After Brexit, Trump and Dead Cows, Is There an Elf on the Procurement Shelf?

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What began as an investigation of whether procurement has been good or bad this year turned into whether this year as been good or bad to procurement. After all, is Brexit (and its accompanying unknown consequences and risks) really procurement’s fault, for example? Or earthquakes? Or dead cows? Of course not, but recurring supply chain scandals are no good – not that cheerier things haven’t happened this year. Read on for a recap.


To start the year off with positive news, Taulia raises $46 million in its Series E funding round, led by Zouk Capital (+5). In less positive news, an explosion at a steel factory in Chita, Japan leads Toyota to halt production temporarily (-5). And a blizzard in Texas and New Mexico killed about 35,000 dairy cows but isn’t expected to affect the dairy supply (-2).

Net gains/losses: -2


Apple, Samsung, Volkswagen, Sony, and several other tech and auto companies are found to use cobalt mined by child laborers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (-10). Every year, similar headlines (-5).

Net gains/losses: -17


A Governance & Accountability Institute report shows that in 2015, 81% of S&P 500 index companies issued corporate sustainability reports, up from 75% in 2014 (+5). And ISM and ThomasNet announce their second annual “30 Under 30” awardees, recognizing young talent in procurement and supply chain (+5).

Net gains/losses: -7


Earthquakes of magnitude 6.4 and 7.3 hit Kumamoto, Japan, causing loss of lives and homes as well as disruptions to the auto and electronics supply chains (-10).

Net gains/losses: -17


The 2016 salary report released by Next Level Purchasing Association shows that the global average salary for a purchasing or supply chain management professional has declined 7.5% to $53,630 (-3). According to a report from the National Retail Federation, the Trans-Pacific Partnership will lower global supply chain costs and make it easier for retailers to ensure their suppliers are following environmental and labor protection standards (+5).

And in news that completely eclipses the previous items, Coupa releases a parody video on the relationship between accounts payable and accounts receivable (+10)

Net gains/losses: -5


The U.K. votes to leave the EU, and the lovely portmanteau “Brexit” solidifies its spot on countless history quizzes in the year 2030 or so. After the shock wears off (as Peter Smith puts it, “that feeling of waking up and thinking – did I really tell that joke in the pub last night? Oh my goodness, I have this vague memory that I might have propositioned our HR Director. Why are there four kebab boxes in the kitchen…”), the uncertainty and risks remain (-10).

Net gains/losses: -15


Wal-Mart makes good on its promise of more supply chain transparency, announcing that it is encouraging its suppliers to ban eight controversial chemicals from 90,000 products, mostly beauty and personal care items (+10). But does “encouraging” mean the chemicals be removed or merely reduced? And how long will it take? (-6) However, environmental issues matter, not just to consumers. A study conducted by MIT Sloan Management Review and The Boston Consulting Group finds that investors are paying more attention to a company’s supply chain sustainability efforts (+8).

Net gains/losses: -3


The usually sleepy month of August instead turns out to be a good month for food supply chain news, less so for the gig economy or supply chain transparency. McDonald’s U.S. supply chain is now free of chickens raised with antibiotics, meeting its March 2017 goal ahead of schedule (+10). Deloitte releases a survey of 4,000 workers. Of those who had worked as an independent contractor, two-thirds said they would not do so again, citing lack of stability and benefits as drawbacks. But is the gig economy inevitable? (-7) According to a report released by the non-profit Development International, only one-third of companies filing conflict mineral reports disclosed the country of origin for the tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold in their supply chains (-7).

Net gains/losses: -7


Amazon Business’s government division snags Anne Rung, administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy. Rung was well-respected thanks to her accomplishments while working in federal acquisition, and now the private sector stands to benefit from her experience and vision (+5).

Net gains/Losses: -2


A solid month for procurement. Coupa’s IPO is a hit (+5). Initially priced at $18, Coupa’s shares nearly doubled during its first day of trading. IQN partners with TalentWave on making the IQN Vendor Management System a more powerful risk mitigation tool for companies that use contingent labor (+5).

Net gains/losses: +8


With the unforeseen election of Donald Trump, Fifth-Avenue billionaire champion of the common people, the future of procurement just became a little murkier. Peter Smith wonders what the implications are for foreign labor and open trade, which in turn will have a big effect on procurement – before ending with a not very cheery “at the moment, frankly, we’re terrified (-10).” Raj Sharma of Public Spend Forum has a brighter view of things (+5) but admits to being “an eternal optimist” (-1).

Meanwhile, a mysterious shipment of Christmas cards arrives at the Spend Matters office, and no one knows who ordered them. An additional -1 for lack of spend visibility.

Net gains/losses: +1


According to HBR Consulting’s second annual Law Firm Procurement Survey, there’s quite a bit of innovating to do when it comes to the legal sector’s procurement efforts (-3). Amazon Business opens shop in Germany, a boon for German procurement organizations (+5).

Net gains/losses: +3

The Verdict

And the year is over – or close enough. Somehow or other, procurement made it through with more good points than bad, according to this rather loose interpretation of mathematics. Let’s hope 2017 will be better.

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