SIG Summit dispatch: Procurement with purpose in the COVID-19 Era

Continuing with coverage of the digital SIG Procurement Technology Summit this week, I attended session No. 18: “Procurement with a Purpose in the COVID-19 Era.” Moderated by our own Sheena Smith, Managing Director of North America for Spend Matters, the session included three panelists: Paul Polizzotto of Givewith, Adam Vasallo of Big Brothers Big Sisters and Sushmita Banerjee of Boston Consulting Group.

As supply chains touch essentially everything every day, not just in this era of COVID-19, procurement is becoming increasingly human and personal — people are being furloughed, companies are actually consulting their force majeure clauses and asking for concessions, etc. While procurement departments are impacted and have gone back into cost-cutting mode, communities are also incredibly impacted. As such, how can you, as procurement, make your spend count in a way that benefits buyers, sellers and nonprofits?

Big Brothers Big Sisters has seen a $38 million dip in operating budgets this year due to the coronavirus crisis. With springtime usually representing a period of fundraisers and individual donations, Adam and team know that a lot of Americans are having to think about where their dollars are being spent right now. Whether it be from individuals or Big Brothers Big Sisters’ other two defined revenue streams — foundations and corporations — they’ve had to consider where confidence is right now while focusing on continuing to work throughout the crisis.

As Sushmita notes, COVID-19 is not only an economic crisis but a societal crisis, affecting the lives and well-being of people around the globe. Social issues aren’t going anywhere and are in some cases exacerbated. Adam shared that 30,000 kids across the country are waiting for a mentor in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.

With so many communities being impacted, donations suffering across streams and social issues being exacerbated, how can B2B commerce help? As Paul explains, it isn’t about philanthropy or charity — it’s about leveraging business activities and transactions as an agent for social change.

That’s where Givewith comes in. Before Givewith, Paul originated the process whereby a B2B transaction underwrites shared value and social impact. His first experience in this was a joint venture with CBS Corp. — leveraging the sales of a commodity (a 30-second ad unit) to help fund solar panels and energy efficiency, where kids were taught how to grow their own food. But how could he bring that social impact to everyone buying and selling? How could they leap from one-to-one to all-to-all, using technology to do so with precision and scale?

For daily procurement transactions, Givewith has a formal partnership with SAP Ariba and can be used with any other buying platform (see Spend Matters' coverage of how Givewith works here).

If buyers were to underwrite social impact within their sourcing process, and just 8% of transactions that go through SAP Ariba were included, Givewith would be able to help direct $3.2 billion to nonprofits that are taking on the most pressing issues of our time.

When it comes to the coronavirus crisis specifically, Givewith has partnered with SIG and Boston Consulting Group, as well as Deloitte and SAP Ariba, to create the COVID-19 Response Initiative.

Overall, this is an opportunity to understand that corporate social responsibility (CSR) and social impact are not tasks to undertake only when you or your organization are thriving; they are absolutely critical at all times. We need to rethink industry, the fundamental activity of transferring goods and services to create social value each time — in order to create a healthier society as a whole.

SIG members have access to all keynotes and presentations on-demand, which can be found in the SIG Resource Center here.

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