Buying from Social Enterprises – Initiative Also Helps Johnson & Johnson Procurement Raise Profile

We wrote here about the justification for buying from social enterprises – that is, organisations that aim to fulfil some wider social purpose, such as employing offenders in order to reduce re-offending rates, rather than simply maximising profits. And we promised to come back with further thoughts on why organisations might consider following such a path.

At the recent Buy Social launch at 11 Downing Street in London, where a number of big firms committed to a target of £1 billion to be spent with such enterprises by 2020, Johnson & Johnson was one business represented. Then, at the Procurious Big Ideas Summit, we had a brief chat with two procurement executives from the firm, and asked them about the initiative and how they saw it from a procurement perspective.

Their answer was interesting, in that it gave another reason for getting behind such programmes – one that is particular and beneficial to the procurement function, but interesting nonetheless. They felt that the “Buy Social” initiative had given procurement a much higher profile within J&J, and had improved the function’s relationship with internal colleagues. “Our stakeholders – the budget holders and similar that we work with - love it. They really like the feeling they are contributing to something worthwhile and feel positive about procurement for promoting and supporting the programme” was the view.

At a personal level, the experience was also very positive. “As a category manager, to be honest I would never get in to see top executives to talk about facilities management, for example. But I’ve had really good discussions with Executive Board level people about our social enterprises programme, and what we are doing in procurement to work with more of those organisations”.

We thought that was a fascinating point. Whilst of course the Board are interested in procurement doing a good traditional job - managing the cost base, protecting supply and so on – it may be something like this in the corporate social responsibility space that really gets their attention and excites them. If the procurement function can show how we can contribute in that sense, it can really boost internal credibility and profile.

The only word of warning is to make sure you are aligned with the wider business and top management. It is no good procurement going off on an initiative to support protecting the rainforest, for example, then finding that the Board has no interest in that whatsoever, but might have responded to an initiative to support local communities. Alignment is a key word in so many ways for procurement, and this is just one more example. But it certainly seems that the J&J procurement team are supporting a very worthwhile initiative in broader societal terms, and at the same time doing their own internal reputation no harm at all.

And if you want to hear more about the J&J work, there is a Procurious “Big Ideas” video available now with Hugh Chamberlain from the firm explaining more about the initiative.

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