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Responsible products for companies: a real necessity today!

16 September 2021

While incorporating the CSR strategy in companies’ business models is a real challenge with a long-term transformation objective, some departments have made the responsible offer one of their priorities.
Whether it is due to the directors’ personal beliefs, to satisfy customers’ expectations or to adapt to the new regulations which are gaining pace, the topic of CSR is more than ever at the heart of their strategy!


The key stages in implementing and distributing a responsible offer in B2B


The aim of undertaking a CSR approach and providing a responsible offer is to assist and support all client companies with more reasonable consumption that meets their own CSR goals.  From local authorities to the large groups and SMEs or VSEs, across all sectors, each client has different sensitivities that are both environmental and social. At present, clients are increasingly incorporating responsible criteria in their calls for tender, which account for between 10% and 20% of the final score.

The distributor’s role in this approach is essential. It is the connection between the supplier and the client: it will therefore encourage these two stakeholders towards more responsible production and consumption, acting on different drivers.

First of all, the aim is to provide evidence to clients, through the qualification of products’ environmental aspects. The company must keep the client as informed as possible in a reliable way about the origin of the products, as a matter of traceability. It must also endeavour to provide a responsible alternative to each product in its offer.

Furthermore, company managements can raise the product and purchasing teams’ awareness and involve them by inviting them to take part in the development of a responsible offer. First of all, they will carry out an assessment of the current product and supplier portfolio to ensure that they meet the social and environmental standards that the company has set. Secondly, they will be in charge of identifying new products and suppliers to extend the responsible offer provided.

Finally, based on a long-term vision, the company can adopt a teaching approach with its clients by highlighting the impact of their consumption, the products’ origin and information about the most virtuous suppliers.

The idea is to offer an approach comparing responsible products and suppliers, to enable clients to make an informed choice, without imposing anything, but simply supporting them with all the social and environmental facets: preservation of natural resources, consumer carbon footprint, their employees’ health and well-being, products promoting inclusion, etc.

A responsible purchasing and circular economy policy supporting the offer 


At the same time, facing clients’ expectations in terms of more ecological and more responsible consumption, companies will need to rethink all the stages of the product life cycle. This will take place through the deployment of responsible purchasing policies. From product to transportation, the supplier’s choice, maintenance and recycling , clients benefit from a 360° approach to the product life cycle and the associated services, until the end of the product's life.

The development of responsible purchasing involves long-term work. This requires good relationships with suppliers and supporting them towards CSR standards that the distributor has set. It still remains that the implementation of a CSR strategy once again represents a real change in mentality and habits, and purchases are no exception. All the studies show that even if the responsible aspects are considered more and more, the first criteria of choice remain the price, lead time and quality. Buyers must therefore adapt how they approach their work to gradually develop this framework, envisaging the total cost of ownership (TCO), including its social and environmental impacts.  

In addition, the development of the circular economy is a change of paradigm for buyers and users, prioritising rental, repair or the purchase of a second-hand product. The economy of use, also referred to as the economy of functionality, consists in a company buying the use of a product, without acquiring its ownership. A real alternative to traditional purchasing, consumption by use is appealing to more and more companies because it enables the procurement department to contribute to several company goals: economic performance, attractive offer and environmental protection. 
Note that these new approaches will incur other responsibilities on the distributor’s part, which must, for example, keep clients informed for them to make energy savings, improve their waste management and help them develop dematerialisation. 
In addition to representing an economic and ecological driver for companies, this model creates a convergence between the two parties’ interests and challenges. The company buys a higher added-value service while the supplier will satisfy the latter’s needs more by developing its production means and its products towards a more sustainable model.

The social and environmental impacts and stakeholders’ expectations are pushing companies today to expand their responsible purchasing and sustainable supply chain initiatives to reach a higher level of requirement. Even if the change will not be as considerable and fast as calls for ‘a new world’ would hope, and although the background movement in favour of CSR preceded the Covid-19 crisis, this accelerated the transition both out of conviction and necessity. It has highlighted the importance of controlling your value chain, the power of solid and sustainable relationships between customers and suppliers, the weight of company culture and solidarity. 

Marine Varret, Manutan Group CSR Offer and Supply Chain Manager