From 2019 to 2022, SDU had a Procurement Programme. We spoke to Bill Andersen, Procurement and Tendering Manager in Financial Services at SDU about how he has helped create the framework for the new Consumption Programme.
‘It’s where we laid the first building blocks that steered SDU in a sustainability direction. The procurement programme had several bottom lines, but first and foremost it was about saving money. However, we didn’t take the easy way out by simply cutting turnover. We decided that the whole system landscape had to be rebuilt.’
Today, SDU’s procurement organisation and system landscape is based on a foundation that creates even better conditions for sustainable initiatives and procurement agreements. Today, when SDU buys and uses new products it is possible to ensure that the procurement agreements do not simply focus on what it will cost financially, but they also include information about CO2 emissions. This also takes into account the choice of materials, production, labour conditions, delivery costs, etc.‘Take our coffee, for example. Of course, we look at the quality of the coffee, but we can also see that the coffee is produced under proper conditions and how it is delivered,’ explains Bill Andersen.
Studies also show that we drink less coffee if we drink better coffee. Therefore, quality is also an important factor. If we just drink better quality coffee, we can buy less.
‘It’s a bit like dark chocolate,’ he laughs. There will be special focus on the quality of the coffee and the associated flavour experience in the upcoming coffee tender here in 2023, he says.
New consumption programme at SDU
The sustainability agenda has strong support from SDU’s management. University Director Thomas Buchvald Vind, the heads of secretariat and selected heads of division are all members of the steering committee for procurement, where there is a focus on ensuring that SDU’s consumption and sustainability go hand in hand.
‘Sustainability will be embedded at a higher management level to ensure cross-cutting collaboration and implementation,’ Bill Andersen points out, explaining that the new consumption programme has replaced the previous procurement programme.
The consumption programme will run from 2023 to 2026 and contains more than 50 specific initiatives.
'A lot of it is actually about minimising our consumption,’ he says, adding that ultimately if we are going to consume, it should be done in terms of sustainability and circularity. It is therefore important that we recycle as much as we possibly can.
‘It’s actually quite simple. If we consume less, it’s also the most sustainable option,’ he argues.
Some of the focus areas involve Shared Facilities, whereby units at SDU share facilities, such as office supplies, across areas instead of purchasing for each individual employee or department. In addition, it is also about having the courage to question how we have done things in the past.
Why does each area have its own coffee machines? Water dispenser? Shredders? Multifunction printers? Instead, we should share many of these items, which not only contributes to less material consumption and optimises the use of machines, but also reduces our power consumption.
‘By getting us to move around a bit more, it might not matter so much that there’s no longer a multifunction printer in every area,’ argues Bill Andersen.
Streamlining of procurement processes
The focus is not only on reducing SDU’s consumption at Procurement and Tendering in Financial Services.
‘The idea is actually also that the new consumption programme can help make some internal processes more efficient,’ explains Bill Andersen.
One of the initiatives that will be worked on in the future is whether it creates value for SDU as a whole that fewer people are responsible for ordering goods for the individual warehouses. There is even talk that at some point there will simply be one central unit that drives around and replenishes the warehouses as needed without prior local orders and instructions.
‘In that way, we also avoid internal orders of ten pens here, four erasers there and so on. Instead, larger orders will be made, which also reduces the need for the number of deliveries, which also have costs in terms of both CO2 and money,’ he points out.
Procurement and Tendering are therefore keeping an eye on several bottom lines. But it is not only about economy and climate. It is also about well-being. Every single initiative in the consumption programme will be assessed against these bottom lines, and the impact of the specific initiative will be included in the basis for making decisions.
This also shows how the SDGs intersect with each other. In this example, SDG #12 is linked not only to SDG #8, Decent Work and Economic Growth, but also to SDG #2, Health and Well-Being.
In addition to making procurement processes more efficient, Procurement and Tendering is also working closely with other units at the University that have more specialised knowledge in specific fields.
‘We also work with user groups who contribute knowledge and experience. For instance, the user groups are responsible for the professional content that determines what products should contain and be able to do,’ explains Bill Andersen.
These user groups may also include SDU’s own researchers. This can be seen with procurement for the University’s laboratories, where researchers contribute their knowledge to ensuring that there is no compromise when it comes to carrying out quality research and teaching. In relation to the upcoming coffee tender, a broadly represented user group has been set up across SDU, which determines the requirements and wishes for the coffee and includes blind tasting of the coffee, thereby finding the best coffee for the benefit of SDU’s other users.
Requirements for both supplier and consumer
Sustainable consumption is not only about reducing consumption but is also about reusing and repairing what we have rather than buying new.
‘How do we ensure that sustainability is taken into account in the contracts we enter into?’ Bill Andersen asks and explains that they have also incorporated questions and requirements for lifetime extension: ‘It is important to have an action plan for how we are going to ensure this, and whether it is possible to repair instead of buying new.’
Therefore, there is also a strong focus on compliance with these agreements.
Nevertheless, Bill Anderson is aware that agreements with the right intentions are meaningless if no one takes advantage of them. For this reason, Procurement and Tendering are also focusing on contract compliance.
‘If you use the agreements SDU has entered into with partners, you actually ensure that sustainability is involved, he says, explaining that, for instance, this is one of the reasons why it is important that trips abroad are booked through SDU’s Travel Agency, as the CO2 emissions of the trip are available to access at the time of purchase.
‘It’s not just about prices. By using our collaboration agreements, you are also contributing to the green transition, and that way you can make a more climate-friendly choice,’ he points out.
The sustainable choice is typically more expensive
However, there are several considerations to bear in mind when making a sustainable choice. Also for Procurement and Tendering in Financial Services.
The sustainable choice can be more financially expensive.
‘The good thing is that we have a close collaboration between our user groups and the management. Proposals for changes and initiatives therefore do not always come directly from Financial Services itself, but from the users of the University’s facilities,’ explains Bill Andersen.
Nevertheless, he realises that the decisions will not please everyone. There will always be someone who asks why you have done what you have done or why you are no longer doing it.
‘We are a big university,’ he points out.
Therefore, the consumption habits at SDU are also to a great extent about behavioural change among students and staff at the University.
‘There is no doubt that it makes better sense, both financially and in terms of CO2 emissions, that we only get deliveries once a week. But for some people, it will feel like a deterioration of service because they may have to wait or plan further in advance,’ explains Bill Andersen.
Nevertheless, researchers and staff at SDU have shown that they are up to the task and ready to change their behaviour. A number of multifunction printers and waste bins have been removed from campus corridors and offices, which means that staff now have to walk further to retrieve paper from the printer.
This also means that there has been a significant drop in printing activity, which is entirely positive in terms of consumption.
SDU’s procurement system, TrueTrade, is also working to make sustainable and climate-friendly procurement easier. This is done, for example, by labelling products according to whether they are FairTrade, FSC, Nordic Ecolabel or have other certification, so that consumers have a clear idea of the conditions behind the product.
This is something that Procurement and Tendering are continuing to work on, so that they can be sure that users at SDU make purchases on the most informed basis.
We cannot avoid consuming, but we can start consuming less. There is no doubt that consumption occupies a great deal of space in our climate accounts, and it is generally one of the bigger culprits when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions.
Bill Andersen and Procurement and Tendering are therefore more concerned with ensuring that we consume less, and when we do it is on an informed basis. We still have a long way to go before we reach this goal at SDU, but with the full implementation of the consumption programme in 2026, SDU will be well on its way.