A rookie mistake with sustainable procurement… Lessons Learned

“I don’t want to wear something on my body that hurts the environment or the people in it. It’s hard to know what is good and what is bad on the high street and equally hard to find fashionable or youthful ethical clothing. It shocks me that even today only 1% of cotton produced in the world is Fair Trade and organic. I decided to work with People Tree to put together a collection I could be proud of in terms of both ethics and design.” —Emma Watson for People Tree

“Call it ‘eco-fashion’ if you like, but I think it’s just common sense.” –-Livia Firth, Founder of Eco Age and the Green Carpet Challenge on Chopard’s blog

Last year the GPM Global executive team attended the IPMA Panama World Congress and had a brilliant time both at the congress and meeting business partners, universities and exploring the amazing Panama canal.

During our visit, our GPM Global Panama partner presented the executive team with GPM Global polo shirts made locally.  It was a fun and practical gift. We had just completed a great session with Sumarse, the local UN Global Compact network chapter, and for fun did a quick GPM P5 impact analysis (a simplified Analytic Hierarchy Process) for sustainable supply chain procurement on the shirts.

The GPM P5 impact analysis is similar to a Strength / Weakness / Opportunity / Threat Analysis (SWOT) or Political / Economic / Social / Technological / Legal / Environmental Analysis (PESTLE) for identifying risks.  The questions are organized by an overall category People / Planet / Profit, which are sub-organized by sub-category.  The sub-categories have the specific elements that the team asks questions about to see if there are any sustainability risks that should be raised to management and / or the executive for mitigation.

For the simplified GPM P5 Impact Analysis, in essence questions are asked against each of the elements below on the GPM P5 Standard, and graded as perceived clean, uncertain possible requiring more investigation or perceived risk requiring more analysis, prioritization and potential mitigation.  For a more detailed explanation and approach please refer to the post “How to Use the GPM P5 Impact Analysis.”

GPM P5 Model - Clean


The results of the quick analysis, primarily due to the local suppliers and material, as well as the Panamanian value of multiculturalism…. demonstrated some uncertainty but no perceived risks for sustainable supply chain procurement:

GPM P5 Model - Panama

After several months of sporting the shirt it was getting tired, and I took the initiative to order some more polo shirts for our team, this time from a local Canadian supplier.  My focus was quality.

When the shirts arrived the first thing I noticed was “Made in Bangladesh.”  Not all shirts coming out of Bangladesh are made from exploited child, slave and impoverished / abused workers… but the reputation is there and as an executive with GPM Global I should have been more attentive and asked more questions about the agencies supply chain.  For more information on this complicated issue, please refer to the post “The challenges dealing with child labour in the fast fashion or “McFashion” garment industry.”  What this highlighted was an embarrassingly large social responsibility rookie mistake with procurement.

GPM P5 Model - Bangladesh

So I swallowed my pride and waited for the next opportunity.  Which took place a few months ago.  I searched high and low for sustainable and socially responsible shirt makers in the Americas (Canada and the US).  I found a US supplier on the west coast whose focus was supplying socially responsible shirts.  This time I reviewed their policies and confirmed that they sourced from socially responsible suppliers.

When the shirts arrived the quality was great and they were socially responsible…but… not sustainable.  I purchased shirts from the west coast of the US (I live in Ottawa Ontario Canada on the East coast) that had been sourced from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). That is a lot of travel, Co2 emissions and not locally sourced.

GPM P5 Model - Vietnam

From a corporate perspective, does any of this matter?  For GPM Global, as an advocate for the UN Global Compact (UNGC) 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and sustainable change, this is an issue.  The key, however, is to evaluate, prioritize and mitigate those risks considered to cause a negative impact on the environment, society and the economy.

In terms of dealing with the Co2 carbon emissions caused by the long distance travel and shipping, this can be offset by moving towards a carbon-neutral corporate lifestyle and employing carbon offset services, such as the following:


The other issue though is local economic impact, which can often be more challenging.  In the end, organizations need to evaluate their sustainability priorities and invest in those that are important enough and within their realm of control.  For the economic impact, GPM Global will continue to look for local suppliers that can demonstrate sustainability in all of these areas.


The purpose of this post was to highlight that corporate sustainability issues can appear in curious and unexpected areas.  The key point is to evaluate decisions against a tool like the GPM P5 Impact Analysis.  A more detailed review of the P5 Impact Analysis can be found by referring to the post “How to Use the GPM P5 Impact Analysis.”

For a more detailed study of the GPM P5 Impact Analysis, check out the GPM course offerings such as the:

  • PRiSM™ Practitioner
  • PRiSM™ Foundations
  • SAPM™ Sustainable Agile Project [Management
  • SP2™ Sustainable PRINCE2®

For more information check out the GPM Education Page on our Website.

For more information on sustainable procurement, please refer to the following excellent references:



Belal, A. R., & Cooper, S. (2011). The absence of corporate social responsibility reporting in Bangladesh. Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 22(7), 654–667. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpa.2010.06.020

Bishkek, D. T. (2013, October). Forced labour in Uzbekistan: In the land of cotton. The Economist. Retrieved from http://www.economist.com/blogs/banyan/2013/10/forced-labour-uzbekistan

Carboni, J., Gonzalez, M., & Hodgkinson, J. (2013) The GPM reference guide to sustainability in Project Management. Fort Wayne: GPM Global. http://www.greenprojectmanagement.org/the-gpm-reference-guide-to-sustainability-in-project-management

Carboni, Joel (2014). The GPM P5™ Standard for Sustainability In Project Management. 1st ed. Fort Wayne: GPM Global.

Child Development Institute. (2015). “Play Is The Work of the Child” Maria Montessori |. Retrieved from http://dev.mainelyseo.com/cdi/child-development/play-work-of-children/

Gergely, N. (2009). The Cotton Sector of Benin – Africa Region Working Paper Series No. 125. Retrieved from http://www.worldbank.org/afr/wps/WPS125_Benin_Cotton_Study.pdf

Gershon Nimbalker, Jasmin Mawson, & Claire Harris. (2016). The 2016 Australian Fashion Report – The Truth Behind the Barcode. Retrieved from http://www.baptistworldaid.org.au/assets/Be-Fair-Section/FashionReport.pdf

GPM. (2012). PRISM PRojects Integrating Sustainable Methods. Green Project Management Association.

Hawksley, H. (2012, January 19). India’s exploited child cotton workers. BBC News. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-16639391

ISO, (2016). ISO/DIS 20400.2 Sustainable procurement — Guidance. Retrieved August 23, 2016, from http://www.iso.org/iso/catalogue_detail.htm?csnumber=63026

Josephine Moulds. (n.d.). Child labour in the fashion supply chain. Retrieved from https://labs.theguardian.com/unicef-child-labour/

Mitchell, L. (2013). Why Child Labor Isn’t Always Bad. Retrieved February 9, 2016, from http://www.ethicsdaily.com/why-child-labor-isnt-always-bad-cms-21240

Momin, M. A. (2013). Social and environmental NGOs’ perceptions of Corporate Social Disclosures: The Case of Bangladesh. Accounting Forum, 37(2), 150–161. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.accfor.2013.04.005

Morton, B., Isabella, M., Bordier, C., Ramm, N., Costa, N., Macdonald, D., … Kouria, D. (2011). Buying for a Better World: A Guide on Sustainable Procurement for the UN System. Retrieved from https://www.ungm.org/Areas/Public/Downloads/BFABW_Final_web.pdf

Social Accountability International (SAI). (2013). SA8000 Guidance – 2008 Standard, (June).  Retrieved from http://www.sa-intl.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=Page.ViewPage&PageID=1463

Uddin, S. (2014). “Second Chance” Education for Children in Bangladesh. Retrieved July 23, 2016, from http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2014/01/27/second-chance-education-for-children-in-bangladesh

Uknown. (2013, October). Bangladesh’s clothing industry – Bursting at the seams. The Economist. Retrieved from http://www.economist.com/news/business/21588393-workers-continue-die-unsafe-factories-industry-keeps-booming-bursting-seams

Unknown. (n.d.). Sustainable and Ethical Fashion Quotes. Retrieved from http://passportcouture.com/sustainable-and-ethical-fashion-quotes/

UNOPS. (2016). UNOPS Sustainable Procurement – Our Approach. Retrieved from https://www.unops.org/english/Services/Procurement/Pages/Approach.aspx

World Vision Australia. (2014). Unlucky for some: 13 myths about child labour. Retrieved from https://www.worldvision.com.au/docs/default-source/Media-Release-PDFs/2014/child-labour-myths-media-report-12-june-2014.pdf?sfvrsn=0

Peter Milsom

Peter Milsom is an entrepreneurial advocate for sensible, sustainable change delivery practice. Peter has come to realize that sustainability is the perfect catalyst for Project / Programme / Portfolio / Risk / Value / Business Case and Benefits Management improvement. As an entrepreneurial methodologist Peter's unique value proposition is the vast array of tools and techniques that he brings to every engagement using the most cost effective and efficient methods based on the situation and tailored to meet your needs. This is based on his unique combination of experience and extensive training / certifications in change delivery, value / risk / benefits management business case, and business architecture.

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