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The Task

Go Ahead Group is a UK-based transport operator with bus and rail contracts across the UK and an increasing portfolio of international contracts. They have a strong set of ethical principles driving their business and and have sustainability at the heart of their long term vision and strategy. Go Ahead have seen increasing demands from some of their client base for higher standards of sustainability and a contractual obligation to align their procurement processes with ISO 20400 for their rail franchises. Their current sustainability policy is aligned to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and their procurement organisation is well-aligned with best practice.

In common with many businesses, a significant proportion of their revenue, and so the ability to deliver their sustainability goals, goes to their supply chain. Therefore, there is a need for Go Ahead Group to have a systematic approach to sustainable procurement to support their objectives and satisfy their clients.

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The Action

After an initial analysis using our gap analysis tool, Action Sustainability advised Go Ahead Group of the first step needed: to develop a Sustainable Procurement Charter which sets out expectations of their supply chain. Given that their business is de-centralised, there was a need to develop a robust charter that has the support of internal stakeholders and key suppliers. We also advised Go Ahead Group to consider joining the Supply Chain Sustainability School and subscribe to the cloud-based Sustainability performance tool to support the charter implementation post-development. Go Ahead Group joined the School as a Partner in December 2018.

The Action Sustainability team worked primarily with the company’s sustainability and sustainable procurement leads and were strongly supported by their Procurement Director. Our first task was to conduct a comprehensive review of best practice to help the client understand where they should set their ambitions. We set out some draft scenarios for sustainability goals for internal consultation. These were tested with key internal stakeholders in workshops and through 1:1 discussions managed by the client. A draft charter was developed for consultation in a further workshop. We then facilitated two subsequent workshops with internal stakeholders and key suppliers in the bus and rail businesses to develop priority heat maps.

The Outcome

This was a first step in a long term sustainable procurement programme for Go Ahead Group. Their strong corporate values and excellent procurement practices give them every opportunity to aspire to best practice, win more business, reduce costs and improve their customer service. They are now able to send out a clear message to their supply chains to say what they want and which categories of supply they want to focus on for specific impacts, via their heat maps. The next stages will involve implementing the objectives through their category plans, upskilling their supply chain and measuring their suppliers’ performance.

Working with a de-centralised business where individual businesses have very different contexts and challenges is a challenge. Arriving at a document that was relevant to all parts of the business required significant discussion and internal engagement. Both the consultant and the client had a role to play in this. Engaging with key suppliers from the start was also very important, as suppliers often already had a lot to offer when asked.