedures in place to reduce or mitigate environmental impact or incidents?
  • Do you monitor the financial, environmental and ethical practices of your suppliers?
  • Has your company been prosecuted for any breach of environmental regulations?

Step 4: A short-list of suppliers can be used to differentiate those suppliers who meet sustainable procurement criteria from the overall list of potential suppliers.
Step 5: Once quotes or bids have been received, a set of criteria such as shown below can be used to determine which suppliers score well. Based on the objectives, weights can be added to the criteria in order to compare multiple suppliers.
Step 6: Once suppliers have been selected that fit the corporate sustainability strategy of the buying organization, the contract is put in place and should incorporate any applicable sustainable requirements and performance measures.

Supplier Sustainability Criteria

An overview of supplier sustainability criteria is provided in the table below.


Social and Ethical


Cost competitiveness

CSR policy in place

Use of recycled materials

Financial stability

Ethical practices

Use of renewable energy

Fair pricing practices

Human rights practices

Location of sub-suppliers

Production / service capacity

Anti-corruption and fraud policies

Material impact on environment

Process capability

Health and safety record

Process impact on environment

Innovation capability

Sub-supplier practices

Methods of transport

Child/forced labor practices

Use of non-conflict minerals


Packaging reduction

Disposal of waste


Review your understanding of the sustainable sourcing process by dragging and dropping the the steps in the correct order

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