Procurement With Heart

There should (rightly) be a CSR aspect to commerce; gone should be the days of the ‘show me the money’ attitude with consideration for nothing and no-one. So, how does the company you work for perform in this area, and in what ways? Community/charity engagement? Car share schemes? Work in the community days? (something I admired Carillion for, actually). And how about your supply chain?

In procurement, are we considering seriously enough suppliers who have built CSR into their DNA? Suppliers are asked about their sustainability, CSR carbon-offset profiles in tendering processes, yet how seriously do they take it, or is it a tick-in-the-box exercise?

Organisations I’ve come across that display the characteristics of a socially responsible company have a genuine desire to do the right thing and their company has been founded with this in its DNA. Of course, goodwill is not going to keep a company afloat so the offering has to make commercial sense, be competitive and sustainable. It’s no good a company trading on altruism without a robust offering which addresses market need.

I am a friend and former colleague of ‘the 2 Warrens,’ Warren Ward and Warren Kozera, who founded Lifescape Services, along with Dominic Munro from (GSU Landscapes), a company providing grounds maintenance and landscaping services to public sector and commercial business with their workforce dominated by ex-offenders. I spent time with them both when they were founding this business and their sense of creating better communities and giving second chances is a mantra by which they both operate. They’re successful because they’re smart, commercially minded and likeable. They give at least a day a month of their time and expertise free of charge to community projects, so, all-round good guys with sound commercial savvy.

Says Warren Ward “All profits generated by the business are reinvested in the employees and the services & assets required to grow the business and create more employment opportunities. We recruited our first three employees from the Men After Prison charity, and won our first contract with a utilities company in August 2018.” It’s impressive and encouraging that as a new business, in 2018, Lifescape Services won the CIPS award for its contribution to the profession for delivering social value.

I was at an Ariba event last November and was part of a presentation from a supplying organisation which operates on the Ariba Supplier Network platform. WildHearts Group, is, according to its website ‘a portfolio of companies that, through their activities and profits, create global social change. [Their] products and services are tailored to the demands of today’s business world, helping organisations from multiple sectors operate efficiently and responsibly … Profits from the WildHearts companies fund the work of the WildHearts Foundation to address economic injustice in an efficient and credible way.’ Their website states that to date £7m has been invested in such causes.

I was interested in this business model and also glad to see it had an hour slot on a pretty high-profile event. We all feel somewhat enriched to hear that business can be a force for social good, but how are we, as procurement professionals, contributing to social responsibility being part and parcel of the way we do business?

I had anticipated larger strides in supply chains having socially responsible suppliers woven through them much more prolifically than they actually seem to be.

Aside from those mentioned and of course there are more, I wonder if entrepreneurs are creating companies in the B2B supply chain with social responsibility at their heart? If they are, how are they making themselves known?  Are buyers made aware or making themselves aware of CSR-focused suppliers? Back in my days of supply chain, some of my objectives were to know the supply base in the categories I managed and to ensure they had the opportunity to express interest in our business if appropriate. Back then I regret there wasn’t a social responsibility angle, I wasn’t targeted on it and suppliers were not scored on it. I’d like to think that times have changed and Procurement Heads are cascading objectives and scoring mechanisms around suppliers that demonstrate these traits, and that a percentage of the supply base should be made up of such suppliers. It would be a greater step still to know that the CSR values flow down not merely one level to my suppliers, but to the suppliers of my suppliers, and so on – a truly socially responsible chain of supply.


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