Pub Debate – Procurement with Purpose Takes Centre Stage

OK, I confess, I was worried about our pub debate last night. Approaching the holiday season, in the middle of the World Cup, a heatwave… would it end up being Nancy Clinton and I, the other speakers and maybe a couple of folks from SAP Ariba (our kind sponsors for the evening) talking to ourselves in the Clarence pub in Whitehall?

Then our erstwhile debate Chair, James Marland, saw his flight delayed into Heathrow… would he make it in time, or would my colleague Nancy, who was nursing a calf injury after coming on in extra time in Moscow on Tuesday night (well, that’s what she told me) have to stand in?

And how would the topic work as a basis for a good argument, discussion and debate? “This House believes that Procurement with Purpose can save the world” being the motion in question.  

Well, all was good. Mr Marland arrived, hotfoot from Terminal Five, we had around 35 people in the nicely air-conditioned room, the food was lovely (thanks, Clarence people), a very pleasant Sancerre on ice (thanks, Samia) and perhaps the best and certainly closest pub debate we’ve ever had, with lots of engagement from the crowd and very strong speakers.

In the end, the vote was cast and came down on one side by a margin of just one - we'll tell you which one after we've heard from the two sides of the argument in our next post (so you can make up your own minds in advance of the result). As I say, I don’t think we have ever had a closer conclusion to a debate.  That was down to the passion that Martine Booth and Andy Davies (see picture) demonstrated on the “for” side, as opposed to the “against” side – the hard logic that Mark Webb presented and my argument that really, the world doesn’t needs saving at all!

The questions from the floor and debate after the four short speeches were really good and interesting, and we got into some great topics about the role of procurement, influence and power, how firms, consumers, governments and procurement interact, and more - more on that to come too.

In truth, we all agreed on much. Procurement can and should have a major influence on the wider world in many ways. Really, the discussion was around how important our contribution could be, and whether the profession is equipped and ready to play an influential role. So is “saving the world” overstating it somewhat? That was really the heart of the debate.

So thanks to everyone who came along and contributed to an excellent evening, thanks to SAP Ariba for sponsoring and participating, and particularly thanks to Martine, James, Andy and Mark for putting together such great arguments. We’ll give you more of the content in the days to come – and don’t forget you can download the paper I wrote titled  “Procurement with a Purpose - Making a Positive Impact on Organisations, Human Rights and Communities” here as well.

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