Sourcing Sustainability

March 4, 2018

Consumers today are increasingly demanding products that are environmentally sustainable and that align with their values. But meeting these expectations isn’t as simple as ordering up new products through the same traditional transactional sourcing model many retailers and brands are used to. Retail News Insider sat down with Pedro Carmo, Director of Sourcing for Daymon, to find out more about the intricacies of sustainable sourcing.

RNI: There are a lot of different aspects that fall under the umbrella of “sustainability.” Where do you start when sourcing a new product line?

PC: The first step is to define exactly what the sustainability goals are for the program. There is no single industry definition or standard, and perceptions can vary greatly. For example, while some might consider any product made from recycled materials sustainable, others might disagree if the original raw materials were not from renewable sources. Having such a mismatch of ideas can lead to problems with consumer perceptions.

A retailer’s or brand’s mission and history can be a helpful guide to choosing the appropriate KPIs. For example, the Daymon team is currently working on a sustainability sourcing project for an organization with a conservation-focused mission. To align with that, the team agreed to focus on sourcing products that are as local as possible, are made from renewable raw materials, and that can be recycled or composted at the end of their life cycle.

RNI: What kind of challenges have you run into when sourcing sustainable products?

PC: To date, many suppliers catering to the sustainability market are smaller startup companies. That can raise concerns about the long-term security of the supply chain and the danger of being left without product if a chosen supplier ends up exiting the market in a few months. But a robust vetting process can help with this.

Daymon’s due diligence process often involves meeting with senior level partners multiple times before making a business contract, which can help clarify business practices and philosophies, and may bring to light potential issues beyond what’s visible on the surface. Working to develop co-sourcing partnerships, where both buyer and supplier are invested in collaborative production, can also help strengthen the supply chain—and even lead to new innovations.

RNI: What would you say to retailers or brands who are intimidated by the prospect of tackling sustainability?

PC: As with any major shift in strategy, the move to sustainable sourcing certainly comes with challenges. However, retailers and brands should view them not as obstacles, but as part of the broader narrative about how they as a company are working to be stewards of the earth. This narrative should also be conveyed to consumers, as there is no shortage of examples to prove that consumers appreciate clear and trustworthy missions, messages and products—and will reward those who deliver them.