Mark Topley explains how to achieve more sustainable procurement and examines the impact this will have on the future of the profession.
Sustainable procurement is a compelling paradigm shift gaining an increasing momentum across many sectors. In dentistry, the potential to transform procurement strategies towards more sustainable, ethical options is vast.
But the key to making these options more readily available is fostering increased demand. Commercial drivers are a strong encouragement to suppliers to seek out and provide alternatives that align with sustainability goals. We should remember that suppliers are crucial partners in our sustainability journey, bearing their share of responsibilities. The more we, as customers, ask the right questions, the quicker they will evolve to meet our needs.
Why sustainable procurement?
Sustainable procurement is an increasingly important element of risk and reputation management in all sectors. Integrating corporate social responsibility (CSR) objectives into our procurement choices makes good business sense.
The benefits include fostering a positive reputation, ensuring legal compliance, and attracting top talent who prefer working for socially responsible organisations. This also helps distinguish us from competitors, as we demonstrate our commitment to society, the community and people.
Building a supplier list
The most efficient way to incorporate sustainability into dental procurement is to select suppliers renowned for their ethical practices. Once identified, these suppliers form your ‘preferred supplier list’.
Here are some questions to ask yourself (and your suppliers) – a checklist that probes their sustainable practices:
- How distant is their distribution base?
- Do they provide eco-friendly options (fair trade, recycled, FSC certified) as standard?
- Do they possess any CSR accreditations (B Corp, CSR accreditation, dental industry CSR certification)?
- How do their prices generally compare?
- Scrutinise their online presence for evidence of commitment to sustainability, social justice, and community engagement.
Procuring larger items, such as dental equipment or infrastructure upgrades, requires a more rigorous approach.
Choosing providers for implants systems, IT services or marketing requires careful consideration of their CSR practices. These contracts are often valuable to the provider, making it crucial to evaluate their sustainability commitments.
Set specifications regarding what certificates (ISO 14000 Environment, ISO 26000 Social Responsibility, ISO 5001 Energy Saving, ISO 45001 Health and Safety, ISO 9001) are desirable or applicable. Consider if the provider has certifications like fair trade, FSC, or MSC. Ask them to provide details about the materials they use and their impact on the environment. Request documentation on management procedures minimising environmental impact.
Broaden your search for potential providers by looking into:
- Social enterprises listed in directories like social enterprise UK and the city of London corporation
- Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) featured in 1000 Companies to Inspire Britain
- Eco-friendly businesses in the green business directory
- Accredited companies (B Corp, CSR accredited, dental CSR certified, carbon neutral).
Sustainable procurement is not just about choosing green products. It’s about creating a mindset where sustainability is the default, not the exception.
By asking the right questions, applying robust selection processes, and encouraging our suppliers to meet these expectations, we can create a ripple effect of positive change that extends beyond our dental practices.
This isn’t just about being responsible – it’s about shaping the future of dentistry.
This article first appeared in Dentistry magazine. Read the latest issue here!