Ben Gummer – Might We See “Sustainable Procurement” Going Up The Government Priority List?

After our article a week ago about the new UK government “Minister for Procurement” and the seemingly random process by which ministers in general seem to be selected, we spoke to an old friend who gave us some interesting insight.

Our contact has had some indirect contact with Ben Gummer, having actually worked with his father, the ex-Tory Environment Minister John Selwyn Gummer, in the past. Unfortunately, Gummer senior is best known by the public for feeding his young daughter a beef burger in an attempt to defuse concerns about “mad cow disease” in 1990, but he was regarded as a very good Minister by many in the social enterprise and CSR communities, and since he was elevated to the House of Lords as a life peer, he has become a leading figure in environmental circles.

He chairs UK's independent Committee on Climate Change and also chairs a consulting firm, Sancroft, that works in the CSR and environmental field. One of their areas of expertise, according to the website, is “Responsible Sourcing” – “Sancroft assists some of the world’s leading companies in making their supply chains more transparent and traceable to ensure against poor labour and environmental standards. We specialise in supporting apparel brands and food businesses in building responsible sourcing programmes”.

Our sources tell us that Gummer senior was (and presumably still is) “very keen on using public procurement as a sustainability tool”. Sancroft advised the Greek government on public procurement and CSR issues around the Olympics back in 2004; and worked for some very big name firms in similar areas. He apparently was not too impressed at the efforts of what was then the Office of Government Commerce (the Crown Commercial Services forerunner) in that field, and was himself clearly knowledgeable about and involved in these “sustainable procurement” type issues.

Now that is not an absolute guarantee that his son will have the same interest of course. However, Wikipedia does tell us that he (Ben Gummer) was Managing Director of Sancroft from 2005-10, so it does seem highly likely that he will have a decent level of interest in these topics.

That might be very interesting; just as Francis Maude’s legal knowledge played into his actions as “Minister for Procurement” in the 2010-15 period, perhaps we will see an even greater focus on these “policy through procurement”, CSR and sustainability type issues under Gummer? We will observe with interest!

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