Procurement with Purpose – J&J and WildHearts Take Centre Stage at SAP Ariba Summit

At the recent SAP Ariba London Procurement Summit, Martine Booth from the firm (who spoke at our pub debate, you may remember) led a discussion around “procurement with purpose” with Timo Worrall from Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and Colin Downie, from WildHearts, a social enterprise.

Worrall is Director - Supplier Social Responsibility, a great job title, charged with developing a “diverse social value programme” through the firm’s supply base. We all know J&J - baby products, pharma, medical devices etc. – but may not be quite aware how huge the firm is, with 130, 000 employees globally.

In terms of WildHearts, 100% of the business’s profit goes to support various social and charitable initiatives. The core business supplies “basic” items such as stationery to customers and aims to be price competitive – but instead of giving the profit back to shareholders, it goes to the WildHeart Foundation. That supports microfinance programmes in developing countries, and also enterprise programmes in the UK, encouraging entrepreneurship amongst disadvantaged youngsters.

Martine dived straight in, asking Worrall if this was just a marketing ploy for J&J!  A bold question, we thought …  But he responded well.

“We don’t market this activity, we don’t talk about it much. But it is built into our culture – the J&J credo goes back 75 years, and our priority is to serve customers and communities. We are aiming to use our procurement power to support this. This is just the right thing to do, it makes us feel good, our employees want to contribute and it’s part of our culture. But in terms of process, we have a long way to go. I’ve just started in this role – the passion is great, but execution is key. And one key question is how do we use technology to help deliver this better”?

Over to Downie. “Many social enterprises evolved from the not-for-profit sector. We started with a view to make profit for our foundation – if you can buy from us at same price as from other suppliers, why not buy from us, and help do some good at the same time?  We report to every customer in terms of what they have spent and how many lives that has saved and how many people we have helped! We act commercially, we don’t raise funds from other routes and we want your business”.

One of the interesting UK social enterprises is working with J&J, helping people who might usually struggle to find worthwhile – and indeed highly skilled – work. As Worrall said, “the company uses autistic people for technology work, and we have found the quality is better than conventional suppliers. 80% of autism sufferers don’t work – so there can be positive societal impact and we can actually save the taxpayer money if we can help more people into jobs.  And we get great quality so it’s a no-brainer”.  (SAP Ariba is also supporting this initiative).

Booth asked how WildHearts got engaged with J&J?

“I met a J&J manager in the social enterprise space, I did a business development job, the opportunity came up – and we won the business by being cheaper than the global supplier who was in place! In fact we were too cheap – we agreed with J&J to raise the price a little so it still showed savings but we got more income to support the foundation”.  Now that is a very mature discussion – hats off to J&J!

Worrall then commented that while J&J is not being asked to do anything specific yet, they are well aware in terms of winning public sector business, there is increasing focus on firms who are also providing social value. “We’re thinking hard about this. And millennial talent wants to work for a technology-enabled procurement function that delivers value in different ways, not just through cost cutting”.

Downie re-inforced that saying that “our customers are increasingly using their work with us to help win Government work. This is about competitive advantage now – and its going to increase, so don’t get behind the curve”.  Worrall also gave SAP Ariba some advice – could the firm make it easier for users of the platform to find and engage with social enterprises and similar?

And finally, what advice would the panel give to those who are starting on this journey?  Worral first – “link up with MSDUK, Social Enterprise UK, WE Connect, those external organisations who can connect you into the supply base. Don’t get too hung up on targets, think about stories, the lives you could impact. Then build momentum”.

And Downie – “there are different collaborative options, so think which social enterprises are right for your business. Talk to other procurement people – and you can start buying from SEs without having a detailed strategy – go for quick wins. And remember this is different from environmental “sustainability”. Consider targets specifically around social value”.


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