CPO Crunch: What does the future hold?

David Rae

Although companies are clear on the importance of sustainability, what is less clear is which function should take the lead

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how procurement, R&D and sustainability were being rolled under one leadership at Mars Wrigley.

It’s a fascinating blueprint for how procurement is being viewed as a catalyst for sustainability – supporting the strategic involvement of suppliers in product development while embedding ESG across core business, and I’ll be watching developments with interest.

Separately, a call I had the privilege to facilitate last week provided another insight into how global organisations are evolving their thinking about how best to embed sustainability throughout the enterprise.

The call I refer to focused in part on the recent news of how Swedish manufacturer Electrolux had taken the decision to align sustainability with product development. The difference with the Mars Wrigley story is that procurement isn’t formally in the picture.

Announced in December – following the departure of former chief sustainability officer Vanessa Butani, who left to join Volvo Cars ­– Elena Breda assumed the CSO role to become Chief Technology and Sustainability Officer, a board-level position that reports into CEO Jonas Samuelson.

“Elena’s knowledge and long-time passion for our sustainable product innovation will be invaluable as we continue to develop products and solutions that help people live more sustainably,” he said at the time.

The message was clear, sustainability can’t be separated from broader business and product strategy – it must be central to both.

From having worked closely with Electrolux over many years, I’m well aware of how important the company sees supplier innovation and how it understands the power of involving suppliers early in product development. So, from that, I assume that procurement and suppliers will be seen by Breda as a critical contributor to her success.

However, for CPOs it raises an interesting thought about where responsibility for sustainability should lie – as a separate, standalone function; as part of procurement; or, as seems to be something of a trend, as part of R&D or technology.

While there has been a growing number of CPOs who have officially taken on the sustainability remit over recent years – the overlap with Scope 3 upstream footprints being an obvious reason, the ability to harness supplier innovation to solve complex challenges another – I wonder if the trend of sustainability sitting with R&D might become more common.

Miami calling

Just over a week to go until members congregate in Miami for our Americas Procurement Congress 2024, including our inaugural AI Forum. The agenda looks great, and the guest list extremely powerful. If you are still thinking about whether to book your place, I encourage you to do so.

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