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A Noble Cause: CIPS CEO David Noble’s Enduring Legacy

From his fight against modern slavery to his campaign to licence the procurement profession, Procurious highlights the enduring legacy of the late CIPS CEO, David Noble.

David Noble’s professional accomplishments were many and varied, both within his role as CIPS Group CEO and during his stellar career beforehand. After his sudden and untimely passing late last week, however, there have been tributes from procurement leaders around the world. The tributes emphasised two of Mr Noble’s stand-out achievements.  Firstly, his fight against modern-day slavery and secondly, his work in promoting and licensing the procurement profession.

The crusade against modern slavery

In an interview with Procurious before his appearance at the Big Ideas Summit, David Noble stressed that the profession is in a unique position to drive the eradication of modern slavery. “Whether it’s child labour, inhumane working conditions, forced labour or slavery, there is no doubt that the procurement and supply profession has a unique opportunity to step up to this challenge as a professional community and effect real change”.

Mr Noble believed that in terms of corporate social responsibility, procurement has come to a significant crossroad and needs to adapt to survive in the face of rapidly-changing parameters, starting with accountability.

“Accountability for inadequate or exposed supply chains now goes right to the top, with the company’s reputation on the line. Good corporate supply chain governance demands accountability, and to have accountability means the appropriate authority and capability to act.”

The  2015 Modern Slavery Act

2015 was a watershed year for Mr Noble and his crusade against modern slavery, with two significant milestones taking place. Firstly, the UK Government signed into law the 2015 Modern Slavery Act, after seeking considerable guidance from CIPS while the Act was being created. CIPS was sought out as a subject-matter expert due in no small part to its 2013 partnership with Traidcraft and Walk Free, which led to the creation of the Ethical and Sustainable Procurement Guide. The Guide helped procurement professionals identify suppliers who subjected workers to poor wages, inhumane conditions or forced labour, and advised them on how to put preventative measures in place. Following the release of the Guide, CIPS also created an ethical e-learning course and test, which covered corruption, fraud, bribery, exploitation, human rights and forced labour.

After the Modern Slavery Act was signed, Mr Noble’s message to the profession was again focused on accountability: “For too long supply chain transparency has been overlooked, and we hope that this legislation sends out a clear message to business leaders that they are accountable for all discrepancies, no matter how far down the chain.”

Vatican City declaration  to eradicate modern slavery

The second milestone that took place in 2015 was Mr Noble’s invitation to Vatican City to witness a historic signing by faith leaders of a joint declaration to eradicate modern slavery. Leaders from the Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish and Muslim faiths signed the declaration, which had been developed by Andrew Forrest’s Global Freedom Network. Mr Noble was invited as a guest of Andrew Forrest and also by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, in recognition of CIPS’ work in addressing modern slavery and the integral role supply chain management will play in the ongoing campaign.

Many of the tributes to Mr Noble published on Procurious called out this aspect of his career, beginning with CEO ISM Tom Derry, who wrote that “[David’s] moral vision and leadership was instrumental in CIPS’ crucial role in the passing of the U.K.’s Modern Slavery Act in 2015.”

CIPS General Manager for the Asia-Pacific region, Mark Lamb, wrote: “He was particularly vocal about ethical procurement, eradicating bribery and corruption, and ensuring that supply chains are free from modern slavery.” Similarly, The Art of Procurement host and producer Philip Ideson wrote about Mr Noble’s “leadership of efforts to eradicate slavery across the supply chain, impacting millions of workers without their own voice”.

Broadspectrum’s Executive General Manager of Procurement, Kevin McCafferty, worked closely with Mr Noble on the development of the Ethical Procurement Guide: “David was instrumental in getting the UK Government to introduce the Modern Slavery Act 2015.” Mike Blanchard, Deputy Chief Executive Operations at the New Zealand Tertiary Education Commission, wrote that Mr Noble’s focus has led to CIPS becoming “a professional body with ethics as a pillar”.

Licensing the profession

When Mr Noble was asked to bring his “Big Idea” to London as part of Procurious’ 2015 Big Ideas Summit, the subject for him was a no-brainer. “My big idea is something we have as a policy statement – licensing the profession,” he told the camera. Watching his comments today, it becomes immediately clear that his drive to license the profession was inseparable from his campaign to improve ethics in procurement and, ultimately, eradicate modern slavery.

The need for CIPS to licence the profession became increasingly apparent to Mr Noble as he received calls from the media after supply chain disasters linked to malpractice or ethical breaches. Reporters asked him the simple question: “Why is the procurement and supply profession allowing this to happen?”

Bringing accountability and consequence to procurement

It was difficult to bring accountability and consequences to those on the front line who were making decisions that led to malpractice and reputational risk. Licensing, said Mr Noble, was therefore the answer. “There’s a huge public good agenda linked to supply chains around the world … [and] companies are increasingly realising that having licensed supply professionals makes a real differentiator to success.”

Licensing brings with it the threat of consequences: “If they behave unethically, they stand to lose that license and they’ll find it difficult to work in the profession again,” said Mr Noble. “But the good side is that it gives them the protection of saying ‘You’re putting my professional license at risk’ if they’re ever asked to do something unethical or wrong.”

CIPS President and former Rio Tinto CEO Sam Walsh noted Mr Noble’s extraordinary achievements in moving forward with the professionalisation of procurement: “His initiatives such as training, licensing of procurement professionals, establishment of standards for anti-corruption, anti-bribery and anti-modern slavery have led to CIPS being highly regard by governments, employers and members.”

Visna Lampasi, General Manager Group Procurement for Woolworths (Australia) also commented on Mr Noble’s “energy behind licensing the profession … and major contribution to procurement’s development”.

 A legacy of thought-leadership

A valued contributor to the Procurious Blog, Mr Noble appeared at the Big Ideas Summit in 2015. His thought-leadership published on Procurious includes:

This article concludes our three-part series honouring the achievements and memory of CIPS CEO David Noble. Readers can leave a tribute to Mr Noble on the Procurious discussion board.

Global Procurement Profession Mourns Passing of CIPS CEO: David Noble

Tributes are pouring in from procurement professionals around the globe in response to today’s news that David Noble FCIPS, Group Chief Executive of The Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply (CIPS) and one of the profession’s strongest advocates, passed away late last week.

CIPS have announced that  David Noble has unexpectedly passed away on Friday after a short illness.

Mr Noble’s legacy to the procurement profession includes his adroit leadership of the world’s largest procurement and supply chain professional body and his championing of the Modern Slavery Act.

Sam Walsh, former Rio Tinto CEO and CIPS president, commented that:

David will be sorely missed. He managed and grew CIPS into a truly global and financially successful organisation focused on improving and obtaining recognition for the Profession.

His initiatives such as training, licensing of Procurement Professionals, establishment of standards for anti-corruption, anti-bribery and anti-modern slavery have led to CIPS being highly regarded by Governments, Employers and Members.

CIPS loses an accomplished leader

Mr Noble took on the role of CIPS Group CEO in June 2009 after the previous CEO, Simon Sperryn, departed after only one year at the helm. Despite being parachuted into a difficult role as an “emergency appointment”, Mr Noble rapidly stabilised and increased CIPS’ finances and oversaw the steady growth of the member base to over 100,000 professionals internationally.

Prior to his captaincy of CIPS, Mr Noble was Group Supply Director at IMI plc, a FTSE 250 UK multinational company specialising in advanced engineering technology, where he was responsible for a £1billion spend. Mr Noble was also known for his pioneering of Category Management and Strategic Sourcing at Motorola in the mid-1980s. Although the majority of his career was in manufacturing, Mr Noble’s experience of the public sector, the distribution industry and large scale turnkey power station projects served him well when he engaged with the leadership of these sectors in his role as CIPS Group CEO.

Mr Noble held an honours degree and was elected a fellow of CIPS in 1994, also serving on the fellowship selection panel, the CIPS management board, the Cabinet Office Government Procurement Reform Board and the London Olympics Supplier Arbitration Board.

A global advocate for procurement

According to Keith Bird, Managing Director at The Faculty Management Consultants, Mr Noble’s global vision for CIPS means that his passing will be felt around the world. “Personally, I will remember David for his vision and tenacity. Expanding the CIPS network globally is a remarkable legacy to leave behind.”

At the time of Mr Noble’s death, CIPS has over 115,000 members across 150 countries, with offices in Africa, the Asia-Pacific, UK, North Africa and the Middle East, with partnerships in China, Poland, Romania and Sweden.

Procurious Founder Tania Seary commented that Mr Noble’s advocacy for licensing the profession will be his greatest legacy:

I last met with David at the Institute of Company Directors in Pall Mall. He was so proud of CIPS’ membership growth and its increasing levels of online engagement. CIPS, like ISM, is an important backbone to our profession – through his advocacy, David has strengthened procurement’s posture.

Similarly, Santos CPO David Henchliffe remembers Mr Noble for the work he has done moving the profession forward in one of its key areas of growth, Australia:

I worked with David as the Chair of the CIPSA Professional Advisory Group for more than 5 years. He was a tireless advocate for advancing the profession and the Institute in Australasia and will be sadly missed. I would like to extend my condolences to his family and friends.

A modern-day abolitionist

Mr Noble was a giant figure in the crusade against modern slavery, inspired by a meeting with Andrew Forrest of the Walk Free Foundation in 2012. Since then, he aligned CIPs with the cause, partnering with Walk Free to educate the organisation’s 100,000+ members through the establishment of the Ethical and Sustainable Procurement Guide.

CIPS also provided guidance to the Home Office in the creation of the 2015 Modern Slavery Act, which led to Mr Noble journeying to Vatican City in 2015 to witness the historic signing by faith leaders of a joint declaration committed to the eradication of modern slavery by 2020. He also attended a meeting at the White House to discuss how CIPS can support the G20’s Anti-Corruption Implementation Plan.

An incredibly hard act to follow

It is believed that Mr Noble’s passing will create a significant leadership gap for CIPS, as he was personally driving many of the organisation’s key initiatives. Many of the partnerships and relationships formed at the highest level were linked to Mr Noble’s personality, and the confidence and trust he inspired in others. At present there is no clear successor for CEO within the executive team. There has been some movement recently among CIPS’ leadership, with a new Chief Operating Officer joining late last year, and the Head of Finance retiring soon.

Mr Noble’s role as advocate, spokesperson and thought-leader for the profession meant he was regularly called about to comment on the biggest issues affecting the profession, from slavery, to Brexit, to finance and the manufacturing landscape.

Visna Lampasi, General Manager Group Procurement for Woolworths Limited praised Mr Noble for his pioneering spirit:

David was a driving force.  He put his personal brand and energy behind licensing the profession, making the Modern Slavery Bill a reality and a creating a number of other firsts for CIPS.  He was a major contributor to procurement’s development and will be sadly missed.   It is a great loss, not just for the profession, but for his family and friends.

A legacy of thought-leadership

A valued contributor to the Procurious Blog, Mr Noble appeared at the Big Ideas Summit in 2015. His thought-leadership published on Procurious includes:

The Samsung Smartphone Debacle: Suppliers Pushed Too Far, Too Fast?

Samsung has apportioned some of the blame for its exploding Note 7 phones to two of its battery suppliers. But who is ultimately responsible? Is the pressure to innovate at all costs leading to unsafe development and testing time-frames?

What Went Wrong?

Samsung  has begun the long task of rebuilding consumer trust in its smartphones. But questions remain.   Why didn’t Samsung pick up design and manufacturing faults before they sold 1 million unsafe devices to customers? The cause appears to lie in Samsung’s rush to beat its arch-rival Apple to market. This led to a failure to properly test lithium-ion batteries in the Note 7 phone.

The pressure to innovate that tech giants such as Samsung place on their suppliers is immense. Particularly when competitors such as Apple are constantly upping the ante. Every new release on a phone must be demonstrably better than the last.  This means delivering ever-smaller and lighter batteries that customers can charge rapidly and use for a full day and evening.

Battery manufacturers responded to the challenge by using a thin “club sandwich” design. In this battery positive and negative electrodes are stacked and kept apart using layers of separators. Unfortunately, the pressure for an ever-thinner battery meant that the separators were too thin, leading to shorts and subsequent over-heating. A second, unrelated design fault lay in an abnormal welding process. This led to contact between a positive terminal and a negative electrode.

Spreading the blame

The fallout for the exploding smartphones follows a familiar pattern where, although the technical fault lies with a supplier of products and services, the big-name parent company takes the lion’s share of the blame. Even when the parent organisation attempts to publicly offset some of the blame onto its suppliers, consumers typically assign responsibility to the most recognisable brand.

An example of this famously occurred in April 2010 with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  The owner of the well, BP, took most of the responsibility (and $54 billion in associated costs), whilst the contracting operators came under considerably less scrutiny. Tellingly, a U.S. District Judge apportioned 67% of the blame for the spill to BP, 30% to Transocean and 3% to Halliburton.

Samsung, to its credit, did accept overall responsibility for the $6.9 billion mistake even while it pointed the finger at battery manufacturers. Samsung Electronics America senior vice president Justin Denison told a press conference: “Ultimately we take responsibility for this. It’s our product, we set the specifications, and it’s up to us to catch the problem before it leaves in one of our devices.”

The long road to brand recovery

Youtube users may have noticed Samsung’s brand-repair efforts have gotten underway, with ads such as the following appearing online:

The South Korean company has invested $170 million into safety.  It is assertively broadcasting its new 8-point safety check which includes a durability test, visual inspection, x-ray test and others. Samsung’s investigation into the Note 7 failures included over 700 R&D engineers. These engineers tried to replicate the issue by testing 200,000 phones and 30,000 standalone batteries.

But, in a further unfortunate setback for the brand, one of the affiliates responsible for manufacturing the faculty batteries – Samsung SDI – experienced a factory fire last week in Tianjin, China, with 110 firefighters and 19 trucks responding to the blaze.

Senior executives from Samsung have commented that they’ve learnt an enormous amount about crisis management in the past few months. Observers, too, can draw some valuable lessons around the dangers of rushing new innovations to market and the ineffectiveness of attempting to apportion blame to suppliers.

Read more about Samsung’s smartphone battery issues.

In other procurement news this week…

Boeing’s Space Taxi to include 3D printed components

  • Boeing has commissioned 600 3D printed components from Oxford Performance Materials for use in its Starliner space taxi.
  • Boeing expects the spacecraft to fly unmanned in June 2018. and will have a first crewed test flight in August 2018. It will ferry two astronauts to the International Space Station for the first fully operational flight in December 2018.
  • The inclusion of 3D components marks a first for 3D technology usage in spacefaring technology, with increasing recognition that printed plastics perform well under the pressure of launch and in a temperature of absolute zero.

Read more at Supply Chain Dive.

New research reveals CEOs still don’t “get” procurement

  • Consultancy firm 4c Associates released the findings of a poll of 521 CPOs, managers and procurement personnel to understand how procurement is perceived by the C-Level.
  • 48% of participants claimed their boss “doesn’t get what the procurement team does, or can do”. 55% said the C-Level regards procurement as a support function. It exists to cut costs, rather than add strategic value to the organisation.
  • Mark Ellis, senior partner at 4c Associates, commented that procurement needs to proactively highlight the services they can provide beyond cost cutting. “If all the function does is speak in terms of savings, then that’s how it will be perceived: as a cost cutter”, Ellis said.