4. Involve internal stakeholders

A circular procurement process is different from a normal procurement process. There are different requirements, different steps and different decisions. This has implications for your internal organisation. It’s important to get these aspects right so that there are no surprises down the line.

In addition, circular procurement is not a task for the Purchasing department alone, but for the organisation as a whole. It requires involvement from multiple parts of the organisation. As such, it is important to bring together the needs and interests of different stakeholders in every procurement process. Only then will stakeholders commit to it and start using the procured product in a way that is circular.

4.1 Emphasise the importance

It is important to emphasise that circular procurement does not have to cost more than ‘normal’ procurement, provided that you calculate the total cost of ownership (TCO). A long-term circular strategy should create a win-win situation for client and supplier. Preserving the value of products, components and materials creates a benefit that you can distribute. For each circular strategy, there are different aspects that create added costs and reduce costs.

In a nutshell, never underestimate the importance of internal stakeholders. In practice, a lack of internal support can prove to be one of the biggest barriers to the success of a circular procurement project.

4.2 Define your stakeholders

Firstly, map out who in your organisation is affected by your circular procurement process. Then, see what their interests are.

There will also be conflicting interests. That shouldn’t be a problem. Endeavour to bring the conflicting interests together by making clear agreements. That way, circular ambitions need not be put aside due to other interests. The whole process of determining stakeholders and bringing their interests together is called an internal stakeholder analysis.

It may be necessary for you to adjust the principles of different departments. Three examples:

  • Internal clients and customers: : from control of time and money to control of ambitions (where time and budget are boundary conditions)
  • The Finance department: from control of investment costs to control of total costs of ownership and other values such as employee health
  • The Legal department: maintaining space in contracts for further development on the stated circular ambitions

An example

Imagine this: a sustainability manager wants to achieve high impact and the financial controller wants to procure at the lowest possible cost. What should you do? Choose a ceiling amount or a fixed amount including maintenance. Within that amount, you challenge market parties to the maximum on the circular ambitions contained in the call for tender. That way, the financial controller is reassured, as he or she knows in advance what the expenditure will be. The sustainability manager gets the highest possible circular performance within that framework.

4.3 Work with your stakeholders

Clearly determine how you want to collaborate with different internal stakeholders. You can do this, for example, by looking at these two factors:

  • The interest that a stakeholder has in a favourable outcome
  • The influence that that stakeholder has on the project or product group in question

A matrix like the one below then emerges on that basis.

From the matrix, you can extract four ways of collaborating:

  • Keeping stakeholders happy with high influence but low interest. For example, administrators. You can achieve this with progress reports, for example.
  • Collaborate with stakeholders with high influence and high interest. For example, project managers.
  • Inform stakeholders with high interest but little influence. For example, end users. This can be achieved with a newsletter, for example. But also by involving them in the assessment, such as with a trial placement of furniture or a wear test for clothing.
  • Monitor stakeholders with low interest and little influence. For example, communications employees. This can be achieved by involving them at specific points in the process, giving approval to the sub-aspect that affects their responsibility.

4.4 Engage your stakeholders

Circular procurement requires a different approach to a traditional procurement process. It is important to involve internal stakeholders as early as possible in the process. For example:

  • The end user: to determine the real need
  • The legal specialist: to set the right incentives in the contract
  • The Finance department: to start calculating the total cost of ownership

Good preparation is essential to a successful procurement process where internal stakeholders are concerned. Here are some tips:

  • Engage the right people when determining the need: If you are going to determine the exact need of your organisation, involve a strategic purchaser or sustainability manager as well. You can then be certain that the circular ambitions are properly reflected in the call for tender, without unnecessarily restrictive requirements.
  • Engage procurement early on in the process: Circular procurement is currently often the responsibility of the Procurement department. This can be a positive aspect if the the department is engaged early on in the process. If Procurement is engaged too late, the important choices will already have been made – the requirements and time schedule, for example, were determined in the regular way. It will then difficult to turn this into a full-fledged circular procurement process.
  • Ensure that you have a committed project manager: It helps tremendously if you have a dedicated project manager who supports circular ambitions and is willing to work through a process that is different to normal. You can place the responsibility for carrying the internal organisation with that person. The purchaser can then focus on the procurement process.
  • Take longer preparation times into account: Preparing a circular procurement process takes about twice as long as a normal process. This may mean higher process costs for you as the client.

4.5 Create administrative support

Administrative support is important for a successful circular procurement process. Look for an ambassador at a sufficiently high level in the organisation who is personally committed to the success of the project. An ambassador often has an important role to play in practice. Such as in:

  • Persuading departments: such as when different steps or decisions are needed than would be in a normal procurement process. Consider a dialogue with the market or stronger consideration of quality.
  • Making decisions when there are conflicting interests: such as when the Finance department disagrees with the Purchasing department.

In addition, administrative support is important because there needs to space in which to experiment with a new circular approach. Without the space in which to make mistakes, it is not possible to really trial a new process. Consequently, the results will be disappointing. To ensure that employees feel supported in their experimentation, it is important that the management team is supporting you. That way, it is also easier to bring the rest of the organisation on board with your circular ambitions.

Practical tips

Want to get started with your internal support right away? Section six of the roadmap below contains useful checklists, action plans and communication tips:

Points for action

  • Determine who your internal stakeholders are and try to bring their interests together.
  • Ensure that you have an ambassador at management level.
  • Determine how you want to collaborate with different internal stakeholders – who is in your project team and who do you only need to inform?
  • Ensure that you have a committed project manager who will involve internal stakeholders as early as possible.

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