We want to pass on our knowledge to our suppliers

Sustainable procurement is crucial for ABN AMRO. It helps the bank reduce its carbon footprint, buy responsible products and comply with standards it also expects suppliers to comply with. Chief Procurement Officer Jan Stoop: ‘I sometimes worry when I hear people saying “we plan to” or “we’re going to”. We need to take action now.’

Making its own offices more sustainable, cleaning up its lease fleet, taking the train (rather than driving) from the Netherlands to the bank’s offices in Frankfurt and Paris – it’s clear that ABN AMRO is trying to reduce the carbon emissions produced by its own operations. It has committed to the Dutch banks’ Climate Statement. We take our responsibility seriously and aim to halve our carbon emissions in 2020 compared with 2014, and to be completely energy-neutral by 2050. But we can’t do it alone, says Chief Procurement Officer Jan Stoop. ‘We can control half the emissions produced by our own operations; for the other half, we are dependent on our suppliers. Together with our partners we can make a real impact.’

As a large company, ABN AMRO can make a large impact on its suppliers. For example, the bank uses its tendering procedures to require suppliers to take back material at the end of a product’s useful life, Stoop explains. This could initially be difficult for the supplier, but if they design the product taking into account easy dismantling and recycling, they can make optimum use of the material. This is not just a far-away dream according to Stoop – ABN AMRO and its suppliers are already making buy-back agreements on various products, like our emergency generator.

Circular procurement

Sustainable procurement goes further than reducing carbon emissions. For example, ABN AMRO signed the Green Deal Circular Procurement statement in 2013, committing itself to starting at least two circular pilots in 2014. Today, there are a total of 32 initiatives up and running. ‘To make these circular initiatives a success, we need to work closely with suppliers. We are making agreements with them on taking back used goods, such as computers, and on life cycle guarantees.’

ABN AMRO is also assessing the sustainability of all of its suppliers based on the FIRA rating system. The results of the FIRA rating are stored in a special register that purchasing officers can consult. Based on the FIRA rating, ABN AMRO can see what a given supplier is doing in terms of the environment, circular production, human rights and society. The FIRA rating has different ‘steps’, meaning a supplier can comply with a bare minimum. It’s mainly these suppliers that Jan Stoop wants to encourage to make their operations more sustainable. He says the FIRA rating is only the beginning.

At ABN AMRO, we have a lot of knowledge about sustainability and circular production which we want to use not only for ourselves, but also for our clients. Above all, we want to set an example for other companies. Stoop: ‘We can use our knowledge to help suppliers. You’ll often find us at seminars and events, like the Young Procurement Professionals conference, which ABN AMRO is hosting on 28 October 2016.’

Window dressing

Stoop has found at procurement events that you have to be very patient when it comes to promoting sustainability. ‘Suppliers have other priorities, which makes it hard to achieve results quickly. But I sometimes worry when I hear people saying “we plan to” or “we’re going to”. I want results, and I find myself thinking that it’s not about window dressing. We need to take action now.’

Stoop says the suppliers that ABN AMRO has assessed so far have generally scored pretty well. ‘We do business with modern companies that acknowledge the importance of sustainable operations and transparency, but there’s definitely room for improvement.’ The bank talks to suppliers that fail to show demonstrable progress. ‘I have never had to dissolve a contract. But make no mistake – I would do it if necessary.’