How Sustainability Can Help Procurement Avoid Black Swans

Swans, procurement and sustainability – what’s the link? It’s all to do with procurement taking account for its impact on the wider world.

Seven Swans Swimming

The traditional 12 days of Christmas might not start until the 26th of December. But this festive season, we’ll be bringing you the 12 days of procurement Christmas in the run up to the big day. Catch up with the story so far on the Procurious Blog.

“On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…seven swans-a-swimming.”

Black swans are always unexpected, and defy explanation. Seeing two black swans together is highly unlikely. However, seeing seven together all at once? Well, you better hope that you don’t.

Of course, I’m not talking about the bird that you might see in your local park. The Black Swan I’m thinking of is a term coined by Nassim Nicholas Taleb for an event that is both surprising, and has a major impact.

So, if we can’t predict when these events will happen, how can we stop them? This is where sustainability, social value, and procurement come in.

Thinking the Unthinkable

Earlier this year, Nik Gowing spoke extensively about the concept of ‘Thinking the Unthinkable‘ at the Big Ideas Summit. The idea behind this was that current leaders weren’t able to deal with cataclysmic events – either through a lack of skills, or outright denial.

Little did Nik know that when he used President Trump as an example of an unpredictable event, he was actually predicting the future! Nor could he have known that 2016 could provide even greater volatility than 2014, the year Nik and his co-author looked at for these so-called Black Swans.

It’s easy to argue that, without the right skills, these events are impossible to handle. If you then add in the fact that we can’t predict them, even with all the technology available to us, then what can we do?

Swimming with the Swans

Given that Black Swan events can be just about anything, procurement needs to look at its impact on everything to do its bit. And one way to do this, is to be conscious of its impact on the wider society.

Sustainability and sustainable procurement are concepts that are getting increasing focus in the global profession. Organisations have begun to realise that sustainability can build supply chain competitive advantage. Employee engagement is key, but the vast majority of people want to engage if it means a brighter future.

The environment is certainly a major consideration in potential future Black Swan events. And, from management of resources, to responsibility for global supply chains, procurement will play a major role.

Procurement Gets Social

Of course, sustainability is just one aspect of procurement’s future. The profession is taking increasing interest in social value, and working with social enterprises.

And why should procurement be working with these organisations? Well, they give back to the community, and have a positive impact on the community, and the environment. There are also social organisations working hard to ensure that people have proper access to good, healthy food.

And those of us looking to get more meaning in our procurement careers could do worse than looking to work with social enterprises. Career Coach Charlie Wigglesworth, Director of Business and Enterprise, Social Enterprise UK, discussed this at length earlier in the year.

If your conscience has been pricked, then there is plenty you can do to help. If we pull together as a profession, then we can ensure procurement is better equipped to deal with unexpected events.

Or, you never know, we might even be able to stop them happening in the first place. Then the only swans we need to think about would be the ones we see at the local pond. And that would be good for the future, wouldn’t it?

Negotiation – it’s just one of the key skills procurement professionals need to drive value. But do you go for milking your supplier? Or getting something from the wider herd? Get the lowdown on Day 8.

Women in Procurement – An International Survey

Gender imbalance in business is clear to see. But, in procurement, how do professional associations stack up in terms of percentage of women members? 

Women in Procurement Study

Procurious recently launched Bravo: Celebrating Women in Procurement. Join the discussion here.

It’s well documented that females represent less than 5 per cent of CEO positions in S&P-500 companies, but organisation with greater diversity have enhanced business results.

Less described is the status of female participation across the procurement profession. So I decided to explore this using data from international Purchasing Associations (PAs).

Feedback from 22 PAs having a subscription base of around 230,000 members was received. I found that, on average, women accounted for 41 per cent of the membership base. However, the figure is skewed because the largest association is close to 50 per cent.

In reality, the majority of the other associations are in the 20-35 per cent female membership range. This also makes them a long way from gender parity.

PAs also reported that typically only 30 per cent of females attend their conferences and events, and that, correspondingly, a little under 20 per cent of women present at them.

There are also considerable differences between the national PA’s on how they are currently addressing the topic. Barring a few exceptions, most of them having no active forums.

Recent Procurement Studies

Various aspects of this topic have been outlined via a variety of different media. The most notable ones include:

Nonetheless, so far gender participation from a PA perspective has not been explored.

Methodology

Over 30 national PA’s were approached for their participation in a “Women in Procurement” survey. The following 22 replied: Australia, Austria, Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Thailand, Turkey, UK, USA and Vietnam.

The PA’s were sent a survey that had a combination of quantitative and qualitative questions.

Women in Procurement – The Findings

The percentage of female members from the individual PA’s has been clustered and summarised into four groups. Of the 22 respondents 21 of them provided relevant data.

This identifies that the majority of the PA’s have considerable opportunity to approach membership gender parity:

The consultancy named “Catalyst” reports gender participation at different organisational levels in a pyramidal format. Unfortunately, despite trying to explore role level with the PA’s, they did not have enough data to be able to compose any related trends.

One exception, CIPS, the UK purchasing association, has a variety of member levels, differentiated by certification. The highest, most senior level (called Fellows) had 17 per cent women (despite being a cluster 4 PA).

Nonetheless, an interesting trend was noted in the decreasing differences between percentage membership, percentage event attendance, and percentage speaker/presenters.

For the PA’s as a composite group the trend was 40 per cent, 30 per cent and 19 per cent respectively. Not quite the pyramid, but certainly a trend with procurement women having decreasing visibility.

Furthermore, it does beg the question why is there a decreasing participation, and, what can PA’s do to achieve enhanced parity?

Maintaining Highest Level of Inclusion

Despite being informed by the MD of one PA that they “simply weren’t interested in this topic”, the survey research has been able to collate snapshots from different global PA’s and related associations addressing the Women in Procurement opportunity.

This includes:

  • CIPS-MENA (Middle East and North Africa) branch hosted a “Women in Procurement in Saudi” in May 2016. It is the first of its sort in the Middle East.
  • Procurement Leaders have launched in September 2016 an interesting microsite.

When talent compares a prospective career in Procurement with Finance, Marketing, Sales, IT, etc., our track record as a profession might be a problem. And it is hardly enough just to be aware of the issue.

Procurement Associations have an obligation, not only to their members, but to the organisations and communities that engage them, to maintain the highest possible standards and society inclusion.

Enhancing the Profession

What should Procurement Associations do to enhance the attractiveness of the profession…?

On 5th October 2016, CIPS-Switzerland held a “Women in Procurement” evening event. Over 80 participants enjoyed presentations from three great speakers. We now have plans to start a CIPS-Switzerland WiP forum.

The first letter of the word inclusion is “I” – what can “I” be doing about a topic of interest or an arena that needs addressing? It’s your turn now…!

John Everett is the CIPS-Switzerland branch chairperson as well as the EMEAI regional purchasing director for The Dow Chemical Company. His 30-year career spans product innovation, business development, procurement and business services leadership.

Procurement’s Future – Growing Not Killing the Golden Geese

Rumours of procurement’s imminent demise persist. But would organisations be killing their golden geese by getting rid of the function?

6 geese a laying

The traditional 12 days of Christmas might not start until the 26th of December. But this festive season, we’ll be bringing you the 12 days of procurement Christmas in the run up to the big day. Catch up with the story so far on the Procurious Blog.

“On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…six geese-a-laying.”

Mark Twain is reported to have once said, “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

We like to think of the procurement function, and it’s fantastic professionals, as the golden geese of an organisation. We bring savings and value, build our influence, and increasingly drive strategy, but still find ourselves defending our position. And for some experts, the end of procurement in its current guise is still on the horizon.

But are we looking at this from the wrong angle? Nothing remains the same forever, so what are the strategies procurement can use to maintain its hard fought position?

Is the End Really Nigh?

It’s been a little over a year since PepsiCo took the decision to scrap its marketing procurement function. The move took many people by surprise, and left procurement commentators wondering if other major players would follow suit.

At the time, few people thought there would be a snowball effect for procurement. And, so far, they have been proven correct. So, let’s put the doom and gloom behind us, and focus on what procurement might look like in the future.

It would be incredibly naïve of us to think that procurement will continue to exist in its current form. However, what this does mean is that we have a fantastic opportunity to develop in line with strategy and disruption.

We’ve had differing views on what this might look like for procurement in the future. At the Big Ideas Summit this year, Anna del Mar, outlined how procurement could be integrated into the business.

This would not only help break down organisational silos, but actively encourage best practice procurement across the board. A collaborative attitude is going to help mould procurement success, and at the same time, make communicating our value much easier.

Tech & Disruption – Grow the Golden Geese

This all brings us back to a hot topic across all business right now – disruption. You might be tired of reading about it, but getting ahead of the disruptive wave is what we must aim for.

The disruptive landscape is changing, and even the famous disruptors (Airbnb, Uber, etc.) need to stay on their toes. Technology is forcing organisations to re-evaluate how they do business. But at the same time, it’s giving them the opportunity to change and make processes more efficient and effective.

Cognitive computing, such as IBM Watson, Big Data, the Cloud, AI and Blockchain. All these disruptive technologies stand to make massive impacts in procurement and supply chain. Processes can be automated, and taken over by robots. Technology will change the way we interact with suppliers, stakeholders and the public.

But even as the robots take over (not really), there will always be a role for people in procurement. Just as there will always be a role for procurement in the organisation. For procurement, it’s finding that sweet spot between cost and value that allows it to grow. For the professionals, it’s about having the key skills to allow them to grow with the change (but we’ll come to that in a few days!).

So let’s not get the procurement obituary prepared just yet. There’s plenty of time left in procurement’s hourglass if we’re doing the right thing. It’s all a matter of showing why it’s turkeys, and not geese, on the chopping block for next year! 

Is procurement taking heed of its impact on the wider community? We certainly don’t want to feel like we’re swimming against a tide of public opinion. Find out what we mean tomorrow.  

Buying Tech – Your Fast-Track Ticket to the Top!

I’d like to make a correction. Tech buyers aren’t just our next CPOs, they’re our next Board members.

No, I haven’t misspelt “BioTech” in the headline here – I genuinely mean buying technology.

I wrote last week on Procurious that IT procurement professionals are best-positioned to become the next generation of CPOs (Chief Procurement Officers) or CIOs (Chief Information Officers).

But then, I decided to upgrade this career trajectory to Board level.

Why? Because I’d heard first-hand how some of the world’s largest industrial companies are turning their businesses on their heads. They are changing their focus so it’s less on manufactured goods, but services they can provide to complement those goods.

Banking on Future Tech

At last week’s ProcureCon IT conference in Amsterdam, banks, car companies, engine makers and other industries all made their way to the stage to tell a similar story. You see, they’ve all finally come around to Michael Porter’s way of thinking. It’s all about delighting and owning the customer – or, more specifically, the customer data.

Even the most traditional sectors represented at the conference made it clear that they are banking their futures on technology. Of course they’ll still offer their core products, such as making cars or managing money.

However, their key competitive advantage will be in the customer experience they create through understanding their customers’ needs and habits. The data they capture when customers use their products and services is essential for this understanding.

So – to be successful into the future, these bricks-and-mortar businesses are going to have start adding some very different (and expensive) topics to their Board meeting agendas.

Decisions might include:

  • whether to store all their precious customer data in the cloud or in data centres,
  • how to protect their IP and their customers’ privacy from hackers,
  • how to comply with privacy legislation, and
  • which technology vendors to tie their futures to (or not!).

These issues have existed in business for a long time, but they now come with such significant expenditure and risk profiles that they will warrant serious Board contemplation and approval.

But who on the Board will have the experience and knowledge to provide useful and constructive insights for making these critical business decisions?

Become a Savvy Tech Buyer

Enter stage left – the technology procurement leader.

I’ve been reading and writing about seismic shifts in the world of Industry 4.0, but today the penny finally dropped. I now realise what a huge opportunity the next Industrial Revolution is for procurement.

It is indeed a brave new world. To my delight it has become very clear to me that the fastest career ticket you can buy yourself to the c-suite, is to become a commercially savvy technology buyer.

Whether you are in IT procurement or not, you should be focussing on developing these four key skills to secure your ticket to the top:

Big Data Analytics

There is going to be a lot of customer data collected over the coming years. The companies that can extract the best insights from that data, and adapt their products and services to meet customer needs, will secure their competitive advantage.

Executives with a proven track record in complex analytics will be a valuable addition to the c-suite.

Data Security

Cyber security is already one of the most concerning issues for CEOs. This will only be amplified in the future as more and more proprietary information is created.

The executive team will need leaders who know about global privacy laws, the pros and cons of the cloud versus traditional data centres, and how to outsmart the latest human or robotic hacking capability.

The Digital Landscape

Companies are already in dire need of directors and executives who understand the difference between the Ethernet and the Internet. (Hint: it’s like comparing a glass of water with the ocean).

A whole new universe of technology options are forming as the Internet of Things and Industry 4.0 explode. Boards desperately need digitally native, tech-savvy executives who can quickly analyse opportunities, understand the competitive landscape and engage first-mover start-ups in a commercially astute manner.

Busting the Big Guys

This isn’t a typical competency that you would normally see listed on a corporate job description. But from what I’ve heard over the past two days, every company is going to need a group of strong, strategic commercial leaders who can ensure the organisation doesn’t become captive to one of the big technology suppliers.

Without naming names, there are a handful of global players who dominate the infrastructure, hardware and software space.

Whilst IT procurement professionals genuinely want to engage the niche players, requirements around scale, scope and compliance inevitably lead to the large technology providers. These are somewhat symbiotic relationships, but (as we all know) there are huge inherent risks to any monopoly supply situation.

Gain Experience and Grow

So, if you’re ambitious, my career advice to you today is this:

Do all you can to get yourself into a role where you’ll learn these sought-after skills. A role in tech procurement would be perfect; procurement second-best (because every procurement professional learns essential commercial and negotiation skills).

If you’re not in procurement at all, the IT profession is another place where you’ll be able to gain the experience required to tick some of these boxes when it comes time to be interviewed for the c-suite – or hopefully, the Board!

See you at the top!

Procurious is the world’s first online network dedicated to procurement and supply chain professionals.

Register for free today! Join over 19,000 fellow professionals from around the world to share your knowledge, get your burning questions answered and help drive the evolution of the procurement profession.

Measuring Value – All That Glitters Isn’t Necessarily Gold

The Five Gold Rings might be the most expensive of the gifts listed in the carol, but does that mean they’re the most valuable? Not necessarily. It depends on how you measure value.

five gold rings

The traditional 12 days of Christmas might not start until the 26th of December. But this festive season, we’ll be bringing you the 12 days of procurement Christmas in the run up to the big day. Catch up with the story so far on the Procurious Blog.

“On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…five golden rings.”

In 1982, the late, great Irish actor and singer Frank Kelly released a hit single called “Christmas Countdown”. The song is a parody of the 12 Days of Christmas, where the hapless narrator writes a series of thank-you letters to his over-indulgent true love, getting increasingly frantic as each day passes.

As his small home fills up with various aggressive birds (doves and geese in the living room, swans in the bathtub), he and his elderly mother become overwhelmed with the noise, the smell, and the veterinary bills.

By the time the maids-a-milking, drummers drumming and lords-a-leaping add to the pandemonium, the singer’s letters have turned from thanks to abuse, and his mother has been taken to a home for the bewildered.

But, amongst all the inappropriate gifts of birds and musicians, there’s one gift that makes him pause.

“Your generosity knows no bounds! Five gold rings! When the parcel arrived I was scared stiff that it might be more birds, because the smell in the living-room is atrocious. However, I don’t want to seem ungrateful for the beautiful rings.” 

Finding Gold Among Feathers

As procurement professionals, we often need to take a step back and look at the true value of the product or services we’re procuring. Below we’ll take three different approaches to the measurement of value – according to price, utility, and cultural value. 

Value Based on Price

To be clear, judging the value of an item based on price alone is not good procurement practice. It’s a gross oversimplification of the concept of value. But sadly, it’s still an ingrained way of thinking for many practitioners.

If you want a chuckle in the lead-up to Christmas, check out PNC Wealth Management’s “Christmas Price Index. The Index totals up the cost of the 364 gifts (including all the repetitions) listed in the carol. The total cost is a staggering $156,506.88 for 2016, which is a rise of 0.7 per cent over last year.

The tongue-in-cheek economic indicator pulls its prices from a range of local sources, including a Philadelphia nursery for the pear tree, a local jeweller for the golden rings, and the Pennsylvania musicians’ union for the drummers’ wages.

Value Based on Utility

The 18th-century mathematician and physicist Daniel Bernoulli hit the nail on the head with this memorable quote: “The value of an item must not be based on its price, but rather on the utility it yields.”

Apart from the potential egg yield of the three French hens and six geese a-laying, the only other material return to be had from this gift bonanza would be quite a lot of milk from the eight maids a-milking and, possibly, a few pears. All the other gifts have little to zero utility, but do have significant cultural value. 

Cultural Value

This carol is packed with cultural value. There’s atheistic value in the ornamental birds, sentimental value in the golden rings, and artistic value in the performing musicians.

Think about some of the goods and services you’ve procured for your organisation. Which ones have had cultural value? Cultural value tends to attract a price premium, but often pays off in raising customer perception of your brand. 

From the Value Experts

According to the experts, organisations are also increasingly using the concept of value to define their strategies. Alex Kleiner, General Manager, EMEA at Coupa, explained more at Big Ideas Summit 2016:

Different companies will view value in different ways. This concept of Value-as-a-Service takes in everything from usability, to lives saved, and everything in between. It’s down to each individual organisation to decide how to measure this.

From a procurement point of view, it’s also good to remember that we shouldn’t be constrained by one particular definition. All that glitters isn’t necessarily gold. The profession just needs to define the stakeholder needs, and go from there.

While value might be difficult to define as one concept, we like to think procurement is worth its weight in gold. But can the profession survive in its current form? Or will the golden goose meet its end? Find out tomorrow.

Hello, Procurement Career? It’s Social Media Calling

Have you found your calling in life? Do you worry that your procurement career is getting away from you? Then you need to heed the siren call of social media.

Four Calling Birds

The traditional 12 days of Christmas might not start until the 26th of December. But this festive season, we’ll be bringing you the 12 days of procurement Christmas in the run up to the big day. Catch up with the story so far on the Procurious Blog.

“On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…four calling birds.”

By now, the receiver of the true love’s gifts probably has a large aviary to keep all the birds in. Just as well really, as three of the next four days will bring even more. However, despite the song bringing us calling birds, it’s another, bluer bird we’re looking at today.

Where’s Your Career Going?

By this time of the year, most of us have decided on resolutions we’ll kick off the new year with. Starting with good intentions, we make smaller changes to how we live our lives. We might want to eat less, exercise more, or spend more time on our favourite activities. But, life tends to take over, and by mid-January, we’ve fallen back into old habits.

But for some people, this is the time of year that brings consideration about the next steps of their career. Whether it’s a change of companies, going after a promotion, or even thinking about a complete change, most people start their search on the Internet. More specifically, they’ll start to look for information and new roles on social media.

The array of sources, information, and potential employers, makes social media a major tool in an individual’s search. Whether it’s LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter (see, we told you we’d be talking about a bird…), there is plenty you can do to boost your career.

So how are you going to turn that around, and make social media work for you? We’ve been calling on our experts this year to share their thoughts on this very topic. And they haven’t disappointed.

Break Down Walls, Increase Value

During our Career Boot Camp, Jay Scheer, Senior Digital Marketing Manager at THOMASNET, highlighted what many of us have been doing wrong on social media. That is using different accounts for different areas of our lives.

However, Jay advises that we need to break down these personal silos in order to increase our digital value. In a more connected social media world, employers want to see the full picture. And individuals want to portray a more rounded image.

Breaking down the barriers is the first step. Jay also advised the following when on social media:

  1. Start thinking of yourself as a brand – project the right image to the public
  2. Be authentic and conversational – inject your personality where possible
  3. Be targeted – always consider the medium and the audience, and tailor your activity
  4. Don’t be banal – don’t post for posting’s sake
  5. Draw a line – use the grandma test for all your posts

No Avoiding the Brand

So now we know how we could be using social media, we need to know how to portray the right image. Happily, another of our experts took care of that – Procurious’ own Lisa Malone.

Lisa gives some great tips on building a ‘kick-ass’ personal brand that’s bound to get you noticed. And if you’re looking for a new job, or to showcase why that promotion should be yours, then getting noticed is what you need.

From authenticity and injecting a bit of colour into your profile, to connecting with top people (and then leveraging those connections), there’s plenty here to get you started.

Personal brand is key on social media. And if we all take the time to boost our personal brand, then the brand of procurement will benefit too. We’ve got plenty of tips and tricks that we’ve shared.

But perhaps the biggest is the importance of a great profile picture. If you do one thing the next time you’re on Procurious, check out your picture, and see if a change will do you good.

What are you waiting for? If you hear a new job calling for the new year, or just want to give your social media accounts a spit and polish, now’s the time. You never know if that perfect job is just around the corner, but at least you’ll be ready!

Knowledge is worth its weight in gold. So how can you boost your procurement knowledge using some economic basics? Make sure you come back tomorrow to find out.

Who Run the World? Women in Procurement!

The talent pipeline is bursting with superstar women at entry – mid level. Why then, is that same pipeline so overwhelmingly stocked with men at the leadership level? In the words of Beyonce – Who run the world? Girls!

Bravo! Celebrating and Connecting Women in Procurement – get involved here.

If you work for a large, multinational organisation, a quick scan of the office might have you believe gender disparity in the workplace is a thing of the past, but it’s time to think again!

  • Almost four in ten businesses in G7 countries have no women in senior management positions.

Now let’s take look at the Procurement stats. According to research conducted by John Everett, EMEA Business Service Group Director at Dow Chemical and CIPS-Switzerland Branch Chairperson, in the majority of procurement associations, women account for 20-35 per cent of memberships and at procurement conferences, they represent 30 per cent of attendees and just 20 per cent of speakers.

Why is This So Important?

I’d forgive you at this point for thinking that the outlook sounds pretty bleak, but all is not lost!

The good news? The lack of diversity throughout organisations affects everybody, men and women alike. It’s statistically proven that employees achieve more when they can be themselves, and also that diverse organisations are more likely to outperform (35 per cent more likely, to be exact).

  • Diverse and inclusive teams decrease the turnover within organisations. When employees are happy and face no discrimination, they’re more likely to stick around.
  • The best people won’t want to work for a company with a track record of gender inequality or discrimination. An organisation’s reputation in regards to diversity is important to prospective employees.
  • If the employees within your organisation aren’t a true representation of your customer and stakeholder base, you can’t possibly act with everyone’s interests in mind.
  • Everyone brings different skills and talents to the table. You’re certainly narrowing your business horizons if everyone at the top is the same gender, race, age and sexuality.

If we unleashed all of the latent power of women out there, we could unlock almost £10 trillion of additional global economic output. And so, it’s in everyone’s interests to help improve diversity and inclusion.

What is Bravo?

At Procurious, we want to make it easier for women to get into, stay in, and thrive in the procurement profession. This is why we are launching Bravo – a Procurious Group celebrating and promoting women in Procurement.

“Procurement is a pathway to the CEO’s office. So I hope that increasing participation of women in procurement leadership roles, will ultimately lead to a brighter future for female business leaders.” says Tania Seary, founder of Procurious.

“We want all our members – women and men alike – to unite and tackle diversity barriers head-on, shining a spotlight on the career success factors that will allow women to thrive at all levels.”

Women in Procurement at ProcureCon

Just last week at ProcureCon IT Amsterdam,  there was a great example of the power of women connecting and sharing.

Hosted by Claire Tapping, Head of IT Purchasing Rolls-Royce, the ‘Women in Procurement’ breakfast bought together 20 inspiring women to share their experiences, observations and reflections on what it’s like to be a woman in the procurement profession.

There was a general consensus among the group that diversity within procurement has noticeably improved in recent years. The attendees were particularly heartened to see so many females at an IT/Tech conference, an industry where women are typically underrepresented.

But there’s still a long way to go. Several people noted the need to change attitudes towards women and the vocabulary used to describe them in the workplace.

Female managers are often referred to as being “bitchy” or “bossy” or condemned for having a strong personality. Men, on the other hand, might be deemed as authoritative or passionate for expressing the same character traits.

Challenging these perceptions, and calling out discriminatory attitudes, will go a long way to ensuring women are respected at work and promoted into leadership positions.

Women CAN Have it All!

It was fascinating to listen to accounts from women of different ethnicities working all around the globe. Experiences vary dramatically, particularly when it comes to balancing work and family life.

In Switzerland, for example, working mothers are not readily accommodated. Childcare costs are exceptionally high and there is little government support. As one delegate commented, “Switzerland has the most highly educated housewives.”

By contrast, Iceland ranks top in the World Economic Forum’s gender gap index, and has done for the past six years. Almost 80 per cent of Icelandic women work. They represent, thanks to quotas, almost 50 per cent of board members (versus 23.2 per cent in the UK). Who’s coming with me?

Many of the ProcureCon delegates could relate to the struggles of being a working mother. In many countries, it’s harder for men to work part time, or to receive paternity leave.

Women have been made to feel that they shouldn’t take on senior positions if they’re planning on starting a family. Conversely, in accepting a new senior role, some have felt as though they should put their family plans on hold.

Laws need to be adapted and organisations must work towards accommodating working parents, both men and women. Everyone should have the opportunity to choose how they manage their families.

What’s to Come?

Short of us all moving to Iceland next year, the best we can do is work to make a change wherever we are and however we can. And there’s always strength in numbers.

Most of the women present at ProcureCon work for organisations where there is an organisation-wide women’s network, but nothing specific for procurement pros.

We want Bravo to help fill this gap, making it easier for us to communicate, share ideas, mentor and be energised to do more!

As part of Bravo, we’ll speaking with a number of high profile procurement leaders about their own advice to young women starting off in Procurement, and how they’re helping females get ahead.

Join the discussion on Procurious and help put this issue to rest once and for all.

Speaking the Language of The Three French Hens

Feel like you speak a different language to the business? Then imagine how the French hens felt with the other birds in the song.

three french hens

The traditional 12 days of Christmas might not start until the 26th of December. But this festive season, we’ll be bringing you the 12 days of procurement Christmas in the run up to the big day. Catch up with Day 1 and Day 2 on the Blog.

“On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…three french hens.”

So the gift giving continues, and so does the avian theme. And yes, we are well aware that although the French Hens might have been French, the language barrier probably wasn’t an issue. Forgive us for stretching a metaphor, but we do aim to make a valid point!

One of the common themes we have come across in 2016 has been the concept of language. Specifically the concept that procurement needs to start speaking the language of the business to get ahead.

Communicating the value of procurement can be tricky. However, it’s up to all of us as professionals to make sure our voice is heard.

Bonjour, French Hens

While we were at ProcureCon Europe in Berlin in November, a number of keynotes discussed this perspective. Both Finance and Engineering were represented, and both speakers highlighted the different language the business speaks.

One speaker, Gordon Tytler, Director of Purchasing at Rolls-Royce, did state that procurement was valued in his organisation. The issue was that it wasn’t fully understood, neither in value, nor in activity.

Tytler also warned against insularity in procurement, arguing that this means the function can’t be sure it’s delivering what the business actually wants. As procurement adapts and changes to organisational requirements, it’s vital that our role is understood.

How do we go about communicating this value? Well, first we have to define the value we are delivering. Value is underpinned by four key aspects – service; innovation; risk; cost. Find out how here.

The Value of Procurement

Communicating the value of procurement to stakeholders is all very well. But the profession needs to ensure that strategy is following suit. This was one of the topics on the agenda at this year’s Big Ideas Summit.

Gabe Perez, Vice President, Strategy & Market Development at Coupa Software, discussed how disruption is forcing procurement to put value at the core of all its activities. According to Gabe, procurement needs to start with the value proposition, and work backwards.

It’s the same whether it’s a manufactured good, or a service (Gabe used the example of buying procurement technology). This sort of focus will allow procurement to move forwards with the value agenda.

The transition from cost to value was also on the mind of ISM CEO, Tom Derry. You can see what Tom had to say here.

Understanding how procurement is delivering value is a good first step for the profession. Communicating it is another matter, though, unlike the french hens at least, we don’t have a language barrier to cross. Maybe just a terminology one instead.

Our avian theme continues tomorrow on the fourth day of Christmas. But we’re looking at a bird with a difference – it’s blue, digital, and a great tool for procurement to use in its communications. Stay tuned to find out more.

Are We Witnessing the End of the Fairtrade Movement?

Mondelēz International have chosen to pull the Fairtrade label from all Cadbury branded products. Are we witnessing the beginning of the end for the movement?

fairtrade movement

In 1997, the formation of FLO International brought ‘Fair Trade’ labelling to shops for the first time. Later rebranded as Fairtrade International, it was recognised as the global leader in fair trade standards and labelling.

Since that time, hundreds of organisations have hosted the Fair Trade label on their products. While the labelling was voluntary, organisations and the general public viewed this movement as a great step forward for developing countries.

However, in the past week, Mondelēz International have taken the decision to bring all of its fair trade policies in house. And it’s left many people wondering about the future of the movement in its current state.

What is Fairtrade?

Fairtrade is just as it sounds. The aim of the movement is to create better working and living conditions for farmers and workers in developing countries. This includes paying better prices for crops (which don’t fall below the market price), and embedding local sustainability.

Crops range from coffee and cocoa, to bananas and cotton. It also includes products you might not immediately link to it, like flowers, gold and wine.

Some facts and figures around the movement are (courtesy of the Fairtrade Foundation):

  • More than 1.65 million farmers and workers work for Fairtrade certified organisations
  • 56 per cent of these farmers grow coffee
  • There are 1,226 certified Fairtrade organisations across 74 countries
  • $106.2 million was paid to Fairtrade producers in 2013-14
  • 26 per cent of all farmers and workers in the organisations are female
  • Organisations invested 31 per cent of their Fairtrade premiums on productivity or quality improvements; 26 per cent was invested in education

The movement has clearly helped millions of farmers and workers around the world, giving them a better deal for their crops. And, as social consciousness has grown, so have consumer tastes for Fairtrade products.

The UK is one of the largest markets in the world for Fairtrade products. In 2012 (more recent figures are hard to come by), UK consumers spent more than £1.3 billion on these goods.

Is It Really Fair?

However, unfairly or otherwise, the movement has been dogged by criticism about how fair it actually is. As far back as 2007 (and beyond), critics were questioning how good a deal these farmers and workers were getting.

Some critics have argued that by being affiliated with the movement, farmers are actually limiting their markets. Others have argued that it doesn’t account for mechanisation in production and doesn’t give the opportunity to improve production processes.

And a report in 2014 by the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London raised concerns that some workers were actually earning less than non-Fairtrade workers.

Some products don’t quality for Fairtrade labelling, and specialist brands are likely to miss out. Additionally, it’s often difficult for farmers to join the movement, with fees and a lack of organisation frequently cited.

And despite its position in the public eye, Fairtrade isn’t the only organisation offering this service. The Rainforest Alliance is one such organisation, but perhaps suffers from being less well-known.

Companies Changing Strategies

All of which brings us back to the change about to be undertaken by Mondelēz with its Cadbury brands. The global organisation plans to bring all of its certification in-house, under its ‘Cocoa Life‘ fair trade scheme.

While the company maintains that the move won’t impact the percentage of fair trade products it produces, it’s raising concerns about the future of the Fairtrade movement.

When Cadbury joined Fairtrade in 2009, it prompted many of its competitors to do likewise. Critics are concerned that its move away from Fairtrade might see other organisations follow suit. There are concerns that ethical standards may drop, even although Fairtrade will continue to monitor Cadbury’s work.

The company has committed to ensuring that its supply chains retain the protection they currently have. And even Fairtrade International have welcomed the move, seeing it as a company taking accountability for its supply chain and sustainability efforts.

Whether this ultimately means the end for Fairtrade is unclear. It’s highly unlikely that the movement will cease to be, but it may have to change to remain relevant. Public social consciousness will only increase, and manufacturers will need to be able to prove the transparency and legitimacy of their supply chains.

In that respect, whether it’s in-house, or done by an external NGO, sustainability labelling will continue to exist. And Fairtrade will still be seen as the cornerstone in the movement.

What do you think about the move by Mondelēz? Do you think it will make a major difference? Let us know in the comments below.

While we take some time out to evaluate our food purchases, we’ve compiled some top headlines for your consideration.

Pentagon Buries Evidence of Bureaucratic Waste

  • The Pentagon suppressed the results of an internal study which exposed huge levels of administrative waste.
  • A dramatic report from The Washington Post revealed the extent of the waste to be an estimated $125 billion.
  • Reporters believe the Pentagon feared Congress would use the findings as an excuse to slash the Defence budget.
  • The study was originally requested to help make the Pentagon’s back-office more efficient and reinvest any savings in combat power.

Read more at the Washington Post

Apple Supply Chain “On Move to USA”

  • A large part of the Apple supply chain may be on the move back to the USA, according to one report.
  • Foxconn, one of Apple’s key producers, currently carries out the majority of manufacturing in Chinese factories.
  • However, the company is in talks about expanding its US-based operations to iPhone and other product build.
  • The move comes following strong criticism of the company by President-elect Donald Trump during the US elections.

Read more at the Wall Street Journal

Trump Air Force One Tweet Sends Markets into Chaos

  • The social media habits, and impact, of President-elect Trump were highlighted again last week.
  • A tweet calling for the cancellation of an order for a new 747 Air Force One, built by Boeing, caused chaos in US markets.
  • Immediate effects included a sudden plunge in Boeing’s stock, which recovered as clarity emerged around the true budget – $1.65 billion. Boeing currently has a $170 million contract with the Air Force.
  • Trump and the CEO of Boeing have since spoken by phone regarding the order and the tweet.

Read more on ABC News

Fujitsu and DHL to Use IoT to Disrupt Logistics

  • Fujitsu has announced a partnership with DHL Supply Chain UK which will focus on using the Internet of Things in logistics.
  • The two companies plan to share expertise to jointly develop innovative solutions for supply chains, and also emergency services.
  • One example of wearable technology is UBIQUITOUSWARE which helps emergency services track individuals.
  • The technology provides real-time tracking insights, as well as ensuring timely responses in emergency situations.

Read more at Supply Chain Digital

Unlikely Alliances on the Rise in Disrupted Markets

Amazon’s disruption of the grocery, food delivery and home-care industry could spark unlikely alliances. And these alliances could help take the fight to disruptors.

alliances

With Amazon’s expansion of its grocery deal with Morrisons, its launch of Amazon Restaurants, and a rumoured housekeeping service, incumbents could see unusual partnerships as a means to fend off the retail juggernaut.   

Amazon’s recent advances into the homecare and food delivery market, have followed the much vaunted expansion of its pre-existing delivery deal with Morrisons. The company has also recently announced plans to introduce ‘Amazon Go‘, a shopping experience without checkouts.

There is also a rumoured launch of a new housekeeping service, as well as Amazon Restaurants and Amazon Fresh services. These moves could result in incumbent players taking drastic measures to combat the e-commerce giant.

This is according to Nick Miller, head of FMCG at Crimson & Co, who predicts that Amazon’s competitors could form unlikely partnerships in order to avoid losing ground. 

Shopping on the Go

Amazon announced a couple of weeks ago that it would be extending its existing delivery deal with Morrisons’ to offer one-hour grocery deliveries to selected postcodes in London and Hertfordshire to Amazon Prime Now customers. The service has been named “Morrisons at Amazon.”  

Meanwhile, advertisements were seen in the US media two weeks ago for ‘Home Assistants,’ who would work with customers to tidy people’s homes, do laundry, put groceries away and “assure that customers return to an errand-free home.”

If true, this new service would be another convenience to Amazon Prime Now customers. These customers already have access to Amazon Restaurants (a home food delivery service), as well as both Morrisons at Amazon and Amazon Fresh for same-day deliveries on a massive range of fresh and frozen grocery goods.

When you further consider the potential for an Amazon Go grocery store in the UK, it’s clear the online giant is keen to expand its reach. 

Convenience is King

Miller commented on the moves, and what it means its competitors. “It’s pretty clear that Amazon’s aim is to be the one-stop-shop for all domestic-life conveniences. Whether that be shopping, groceries, takeaways or cleaning, they want to lead the market. It’s an incredibly obvious and yet aggressive strategy,” says Miller.

“Convenience is the key word. The customer, for an annual fee (a Prime subscription), has a central platform where they can access a wide variety of services and products at their leisure, and with confidence in Amazon’s established reputation.

“As this service becomes more and more engrained amongst users, loyalties to competitors will increasingly be challenged. Why go to four places when one does it all?” 

While on paper these plans are impressive, there are questions Amazon needs to address. The key consideration is that these markets often entail more complex service demands and delivery requirements.

Services like Handy and Hassle are dominating players in the homecare market. Deliveroo, has developed a leading position in London’s ‘last-mile’ food delivery market, but this has recently seen threats from Uber with the entry of UberEats.

Meanwhile, many of the big supermarkets maintain grocery delivery services. Ocado, the online grocery specialist which supports Morrisons’ website, saw its shares fall by 8.5 per cent in the wake of the Morrisons news. 

Innovating to Remain Competitive

As Amazon refines and expands its services, these incumbent players will likely need to innovate to remain competitive. Ocado, for example, is likely to suffer considerably as Amazon moves into the food delivery market.

Companies looking to remain competitive will have to match Amazon on convenience, as well as breadth of offering. However, there is potential for innovation across the space that could help organisations here. And this is also where the unusual alliances could come in.

Miller highlights how a ‘last-mile’ deliverer, such as Deliveroo, could partner with a supermarket to offer grocery shopping and takeaways in one service. There’s strong potential and attractiveness in making this service possible. It could also put both in a position to challenge Amazon on ‘Restaurants’ and ‘Fresh’.

As Miller also states, both parties would see major benefits from such an alliance. Deliveroo would access a wider customer base, while the supermarket would get expertise in ‘last-mile’ delivery.

It goes to demonstrate how unlikely partnerships could provide a route to superior service in delivery. Joining forces with local transport businesses, such as taxi firms, could also provide a boost to delivery speeds.

Either way, thinking laterally and tapping into pre-existing networks could help companies to compete with Amazon.  

Still Obstacles for Alliances

These ideas, however, do not come without their own obstacles.

Miller commented on some of these, “These kind of innovations would undoubtedly bring a number of logistical challenges. Not only the alignment of the delivery chain to enable the fastest and best possible experience for the customer, but also the coordination of logistics and digital platforms between two companies.

“However, approaching the problem from this angle could prove vital for any company attempting to see off Amazon.”