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By End of 2016, Every Avendra Supplier Must Have Sustainability Policy in Place


ROCKVILLE, MD.—Avendra, the leading procurement services provider, fresh off the purchase of BuyEfficient, is stepping up its commitment to sustainability with the hiring of a new sustainability manager, Hamzah Abu-Ragheb. He joins Stacey Dash, Vice President, Marketing, Communications & Sustainability in leading the sustainability team at Avendra. The hiring of Abu-Ragheb comes at a critical time for Avendra. The Rockville, Md.-based company, with 7,000 hospitality customers, has just a little more than one year to go to reach its goal of having 100 percent of its suppliers with a sustainability policy in place. Currently, somewhere north of 84 percent of Avendra’s suppliers have such a policy. Avendra will update that number in early 2016.

Avendra’s sustainability policy goal is just part of the company’s five-year sustainability plan launched in 2012. Avendra also has a goal of identifying and championing sustainability in 10 categories by 2016. Categories already addressed, according to the company’s website, include: personal paper, sourcing locally produced foods, LED lighting, and foodservice disposables. Remaining to be addressed are sustainable seafood tracking, packaging audits, uniform supply chain analysis, textile supply chain analysis, local/organic produce tracking (additional work on prior category, and sustainable foodservice disposables tracking (additional work on prior category).

It was in 2012 that Avendra brought in a consultant to help it formulate its sustainability goals. “We were hearing that sustainability was becoming increasingly important in the supply chain,” Dash says. The challenge has been working with suppliers of all sizes—from huge to small—and some that are just distributors. That is where things get more complex as a distributor’s suppliers may be outside of Avendra’s contractual control. No matter the number of links down the supply chain, suppliers must still comply with local laws, Dash says, helping to ensure the environmental integrity of products offered through Avendra. Oftentimes smaller companies will have more challenges formulating a sustainability policy. One of Abu-Ragheb’s responsibilities will be to help educate them.   

Suppliers with a sustainability policy must have a written version with sustainability philosophy in it, have senior level endorsement, and be willing to share the policy with Avendra.

Avendra Formed in 2001

Avendra, which was formed in 2001 with the support of companies such as Marriott, Hyatt, Fairmont and Club Corp., has Marriott (managed hotels) as its largest customer. Marriott, on its own, has made a strong commitment to greening its supply chain and is a founding member of the Hospitality Sustainable Purchasing Consortium (HSPC), which measures the sustainability of suppliers and their products through an industry-wide index.

Dash says the bulk of what is purchased through Avendra is F&B related. Seafood is particularly challenging for Avendra as it is a complex food type and the supply chain is often not transparent. “Seafood resources are being depleted,” Dash says. “What kinds of certifications are out there that our customers can get behind? By the end of the year we will have some reports to share.”

Dash says Avendra customers increasingly are asking for local product. “In the produce area we are starting to track that,” she says. “Certain clients consider local 50 miles whereas some consider it a day’s drive.”

Helping its customers save energy and water are also Avendra’s goals. It has focused on LED lighting, for example. “People didn’t understand it or take advantage of it or know how to calculate the ROI,” Dash says. “We did some webinars and other education.” Through Avendra’s Engineering purchasing program, its customers can find many energy-saving Energy Star products. Reducing waste and toxic chemicals are also Avendra goals.

Internal Greening Efforts

According to Avendra, being environmentally responsible is an important part of its culture and it extends beyond its interactions with customers and suppliers. Here are some examples of what Avendra does internally to reduce its environmental impact:

•    It hosts a monthly drawing for reserved parking spaces for associates who carpool or drive fuel efficient vehicles.
•    It has programs that allow associates to use pre-tax dollars toward transit costs.
•    Avendra headquarters is metro accessible.
•    It has on-site recycling programs for paper, plastic and glass.
•    It minimizes paper usage through defined processes for business documents.
•    Its office paper specifications are environmentally friendly.
•    Its ongoing corporate communications program keeps environmental considerations top of mind for associates.
•    At headquarters, it does not use foam or paper cups; ceramic mugs are available for all associates and visitors to use.
•    Throughout the year, Avendra associates donate food, school supplies, toys and clothes to local charity groups to support seasonal needs. Avendra employees also support and participate in many other community-building activities.

In regard to its acquisition of BuyEfficient and exactly how that will impact its sustainability approach, Dash says it is still too early to comment. “That integration is one of our strategic initiatives,” she says. “They were really focused on meeting the needs of their customers. We are getting to know their customers.”

Go to Avendra.

Glenn Hasek can be reached at editor@greenlodgingnews.com.