Photography by Tim Hüfner courtesy of Unsplash
Diversity, equity and inclusion

Procurement enters its sustainability superpower era

When you think about the role of procurement, you normally think about budgets, negotiations and cost containment, sourcing and supplier selection, vendor management, compliance and risk management. But procurement teams are entering a new era, and while these traditional roles remain important, procurement teams are emerging as a surprising superpower when it comes to creating lasting economic, environmental and social impact.

Principal and Director of Procurement for North America Dan Wakumoto reveals his thoughts on being a ‘sustainability superpower’ for the firm.

“It’s simple really, it’s not about relentlessly pursuing policy and process. We’re really focused on supporting the best behaviour out there, finding individuals and teams within the firm who are doing the right thing, and great things and giving them more options,” says Dan.

“It’s about collaboration every step of the way, aligning with other moving pieces to open up options, educate and inform people and at the end of the day make life easier for people, not tougher,” he adds.

Diversity first

Dan and his team are in lockstep with almost every department at Avison Young helping expedite our progress toward net zero and expand the impact the firm has on both people and the planet. One of the key areas the firm is focusing on is supplier diversity. Working with diverse suppliers helps firms foster inclusion, drive innovation, support economic growth, and mitigate risks. Safe to say it’s a big area to tackle, with huge potential.

This is such a big area of focus for Avison Young that there is a dedicated cross-functional sub-committee in place to help steer the firm in the right direction. Following an in-depth vendor selection process, they appointed a platform called to help support supplier diversity goals. In their words – they exist to help companies ‘Spend smarter, buy more responsibly, measure more effectively.’

“Our first phase is about data enrichment, finding out where we’re already spending with companies that are ‘certified diverse’ – which means they are women-owned, veteran-owned, minority-owned, indigenous-owned among others - and working out what percentage of our spend is with those companies,” Dan says.

“While data collection has been a challenge, we’re excited to be able to share a searchable database with everyone in our company, to provide ways for them to find and engage with certified diverse companies for their needs. Essentially, we’re equipping people with information to help them do their jobs better,” he adds.

Alongside setting up systems to enable efficiencies, the procurement function is omnipresent in daily operations, overturning every rock to support Avison Young’s net zero ambition to be net zero across its workplaces globally by 2040.

“It’s about collaboration every step of the way, aligning with other moving pieces to open up options, educate and inform people and at the end of the day make life easier for people, not tougher.”Dan Wakumoto, Principal, Director, Procurement, North America

Smarter, more sustainable offices

As the firm evaluates its global workplace footprint, Dan and the Procurement team have extensive involvement. For example, he maintains the firm’s global occupancy database – looking at lease expiry dates and optimization of space to make strategic decisions.

“I help our teams stay on top of spend and requirements to be as efficient as possible while maintaining our footprint and putting our people in spaces that will help them thrive. If not managed carefully, there can be so much waste associated with an office move – from material waste like furniture and construction materials to financial waste, and expended time and effort” Dan says.

“We’re also looking at green leases and how we procure renewable energy for ourselves and our clients. When it comes to our carbon footprint, changing behaviour to improve efficiency is always a priority to help meet our targets,” he adds.

Fuelling sustainable success

But it’s not just the big things that get the team excited about the impact they are creating. Always an advocate of collaboration and partnership, Dan is quick to celebrate the initiative and innovations that are being driven by operations teams around the world. One incredible example comes out of the company’s brand new Toronto HQ – led by Principal and Vice President of Operations Sherman DeSouza.

An office without coffee is like a morning without sunshine. The Toronto team led by Sherman has found an incredibly sustainable and full-circle solution to the daily caffeine (and decaf!) requirements of HQ employees and visitors. Muldoon’s Craft Roasted Coffee provides a range of Singles that are fully compostable and biodegradable, made without foil packaging or plastic cups.

Their 100% ‘omnidegradable’ packaging breaks down within six to twelve months leaving only water, CO2 and a small amount of organic biomass – all of which is beneficial to plant growth. The coffee is made from ethically sourced 100% Arabica beans, roasted fresh to lock in flavour, and ground with energy-efficient machinery. What’s more, Muldoon’s is a local organization, which helps keep spend in the local economy and lowers emissions through a shorter supply chain.

“Tangible initiatives like these help people see - and taste - the impact we’re creating by partnering with a local, sustainable option, while helping influence behaviour at the same time,” says Dan.

“But it’s important that our operations teams are still very much in charge of the day-to-day decisions like this. We see our role as educating and empowering local offices to make good decisions, and share their best practices so that others can learn from them,” he adds.

Photography by Rayhan Fahmi courtesy of Unsplash

Beyond operations

While it’s easy to see the immediate and tangible impact of operational initiatives, the wide-reaching arm of Procurement is supporting the firm’s ESG goals in many other ways, including:

  • Partnering with the Marketing team to transition the organization from traditional business cards to digital business cards, helping reduce the waste and emissions associated with producing printed business cards.
  • Leading the search for a new travel platform that helps save money and presents employees with greener travel options to reduce the firm’s Scope 3 emissions.

“Creating operational impact alongside the impact we have on the environment and people is really important for us. We want to make decisions, policies and procedures that really work for people and the planet,” ends Dan.

The bottom line is, procurement is a dynamic and strategic function with a surprising and far-reaching impact. Driving value, sustainability, innovation, and strategic alignment within organizations and partnering with other functions for broader economic, environmental and social impact.

“Creating operational impact alongside the impact we have on the environment and people is really important for us.”Dan Wakumoto, Principal, Director, Procurement, North America

This article is part of our 2022 Impact Report

Download the full report