Bold Steps for a Sustainable Future for Manitobans

THEME: Sustainability

Are you worried your organization isn’t eagerly climbing onto the sustainable supply chain roller coaster, but don’t see how you can make an impact?  We have been hearing rumblings and grumblings about climate change, recessions, and racial inequity for decades, and many struggle to activate change simply because they do not see how they fit into the changing times or know where to start. In 2020, it is obvious we cannot ignore the issues any longer. New government regulations and increasing public pressure are highlighting the risks of inaction. The issues are glaring, and it is our responsibility as supply chain professionals to treat sustainability as core to our work, opposed to being pet projects on the corner of our desk. Building a core strategy in reducing risk, improving brand reputation, and building long-term environmental and social resilience is a win for any organization.

Manitoba has had some success advancing sustainable supply chain initiatives that contribute to the recipe that will green our province and uplift socioeconomic landscapes in our communities. While we shift our priorities to meet this new trend in our personal and professional lives, we start to realize it is not a trend at all. Organizations are shifting focus to the long game. When we look at these opportunities with a long-term lens, it is often filled with anxiety and uncertainty of where to start. This article showcases two sustainable procurement examples in Manitoba, followed by a few suggestions of what you can do in your work. 

Highlight Reel: Success stories in Manitoba 

Mattresses in the city:

The City of Winnipeg’s Mattress and Box Spring Recycling Program, in partnership with local social enterprise Mother Earth Recycling, reduces landfill waste. The initiative involves the City accepting mattresses and box springs from residents free of charge at the Brady Road depot. Collected mattresses are moved to begin a deconstruction process. They break down into four basic recyclables: wood, steel, fabric, and foam. Once deconstructed, the raw materials become marketable commodities creating revenue and then discards the residual material. This initiative resulted in reducing mattress landfill waste of approximately 10,000 units annually by 80% and used profits to train and develop unskilled laborers and build their experience for long term social Return on Investment (sROI).

Social Enterprise for growth:

After the release of the Social Enterprise Strategy co-created by the Canadian Community Economic Development Network and the Province of Manitoba, a case study published by describes a success story of Manitoba Housing. The initiative was built on the desire to increase the amount of community work available to Manitobans with barriers to employment and training, specifically, the growing network of social enterprises in the province. It resulted in $2.23 of social and economic value for every $1 provincial dollar invested. While the program was underway, provincial staff were working with these groups to develop tools and framework to be competitive in the local market.

Take a small step

If you are new to the sustainability game, my advice to you is to start small. If you are a more seasoned player, go back and look for more opportunities. Kick-off a sustainable supply chain review by looking at your organizations current policies and practices. Organize your review to look at opportunities in the following sustainability areas:

Environmental: Considering ways to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, toxicity, energy, and waste as well as support clean and renewable industries and technologies. 

Do you look at product lifecycles when purchasing goods? Do you consider circular procurement in the products you purchase? Do you measure the waste you produce?

Ethical: Considering and verifying that supply chain practices comply with The International Labour Organizations conventions against sweatshop labour, child labour, forced labour, and discrimination in employment as well as upholding fair labour standards consistent with the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

Do you research where and how your products are produced? Do you audit your suppliers to ensure you are partnering with ethical organizations? 

Social: Considering opportunities for inclusive economic development and community building by purchasing from business with a social impact commitment, diverse suppliers, and/or suppliers certified as Fair Trade or Living Wage, which assure a fair return on labour. 

Can you order catering from a locally owned restaurant when planning your next meeting? Are you asking your contractors to provide employment and training for youth and people with employment barriers?  

Indigenous: Considering purchasing from Indigenous owned and operated businesses to support Reconciliation and socio-economic resilience for Indigenous peoples and communities.

Does your organization give preference to indigenous owned contractors? Are there ways your organization can support Indigenous business?

Once the review of your organizations current policies and practices is complete, connect with your key stakeholders and start small, manageable projects. For example, look at some of the following organizations, taking small steps towards sustainable business practices:

New Directions: The Social Enterprise division of New Directions offers property maintenance services and catering for Winnipeg companies that want to support socioeconomic sustainability. Discover more opportunities like this by exploring The Canadian Community Economic Development Network (CCEDNet) or Social Enterprise Manitoba websites to discover new suppliers to meet your construction, operational, food service needs and more.

Aboriginal Chamber of Commerce: The Aboriginal Chamber of Commerce will put you in contact with Manitoba Aboriginal businesses. Check out their Member Directory or attend an event to discover business owners to meet your needs.

University of Manitoba: As part of their Sustainability Strategy 2019-2023, their Office of Sustainability provides initiatives, education and research, policy, strategy, and reporting and promotes involvement to sustainability initiatives, including supply chain. 

The Forks: One of Winnipeg’s oldest meeting places has an ambitious and impressive goal: Target Zero: zero garbage, zero water waste, and zero carbon emissions. Be inspired by what they are doing to meet their goal: Geothermal, biofuels, composting, water reduction and more. 

Taking inspiration from sustainability leaders like this, will lead us to ideas and concepts, which then can be transformed into project plans. 

Taking small steps to achieve best value for your organization and the community. Reach out to your networks or become a member of the Canadian Collaboration for Sustainable Procurement (CCSP), a growing network of public sector clients, where you can discover a roadmap to using your buying power to respond, recover and become more resilient. New members are welcome for their 2021 program year—contact them today.

Submitted by Lisa Timmers, Sustainable Supply Chain Consultant at Reeve Consulting.

Reeve Consulting is Canada’s leading firm helping public and private sector clients address social, environmental, and ethical risks and opportunities in their supply chain. We specialize in helping our clients identify sustainability opportunities, define sustainability priorities, and implement strategies that deliver positive and measurable impacts. Contact us to help you reach your sustainability goals.