Five Strategies for Shaping Regenerative Procurement May 11, 2022 by Emily Lube
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Regenerative procurement strategies are at the forefront of our minds as sourcing teams face pressure to achieve overarching ESG goals while still meeting strict pricing requirements. Over the last few months, we spoke to procurement professionals across the industry to discuss overcoming these obstacles of scale, price, and supply system resilience.

Below, we’ll share five strategies to consider when facing these challenges.

See the Bigger Picture

When it comes to sourcing ingredients and setting goals, contextualizing the larger system is important. It’s important to be cognizant of all of the surrounding factors and our community when thinking about procurement.

Christina Skonberg Simple Mills

When we think about biodiversity and ingredient selection we think about variety, resilience, and context. The context around ingredients in their systems is what’s relevant to what outcomes are coming out of the system. We try to avoid putting any single ingredient on a pedestal as a silver bullet solution to enhancing biodiversity. We really try to consider the full context of where that ingredient came from, what it was intercropped with, the holistic portfolio of ingredients, and variety within a species.

Jay Watson Global Impact Initiatives, General Mills

We must orient ourselves to the bigger systems and have set targets, goals, and strategies around those. Instead of getting into the thought process of “our” number, “our” commitment, “us, us, us,” how do we have more collective visioning? Find that balance where you feel like you can demonstrate that you’re doing the right thing for your business and footprint, but that you’re also contributing to this collective effort and impact.

Actively Engage with your Supply System

Communication and collaboration with farmers are key to building a fully regenerative relationship and supply system. Understanding and addressing farmer’s needs and integrating them within the goals of a company are critical to building a strong supplier-brand partnership

Mike Lee Alpha Food Labs

I know this doesn’t always theoretically work depending on what scale you are, but we still take time to create personal relationships with farmers and suppliers. We’re trying to create a fully regenerative relationship with them. It’s about getting on the ground and talking to them to understand their point of view. An essential part of the regenerative movement is putting the farmer back on the platform. I think the ultimate tool is asking farmers what they need to grow and then we can figure out how to build a market for that. We’re trying to create a fully regenerative relationship with them instead of isolating biodiversity and just checking the box.

Chris Oliviero Niman Ranch

We have a tremendous opportunity and wealth of knowledge within our existing network of farmers. From a knowledge sharing standpoint, we do a monthly newsletter. We also host annual events, such as an appreciation dinner, where farmers get together, converse, and talk about challenges they’re facing. During COVID, however, travel was halted and so we put in place a monthly zoom call with farmers and that’s just another forum for them to get together, ask questions, and raise concerns. I think it’s about regular communication, regular outreach, and a mix of opportunities to get together.

Partnerships with Aligned Values

As consumers are increasingly seeking to buy from companies that align with their values, collaborative partnerships can ease the difficulties of transitioning to and maintaining a regenerative and/or sustainable supply system.

Carlos Londono Head of Supply Chain, Chipotle

During the coronavirus, Chipotle had little to no supply chain disruptions and that was not an accident. It was because of relationships, such as with Niman Ranch. When everything’s “hunky dory” and things are just rolling along, partnerships are great. But, when push comes to shove you really see the value of the partnerships. We were able to deliver incredible growth for partners in the worst time of the economy.

Capture Consumer’s Attention

In order to effectively communicate to consumers the benefits of regenerative agriculture, education is crucial. Highlight the power of storytelling in order to educate consumers in an accessible way.

Dorothy Shaver Unilever

I think there needs to be some real effort gone towards the importance of the way our food has grown, because it’s so far away from our plates. A lot of people don’t have any idea of how and where our food is grown or all of the impact. We found that consumers want to be brought along on the journey and we need to start telling these stories sooner. They want to feel a part of a transparent and real journey.

Madeline Rotman Imperfect Foods

I think that consumer education has just been monumental to grow the movement. We give every customer on their account page an average of how much food they’ve saved, the avoided gallons of water, and the avoided CO2 they saved. We try to give each customer this bite size impact to celebrate what they’re doing to bring them on a journey of how they’ve helped save food. This builds a community of people that can collectively celebrate their individual wins, then their collective wins.

Innovative Thought

Although sustainable thinking has come to the forefront of many consumer’s minds, innovation is still needed in the space to push industries to become regenerative.

Claire Oliverson Too Good to Go

I really feel like we need more innovation in this space and we need as many folks to enter as possible in order to really be able to make an impact on this issue. There needs to be a lot of innovation from a lot of different angles to really start solving the greenhouse gas issue.

Gaëlle Le Gélard Ellen MacArthur Foundation

If you’re reformulating your product, shift your thinking. Think of going into the design phase of your product as a creative challenge. You’re already great at designing delicious products, so start with the needs of nature. Design your products around this shift towards putting nature first.

Felipe Villela reNature

I think art has a huge power to connect the consumer to the product. Art is able to communicate the necessity to invest in a more sustainable and regenerative future.

For example, we worked with a famous artist from Sao Paulo for a project with Nespresso in which he painted a large mural showing the female coffee farmer we were working with drinking the coffee. This mural is an effective way to communicate the story behind the product.

It is time to move away from the linear way of thinking about the supply chain. In order to do this, we must gear our thinking towards creating a regenerative supply system. These five strategies are only the beginning when overcoming obstacles within sustainable procurement. HowGood’s Latis Procurement module also offers actionable insights allowing procurement teams to analyze their sourcing portfolio and shape regenerative procurement strategies.

View past innovation series sessions in full and get notified to register for our upcoming series here

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