Knowledge @ ESCP Europe

Corporate Social Responsibility

Sustainable Purchasing in Times of Crisis


"Sustainable Purchasing: Reality, Perspectives and Implementation":
a conference organised by the Specialized Master in Strategic Management of Purchasing and Supply Chain and its Scientific Director, Pr. Dr. Fabienne Fel.

Experts and professionals debate on the ESCP Europe Paris Campus
on April 14, 2010.

  • Did the crisis put an end to Sustainable Purchasing projects or did it underline the urgency of their implementation?
  • What are the best implementation practices?
  • How to monitor change efficiently?

The video on the Sustainable Purchasing conference is in French.

Fabienne Fel, Associate Professor, ESCP Europe

Fabienne Fel is an Associate Professor on the ESCP Europe Paris Campus and Scientific Director of the Specialized Master in Strategic Management of Purchasing and Supply Chain.

Fabienne Fel, who organized the conference with the ESCP Europe Specialized Master in Strategic Management of Purchasing and Supply Chain. presented the results of the survey carried out with 310 French and European companies.

"Sustainable Purchasing: development prospects after the crisis?"

There is no doubt about the major role played by Purchasing in the implementation of a CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) project. The last decades have witnessed growing externalisation, leading to a major increase of the products and services bought by western companies, which makes them particularly vulnerable in the event of environmental or social failure of their suppliers. The Purchasing Managers, the suppliers’ privileged interlocutors, are in charge of limiting these risks which may be detrimental for their company in terms of image and reputation. Upstream, the Purchasing Managers also have the possibility of making their suppliers’ CSR evolve and may thus contribute to the progressive responsibilisation of all the actors of the supply chain.

In light of this observation, we sought to draw up a current panorama of the CSR projects in Purchasing, by taking particularly into account the potential consequences of the crisis, which has, in certain cases, pushed companies to foster short-term profitability objectives, and, in other cases, underlined the need for accelerating sustainable development projects, considered to be more strategic now than ever, with the current questioning of the dominant economic model.

We sought to answer the three questions that are addressed in the three parts of the research.

  • How was the implementation of the CSR project acknowledged before the crisis, and how was it implemented in Purchasing?
  • How was the implementation of the project impacted by the crisis?
  • Which issues are faced in the implementation of the CSR project at Purchasing after the crisis?

In order to find answers to these questions, we conducted a survey with 310 French and European companies of all sizes and all branches of industry, in December 2009. Our results indicate overall important differences in the acknowledgement of the companies’ CSR projects. These differences are primarily dependent on the branches of industry, the type of customers concerned, and naturally of the importance of the CSR projects in the global strategies of the companies.

Concerning Purchases, our results show that they are often involved at a late stage in the implementation of the CSR project - there too, the differences in the results are overall related to the same factors as those quoted previously - and that the implication of the Purchasing Managers in sustainable development is function of the companies’ maturity in matters of CSR.

Read the full Study on Sustainable Purchasing - Fabienne Fel - April 2010 (in French)