What Skills Does an ESG Procurement Manager Need?

Organizations are feeling the need to fill highly-skilled ESG procurement manager roles to meet consumer demand for sustainable goods.

By Hugo Britt | October 26, 2023

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You don’t need a crystal ball to see that demand for ESG (Environmental, Social & Governance) Procurement Managers will continue to grow. If you’re interested in this role, now is the time to start thinking about the skills and experience employers are searching for.

Why is demand for ESG procurement managers growing?

More companies are paying attention to ESG in response to growing demand from customers, shareholders, and their own employees. At present, ESG reporting in the US is predominantly mandatory but this is likely to change – last year, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) proposed rules to enhance and standardize climate-related disclosures for investors. 

In addition, the conversation is shifting around the value that ESG can bring. From being seen as a compliance-related cost-center, ESG is now understood as a source of potential value generation.

Reducing plastic packaging, for example, will not only help meet environmental targets, but will reduce costs and improve brand perception among environmentally-conscious consumers. Improving ESG can also avoid costs stemming from reputational damage and legal liabilities. 

Forbes reported that two-thirds of consumers say they will pay more for sustainable products, with higher percentages in younger generations. The same report noted that “transparency around sustainability efforts will help brands and retailers differentiate themselves in the market” – with ESG reporting a key tool in transparency efforts.

Several studies have shown that consumers value and are willing to pay for traceability, and are likely to take traceability as a given in future as more companies leverage their supply chain data. KPMG’s 2022 Global CEO Outlook found that “69% of CEOs see significant stakeholder demand for increased transparency and reporting on ESG matters, while 72% feel that stakeholder scrutiny regarding ESG issues … will continue to accelerate.”

Finally, organizations are leveraging ESG to boost their Employee Value Proposition (EVP). An IBM study found two out of three respondents are “more willing to apply for (67%) and accept (68%) jobs from organisations they consider to be environmentally sustainable,” while the connection between a sense of purpose and employee retention is well known.

Two-thirds of consumers say they value transparency around sustainability efforts and that they'd pay more for sustainable products, making the need for highly-skilled ESG procurement managers relevant.

What are the benefits of the role?

What makes the role of ESG Procurement Manager so attractive? Managing ESG Procurement will mean you can make a truly positive social and environmental impact by influencing procurement decisions that reduce environmental harm, promote fair labor practices, and uphold ethical governance.

The role will inevitably grow in influence and importance in the organization as ESG moves up the list of priorities.

5 must-have skills for an ESG procurement manager

Here are the top five skills for a Procurement ESG Manager:

Sustainability expertise

A deep understanding of environmental, social, and governance issues includes knowledge of sustainability frameworks (US and global), environmental regulations, ethical labor practices, and social responsibility standards. Keeping up-to-date with industry trends and emerging sustainability issues is a never-ending job, but essential in this role.

Analytical, data, and reporting skills

Many people who seek ESG roles are aspirational, but you also need to be operational. In other words, you will need to be good with numbers and reporting.

ESG Procurement Managers need to collect, analyze, and interpret data related to sustainability metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs). This includes quantifying environmental impacts, evaluating supply chain risks, and tracking progress towards ESG goals.

Stakeholder engagement

The procurement function can’t shift the dial on ESG alone. The ESG Manager will need to work closely with the heads of multiple teams to help meet ESG-related targets including the sustainability team, the CFO and finance team, IT, HR, supply, and logistics.

The role will also involve working with suppliers and external partners to align ESG goals and drive sustainable procurement practices. This will require strong interpersonal, negotiation, and storytelling skills.

Change management and leadership

Implementing ESG initiatives often requires organizational change as you imbed ESG initiatives in organization-wide policies and processes.

Procurement ESG Managers should be skilled in change management, capable of persuading others to adopt sustainable practices, and able to lead cross-functional teams towards ESG objectives.

Adaptability

One thing that is certain is that the pace of change is going to accelerate throughout the rest of the 2020s and into the next decade as the US races to net zero by 2050. ESG Procurement Managers must be able to adapt to rapidly-evolving sustainability standards and regulations.

Wondering where to start? Embrace continuous learning and stay updated on the latest sustainability trends, regulations, and best practices. Seek opportunities to gain practical experience in ESG-related projects. Cultivate relationships within your professional network to enhance your stakeholder engagement abilities.

Demonstrating your commitment to sustainability, along with a willingness to lead and drive change, will make you a highly attractive candidate for this critical and influential role. So, if you’re passionate about sustainability and procurement, start building your skillset and network now to position yourself for a successful career as a Procurement ESG Manager.

Looking to improve procurement, ESG and beyond? Download Una’s free playbook to take your procurement strategy to the next level.

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