All posts by Matt Perfect

How to change the world…like a procurement pro!

If you’re bored of cutting deals and meeting with the same old suppliers you might be starting to wonder, “what’s next?” 

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This article was originally published on LinkedIn.

The good news is, as you’ll see in a moment, there’s a simple way to re-energise your procurement career. The even better news is, your boss will love it because you will be delivering tons of value for your organisation and making the world a better place.

If you haven’t already, it might be time to think about social procurement.

Social procurement has nothing to do with buying stuff on Facebook. (Having said that, I believe social media has a massive role to play in procurement so please, join me on Procurious to see why!)

No, social procurement is where social impact and procurement meet. By directing even a small portion of our organisation’s spend, towards social enterprises, we can make a real difference in the lives of marginalised groups such as the long-term unemployed.

According to Social Traders, a leader in the development of social procurement in Australia:

A social enterprise is an organisation that; is driven by a public or community cause, be it social, environmental, cultural or economic; derives most of their income from trade, not donations; uses the majority of their profits to work towards their social mission.

With social enterprises now operating in a vast array of industries from facilities maintenance and cleaning to printing and web design, it is no longer a question of if you will do business with them, but when. It is also easier than ever, with intermediaries like Social Traders providing valuable services that help bridge the gap between large government and private buyers and social enterprises.

So where to start? Most procurement professionals I know aren’t sitting around looking for something to do and social procurement can seem like that ‘nice-to-have’ project we just don’t have time for. In reality, many organisations are already doing social procurement. The opportunity for procurement professionals is to Find it, Flag it and Facilitate it.

Find it: Identify social enterprises in your spend and supply base

One of the most important roles for any procurement professional is providing useful intelligence to the organisation regarding its suppliers. Often this means analysing spend data and interpreting it to provide meaningful insights that inform better decision-making.

In the case of social procurement, simply being able to identify social enterprises, particularly within the long tail of vendors that characterises most spend profiles, can mean the difference between creating and destroying social value for your organisation. Again, intermediaries like Social Traders have large databases of social enterprises that can assist with this task.

Flag it: Promote the value of social enterprise suppliers

As leaders in the organisation, particularly when it comes to supplier relations, procurement professionals have to take a position on value. If all we talk about is savings, then that is all that will be expected of us. People will look elsewhere for other forms of value.

Social value is still a source of competitive advantage in many industries, but increasingly it is becoming an expected norm, by customers, employees and shareholders alike. Promoting the role of social enterprise suppliers and measuring social impact as part of our decision making, positions procurement professionals as key contributors to organisational strategy.

Facilitate it: Make it easier to do business with social enterprises

Sometimes the best thing a procurement professional can do for the organisation, is get out of the way! Particularly with smaller suppliers (which social enterprises often are) the role of the procurement professional is more ‘facilitator’ than ‘manager’.

The day to day operational relationship with the supplier likely sits elsewhere in the organisation, but the policies and process set by Procurement can either help or hinder these relationships. Rather than treating all spend outside of Procurement’s control as ‘leakage’ or ‘maverick spend’, acknowledge that social enterprise development is a strategic objective.

Providing policy exemptions or tweaking procurement processes to make it easier to do business with social enterprises, can promote social value with minimal resource effort from Procurement.

So, if you’re ready to start using your procurement super-powers for good, then I have an invitation for you. There’s no catch and it won’t cost you a cent.

Please join me at the upcoming launch of Social Traders Connect. It’s a great opportunity to find out more about social procurement, meet with social enterprises and hear from peers who are using procurement to create social value in their organisations.

But don’t stop there. If you have social procurement questions or experiences of your own that can help others, please share them via the comments below or reach out to me via Linkedin or Procurious for a confidential conversation.