saving the world

Dollars and Sense: What are we Really Saving?

It might have started with dollars and cents, but what should procurement really be saving now? It’s time to shift the dial.

Photo by Kat Yukawa on Unsplash

For years, procurement was stuck in the old ways of doing business. It was the role of the profession to beat down suppliers and the only consideration was cost, but the proponents of this methodology are fast becoming extinct as procurement undergoes a new evolution. While savings will always be an important element in what we do, the important question we now need to address is: what are really trying to save?

I’ve previously spoken about how strategic sourcing in procurement can help us to change the world, but it’s easy to believe that issues like modern slavery and environmental pollution are still beyond our reach. They’re buzz words or problems too big to solve, they’re issues that are unlikely to find a solution within a single career.

But that’s not true. Every day we’re seeing political mandates, new regulations and social pressures that are driving change at an unprecedented pace. However, the window for change to actually solve environmental issues is closing just as fast – meaning we can’t sit back and focus on cost alone if we’re really committed to making change.

Saving vs the Social Good

When we talk about optimising our supply chains, there will never be a time where cost doesn’t form part of the conversation. Even if you’re not solely focussed on cost-cutting measures, there needs to be the ability to invest in solutions that will drive positive outcomes in the years that follow – and that can’t come without the budget to back it up.

In fact, when we look at how much money we’re able to save through strategic sourcing for large multi-million dollar companies, compared with how much their net value can fluctuate on the stock market from day to day, the savings are actually negligible.

What we’re really able to do when we’re effectively reducing costs within our supply chain is reinvest that money back into the organisation. This macro-level approach to cost-saving lets you support the needs, beliefs or even employees of your company to help bring about changes that will actually have an impact. Whether you’re looking for widespread industry reform or to bolster your own company initiatives, cost will always join the conversation.

Saving and the Successful Supply Chain

At Source One, a Corcentric company, we counsel our customers to constantly be improving and optimising the way their companies develop relationship with suppliers. To get the best results and a positive, long-lasting supplier relationship, there needs to be an element of a partnership between procurement professionals and their supply chain.

Good supplier relationships help to create value for both sides of the agreement – whether it’s a new product, process or an improvement that can make everything more efficient. The key piece of supplier and vendor management that is often overlooked is the ability to be creative and innovative to help challenge the status quo.

We’ve seen that by following and developing procurement best practice, and encouraging our suppliers to think about the problem we’re trying to solve together, we can enable these things to have a bigger impact in a tangible and evident way.

What changes the way a company acts?

Not all companies are started with a social responsibility guidebook in place. The organisational stance on environmental, social or political issues usually develops with time and as such, there is rarely a budget set aside for supporting global issues. New regulations or social pressure can both have an impact on the way a company acts.

Its reaction to these pressures is either going to change the way the company is perceived – in market share or reputation – or it will change how the company will need to do business going forward.

For example, a new worldwide mandate will come into effect on 1 January 2020, where all ships and vessels operating anywhere in the world will be required to use fuel with a sulphur content of less than 0.5 per cent, compared with the current regulation of 3.5 per cent.

While those operating in the shipping industry can change to a cleaner type of fuel, they’ll now find these are more expensive due to increased worldwide demand, likewise they could utilise ‘scrubbers’ to essentially clean their current fuel source, but this will come with its own ongoing investment.

Those who don’t comply with these new regulations will face hefty fines – so no matter which solution each company implements we’re looking at $30 billion dollars worth of investment across the industry.

What We’re Really Saving

This type of regulation will fundamentally change how that company does business as they’ll now have to factor in the increased cost of fuel to operate once it comes into effect. This also presents an opportunity for procurement to support the ability for shipping companies to comply, which will present its own positive solutions to environmental issues, while also absorbing some of the cost or finding other ways to mitigate, diversity or reduce their exposure and help lead the way to a more sustainable future.

Procurement really can make a difference, but these outcomes are best achieved when they’re working with and are supported by our cost saving measures rather than being seen as the antithesis to an optimised supply chain. Sure, you can have one without the other, but by reinvesting in the future of the world around us we’ll find the best way forward.

Source One, a Corecentric company, were one of the key sponsors for the Big Ideas Summit Chicago 2019 and Diego was one of our great keynote speakers. If you want to catch up on Diego’s Big Ideas for procurement and saving the world, join the Summit’s group. Click here to join in and catch up now!