Tag Archives: Procure-with-Purpose

How To Free Your Decisions From Bias

It’s not easy to free yourself and others from decision bias. But the pay off for your organisation is worth it…

A CEO mentioned recently to me his frustration with a few of his Senior Leaders who play the ‘merit card’ whenever diversity is raised. In doing so, they stymie good initiatives. Each small block they construct rebuilds the wall as fast as the CEO and supportive leaders tear it down. ‘What can I do?’ he asked. I shared his pain: invoking the ‘merit card’ is a wicked, if effective, tactic for, paradoxically, subverting merit and keeping control.

The CEO and his leaders have an awareness of unconscious bias and know a bit about how it works. Until recently unconscious bias was heralded as the holy grail for achieving significant improvement in diversity and inclusion outcomes. But the value of unconscious bias training in particular, and diversity training in general, is being challenged.

Dobbin & Kalev’s influential article ‘Why diversity programs fail’ importantly identified that command and control approaches, adopted by many organisations, backfire. You can’t get people to change by telling them to. And you don’t get people to change by blaming them for doing the wrong thing.

Making training about beliefs and preferences mandatory is almost guaranteed to fail. That’s because suppressing unconscious beliefs, to ‘do what’s expected’, is  well-known to make bias more, not less, likely. And that’s the danger with these senior leaders who play the ‘merit card’; their biases may increase rather than decrease.

Unconscious bias awareness is not a silver bullet, it is however, worthwhile. It’s not easy to free yourself and others from decision bias, so what will make it worth the CEO’s effort? You can’t work with it effectively if you don’t understand it. And it’s how you work with it that counts. 

Debias by accepting your fallibility

At an individual level, part of the work is to accept your own fallibility. We are susceptible to many types of bias, that cover all sorts of decisions. Frustratingly, because these biases operate unconsciously, we can’t really know when we are in their grip. And our bias for overconfidence means that we tend to think that our decisions are much better than they are. So, we’re not actually very likely to think we’re biased. It’s bit of a Catch-22.

The most practical approach is to be aware of the tendency towards overconfidence. Be more modest, less certain, about your decisions. Whether or not you know you are biased matters less than accepting that you are likely to be biased.

Leaders who play the ‘merit card’ probably suffer certainty bias, they don’t think they are biased. They don’t like the suggestion they have a ‘weakness’ like ‘bias’. Without that openness, their decisions remain narrow. Feelings of certainty are biases themselves. It’s when we feel most certain that we are most likely to be unsystematic, think we know, circumvent objective methods, or neglect to ask for alternatives.

If you accept that you are likely to be biased you are more likely to act to mitigate against bias. And that, currently, seems to get the best results.

Biases show up in:

  • What we notice
  • What we expect
  • What we ask, and
  • What we value.

What we notice

Collectively, we are getting much better at noticing gender-participation differences by industry and occupation. When we take the time to collect and examine the data about, for example, pay, it transpires that there are often gaps that can only be attributed to gender.  When we notice the difference, we can act on the difference.

At the individual level, what we notice has a big impact on careers.

Letters of recommendation for male academics emphasise research skills, publications and career aspirations, which are the ‘get ahead’ characteristics. Whereas teaching skills, practical clinical skills and personal attributes, the ‘get along’ characteristics, are more often identified for females.

Women scientists’ early career advancement is hindered, even when they have the same qualifications as male scientists. Male and female faculty make biased hiring decisions, preferring male candidates over female. Their capabilities are noticed differently. Male candidates are seen as more competent, more worthy of mentoring and deserving of a higher salary than female candidates.

Notice what you notice

Set yourself a noticing challenge. Pair yourself up with someone of the opposite gender, with whom you will be interacting regularly throughout a designated day. Commit to taking observations during the day. Each half hour, record what you have observed in terms of interpersonal interactions.

At the end of the day, compare your notes with each other.

What do you notice about who takes what kinds of actions, and what is the impact of their actions on others? What’s similar in your observations, and what’s different?

What we expect

We expect men to be ambitious and we don’t expect women to be. This erodes women’s ability to express their ambition. In numerous professions, from policing to medicine and science, women begin with the same levels of ambition as do men. Yet, while men’s ambition increases over time, women’s decreases. Because women are constantly fighting structural barriers, their ambition often wanes.

We expect men to be competent and women supportive. A recent European study reviewed 125 applications for venture capital funding. Forty-seven percent of women’s applications, versus 62% of men’s, were funded. Women applied for and received less funding.

There were four distinct differences in the language used to assess applications:

  • Women were described as needing support, men as assertive.
  • Women were not described as entrepreneurs but as growing a business to escape unemployment. Superlatives were used about men’s fit with entrepreneurship and risk taking.
  • Women’s credibility was questioned, men’s was not.
  • Women were seen to lack competence, experience and knowledge; men to be innovative and impressive.

Expectations about how men and women should behave were carried over into evaluations which then affected their relative success.

Disrupt your expectations

What happens if you disrupt your expectations regarding ambition and competence? What if you spent a day imagining all the women you engage with are ambitious, competent and want to get ahead? Imagine the men with whom you engage want to provide support and take a back seat.

If our Senior Leaders imagined that the men in their teams wanted to leave work to pick up the kids from school and prepare dinner, how would they think about their next career move?

What we ask

The group of researchers involved in the VC funding example above observed the full application process. They concluded that the questions that were asked undermined women’s potential, but underpinned men’s.

A recent US study found a similar kind of bias. In a start-up funding competition, venture capitalists (VCs) were much more likely to ask male entrepreneurs promotion-oriented questions. They focused on ideals, achievements and advancement. By contrast, VCs asked females entrepreneurs prevention-oriented questions. These questions focused on vigilance, responsibility, risk and safety. Male-led start-ups raised five times the funding of females. Consistent with what we know about unconscious bias, the research found that male and female VCs displayed the same questioning biases.  It is often assumed that men favour men and women favour women; increasing the number of women on selection panels is routinely seen as the solution. Yet unconscious biases about gender are held as commonly by women as by men. While simply increasing the number of female decision makers does make balanced decision making more likely, it does not guarantee it. However, when panels have gender balance, or are female only, bias tends to disappear.

Question what you ask

 How might you disrupt the kinds of questions you ask men and women? Do you ask men and women the same questions? What happens when you do?

Imagine our Senior Leaders asked men and women the same questions they ask women. What would they learn?

What we value

Johnson & Johnson, which fields about 1 million job applications for over 25,000 job openings each year, now uses Textio to debias their job ads. When they first started using it they found that their job ads were skewed with masculine language. They were disproportionately valuing male characteristics. Their pilot program to change the language in their ads resulted in a 9% increase in female applicants.

Even when managers and decision-makers espouse a commitment to gender equality and a desire to promote more women into leadership positions, they are prone to evaluate women less positively

By deliberately analysing and structuring how information is conveyed and options are presented, it can become easier to make fairer decisions.

Women are commonly demoted to traditional gender roles. Forty-five percent of women in one study have been asked to make the tea in meetings. Some were CEO at the time. Female doctors are often mistaken for nurses, female lawyers for paralegals and female professionals of many kinds for personal assistants.  We do not expect women to hold senior roles, despite the fact that, increasingly, they do.

Student evaluations of teaching appear to be influenced similarly. Even in an online course where the gender of the instructor was manipulated so that identical experiences were provided to students, those students who believed they had a female teacher provided significantly lower teaching evaluations. While these lower ratings misrepresent actual competency, they nevertheless may create a self-fulfilling prophesy where women’s career advancement choices begin to conform to the stereotype. And erroneous beliefs about women’s competency levels limit the opportunities that are provided to them; the misrepresentations are perpetuated.

Put the value back into evaluation

Debias evaluation by using blind, automated processes. Take human bias and error out, and increase the value of the decisions you are making.

Would our Senior Leaders be prepared to do this? Would they be prepared to take themselves out of the equation? Would they believe an objective merit-based process could occur for a decision in which they have an interest, but in which they were not involved?

Put it all together

People are responsible for their own minds. Our CEO has provided opportunities for his senior leaders to engage with curiosity, respect and candour in their diversity programs. There are some wonderful stories emerging.

The challenge for those who don’t yet get it, is to agree to the overarching purpose that people decisions are based on merit. If merit is what we are aiming for, we should all be prepared to sign-up for practices and tools that increase and uphold it. Will they do this?

But merit is both more and less than it seems. It is more complex and difficult to define than most people think. It is less objective and rigorous, particularly in knowledge work and leadership roles. It is ripe for bias. Paradoxically, invoking merit is perhaps the most powerful way to subvert it.

It’s time for Senior Leaders to throw away the ‘merit card’; their people deserve a fairer hand.

Eroding merit corrodes culture, and culture is where the CEO leaves his biggest legacy. What can he do? To leave a lasting legacy, the CEO knows he needs to call out the fallacy of the ‘merit card’ and hold his Senior Leaders to account for fair people decisions. He can help them to exit the organisation if they are not prepared to play a fair hand.

If the Senior Leaders are prepared to admit to fallibility, to be aware that they may notice and value the behaviours of different groups of people in different ways, there are many practices that will make sure bias is minimised and fairer decisions are made.

We can all keep working to debias our decisions.

What to do if you believe in merit:

  1. Accept your fallibility – be more modest, less certain about your decisions.
  2. Notice what you notice – record what you notice and assess it for fairness.
  3. Disrupt your expectations – imagine women are ambitious and men supportive.
  4. Question what you ask – ask the same questions of everyone.
  5. Put the value back into evaluation – by using blind processes.

Can Procurement Help Turn This Sea Turtle’s Frown Upside Down?

Think saving The Great Barrier Reef is out of your hands or entirely irrelevant to you? Think again! Climate change is everyone’s problem and we can all make a difference; down to the last procurement pro!

If you’re lucky enough to have travelled to the coast of Queensland, Australia and visited The Great Barrier Reef, you’ll agree that it is a true wonder to behold.

At 2,300km long it is the largest living thing on earth (roughly the size of Italy or the equivalent of 70 million football fields) and home to an incredible range of wildlife from dozens of species of fish, to sea turtles, to dolphins and so much more.

“It is one of the greatest, and most splendid natural treasures that the world possesses.”- Sir David Attenborough

But it’s under serious threat from a number of environmental factors and it’s everyone’s job to save it; not least procurement’s. We caught up with Anna Marsden, Managing Director – Great Barrier Reef Foundation to learn more about what’s at stake and what we, as professionals, can do to help.

Three factors threatening the Great Barrier Reef

  1. Climate Change

Tropical sea surface temperatures have risen by 0.4–0.5 °C since the late 19th century. In unnaturally warm conditions coral becomes stressed and agitated, leading it to expel the algae that gives it its colour and eventually bleaching. Whilst bleached coral is not yet dead, it is an indicator of severe stress. And if the sea temperature is consistently high for longer than 30 days; it will eventually die. “Look in your garden on a hot day or even a hot week” explains Anna.  “Your plants will start to wilt and eventually, if the temperatures don’t decline, they will perish.” The effect that extreme heat has on a coral reef is much the same.

“Other ways we are seeing climate change playing out is in extreme weather. In recent years there have been more Category 5 cyclones than ever before which are hugely damaging; destroying and weakening the reef’s structure.”

“The reef has always had natural foes and challenges, but this is the first time it’s at such a scale” Anna explains.

  1. Water Quality

Declining water quality is recognised as one of the most significant threats to the long-term health and resilience of the Great Barrier Reef. 

“So much waste washes into our oceans – extra soil, extra fertiliser etc which is making it extremely dirty. And nothing grows well in dirt!” Anna asserts. “Whilst bad water quality itself isn’t a life-ending challenge for the Great Barrier Reef, it does reduce the resilience of the system and, on top of everything else going on, it’s a big problem.”

  1. The Crown-of-Thorns Starfish

Increasing sediment, nutrients and contaminants entering coastal waters has been linked to outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish, a species which, Anna jokes, “belong in an alien movie!”

“They munch on the coral, each one managing to consume a dinner plate’s worth of it every couple of days. Excess nutrients from sugar cane farms amplifies their breeding patterns.”

Why should procurement teams care?

‘At what price?’ a recent Deloitte report, which investigated the economic, social and icon value of the Great Barrier Reef estimated  its worth at $56 billion; taking into account tourism, fishing, marine science and research. The study also calculated that the reef has resulted in the employment of over 64,000 Australians between 2015–16.

So it’s undeniable that there is real, and huge, value in the Great Barrier Reef – it’s genuinely worth salvaging.

But it can also be usefully thought of as the, slightly harrowing, poster-child for climate change. It’s understandably difficult for procurement professionals around the world to understand the impact their actions are having in terms of climate change and the polluting of our oceans. But the sorts of changes and damages reported by the Great Barrier Reef foundation are mirrored across the world’s oceans.

Take plastic pollution as an example; eight million tons of plastic enter our oceans each year and it’s predicted that by 2050, there will more plastic in the ocean than fish.

What can businesses do?

“Ultimately we need to start moving faster towards a renewable energy environment,” explains Anna. “There’s no single cause in this and there are roles that all businesses can play”

Fortunately, a number of big corporations are helping to provide innovative solutions to protecting the Great Barrier Reef.

“At present divers are hand-shooting crown of thorns starfish with a saline solution, which is an extremely slow process.”

But a robot being developed through a Great Barrier Reef Foundation project partnership with Google and the Queensland University of Technology, aptly named ‘RangerBot’ has the capability to do the work of 50 divers per day. It works 24/7 and can function in choppy waters. “One day soon we’ll be able to drop six of them into an infested area and come back to collect them only when their work of culling the starfish in that area is done!”

Another inspiring example of corporations doing good for the Reef is Rio Tinto’s RTM Wakmatha vessel that has been dubbed the ‘ship of opportunity’.  Rio Tinto invested in a laboratory on their ship which collects vital data as the ship travels along the Queensland coast in the ordinary course of business. This data is used to gain insights as to how ocean chemistry is changing across reef habitats.

Another cool tech solution is a polymer-based sun shield that hangs together in the water for about two days after deployment, forming an umbrella and cutting out 30 per cent of UV light to protect the coral. Made of calcium carbonate, the sun shield is 100 per cent biodegradable and is absorbed back into the system once it has dissolved.

What can YOU do?

As hard as it is to know how to effect real change, there are small things we as individuals can do, and encourage our organisations to do. Banning single-use plastic bags, cycling to work or using keep-cups are all small and immediate positive changes we can make.

Further to that, procurement pros should ask themselves – what can I do with the purchasing power in our company?

As Anna points out, “climate change is about our relationship with the planet. We all make decisions that drive it, we all have a role to play in this.”

“One of our corporate partners is Cleanaway – Australia’s leading waste management, recycling and industrial services company.”

Cleanaway work with big businesses to ensure sustainability is as the core of waste-sorting and encourage the adoption of reusable resources.

About the Great Barrier Reef Foundation

The Great Barrier Reef Foundation exists to ensure a Great Barrier Reef for future generations. We seek out the solutions and innovations that will also benefit coral reefs globally as they tackle the same threats and challenges facing the world’s largest coral reef.

“Our focus in the short term is on boosting the resilience of the Reef to allow it to bounce back from major challenges as a result of a changing climate and declining water quality. We’re buying the Reef time while the world works to meet the conditions of the Paris Agreement.”

Read more here. 


Procure with Purpose

Procurious have partnered with SAP Ariba to create a global online group – Procure with Purpose.

Through Procure with Purpose, we’re shining a light on the biggest issues – from Modern Slavery; to Minority Owned Business; and from Social Enterprises; to Environmental Sustainability.

Last month’s webinar on modern slavery,  Procurement Unchained, will soon be made available on-demand via the Procure with Purpose group on Procurious. Click here to enroll and gain access to this and all subsequent Procure with Purpose events. 

Always Let Procurement Be Your Guide…

As we move from the age of mandate into the age of guidance there is enormous opportunity for procurement pros to make themselves known and heard…

SAP Ariba’s Vice President, James Marland, believes that the procurement function is moving from what he calls the Age of Mandate into the Age of Guidance – and that’s a great thing.

“The Procurement Department seemed to consist of people who delighted in saying ‘no’. In order to get anything bought by the organisation you had to jump through a whole series of hoops: but that’s not really how people want to engage with their suppliers.”

He argues that an advisory role is by far the preferable option;  “procurement needs to be helping people to do their jobs, not getting in the way. If too many barriers are put in front of them people will just buy it in a different way, perhaps putting it through an Expense Report.”

‘Advisory procurement’ is not a controversial suggestion by any means. As James highlights, almost all areas of our business are transitioning to become more advisory in their approach. HR, for example, are likely to discuss with their employees how to manage their pensions, rather than dictate to them how it must be done.

In the past, IT might have handed you a laptop to use but now many organisations employ a ‘bring your own device to work’ scheme.

“The Age of Mandate was very much about rules and policies: telling people what they can’t do. And really, in Procurement we interposed ourselves into our stakeholders’ business process: kind of ‘got in the way’.  And we were measured on savings.”

But now we can measure procurement on much more important things.

How procurement can guide the organisation

Procurement is in a truly unique position to impart organisation-wide change whether it’s managing risk or encouraging a more  purpose-led approach to business.  But these changes have to be executed in the right way.

‘Why can’t I buy it online, it’s cheaper than the corporate catalogue?’

This is the sort of question procurement teams are all too used to hearing from different areas of the business.

But huge, branded corporations have to be extremely careful when it comes to managing their supply chains and supplier lists.  No one in the UK could forget the huge 2013 scandal that occurred when horsemeat was found in some of the processed beef products sold by a number of supermarkets. You might also remember that Tesco, Iceland, Aldi and Lidl were all implemented and exposed by the press.

Of course, it wasn’t their suppliers who bought the horsemeat. It wasn’t even their supplier’s supplier’s supplier’s supplier.

But we always remember the brands.

“Historically, procurement hasn’t done a brilliant job in explaining this sort of risk to the business” James argues. But rather than simply saying no “we need to be able to offer a range of solutions to the business that still allows them to buy what they need to buy, whilst removing the fear and risk of things like poor ethical practices in the supply chain.”

“It must be easy for users to consume. Not, for example, complicated supplier lists that no one knows about.”

In other words; whilst an organisation might send out a mandate from the top that, for example, they want to buy more locally, it won’t necessarily work if the procedures aren’t put in place to make it possible.

A business striving to make the office more accessible can’t succeed by simply adding another dozen questions to every RFP.

Instead, procurement can implement systems whereby inclusive filters are automatically applied.

“You need to make it so it’s easier to do the right thing than to do the wrong thing,” James explains.

So why does James think procurement is best placed to guide the business in doing the right thing?

Put simply “we spend all the money.”

“You can boycott your corner shop and that’s great. But if procurement can persuade a big mining company to employ local people differently that could have a huge impact on the world.”

“A lot of social change is about placing large resources that a company has into the economy. Most of the transactions in the world, 80 per cent are B2B and most of that comes through a procurement desk.

“We’re privileged to have such an effect and it’s a responsibility that we are stewards of the global economy.”

James Marland, Vice President – SAP Ariba, spoke at last month’s Big Ideas Summit. Check out his interview here. 

6 Top Tips From 6 Procurement Influencers

We interviewed some of procurement’s most influential leaders to hear their advice for the global procurement community. Here are there 6 top tips…

Are we running out of humans who can get the procurement job done?

Is the future office-free?

Should every procurement team have a Chief Data Officer?

How do you sell yourself, your team and the profession to the stakeholders that really matter?

Can procurement teams make themselves indispensable?

These are some of the questions that we addressed at last week’s Big Ideas Summit in London, where we brought together the top procurement minds to connect, collaborate and innovate.

Couldn’t join us on the day? Not a problem! We’ve documented all of the highlights for our digital delegates and pulled together this list of 6 top tips for procurement pros from some of the function’s most influential leaders.

1.Become an essential partner to the business – Bob Murphy CPO, IBM

IBM’s CPO, Bob Murphy, believes that while procurement leaders “need to be able to use technology to get the insights and knowledge, their focus should be on developing their emotional intelligence (EQ) rather than their IQ, and their ability to talk to clients in a consultative manner. Listening is critical – When we’re talking, we’re not learning.”

“Project management, empathy, innovative thinking and an agile mind-set are also critical skills at IBM.

“You hear a lot of people talk about procurement leaders becoming “trusted advisors” to their businesses, but I think we need to take it to the next level and become ‘essential partners.’

“We should enhance everything that we touch.”

Read more from Bob Murphy in this article.

2. Procure with Purpose – James Marland Vice President, SAP Ariba

James Marland, Vice President – SAP Ariba argued that it is an exciting time to be part of procurement an professionals should seize this opportunity. Procurement professionals are often told that they’re the ones who save the money, deal with suppliers and cut purchase orders.

But now procurement can have a new agenda; bringing to the table initiatives that achieve crucial social goals such as eradicating slave labour, improving sustainability and creating an inclusive and diverse workforce.

Take that opportunity and procure with purpose!

Read more from James Marland in this article. 

3.  Engineer Serendipity –  Greg Lindsay, Urbanist and Futurist

Greg Lindsay, Futurist, Urbanist, Journalist and Author, is a firm believer in the fact that innovation is fundamentally social. Indeed, case study after case study has demonstrated that the best ideas are more likely to arise from a casual chat around the water fountain than in any scheduled meeting.

They are the result of serendipity – a chance encounter at the right time by the right people, regardless of their rank, affiliation, and department or whether they even work for the same company.

The most innovative companies in the world are busy engineering serendipity and harnessing social networks and new ways of working designed to cultivate the discovery of new ideas. And that’s exactly what procurement should be doing!

Read more from Greg Lindsay in this article. 

4. Take More Risks – Professional Poker Player Caspar Berry

Professional poker player Caspar Berry believes “People are broadly hard wired to be risk-averse. It keeps them alive. Its kept our species alive for however many thousands of years.”

“What we call risk aversion is essentially a desire to succeed in the short term. And a desire to succeed is another way of describing a fear or aversion to loss and risk.

“I don’t judge anyone negatively for not being able to push the latitude and risk level but it’s important to engage in a conversation in order to try.

“Its our own results we’re sabotaging, sometimes inadvertently, if we don’t!”

Read more from Caspar Berry in this article. 

5. Gather data and do something with it- Chris Sawchuk, Principal The Hackett Group

Top procurement teams achieve their superior performance because they have higher-caliber people who apply their skills to effectively harness digital technologies and capabilities.

Chris Sawchuk, Principal The Hackett Group discussed the need for procurement professionals to develop two fundamental skills:

  1. Procurement has to get better at gathering and creating big data in order to provide meaningful insights for the business and go beyond the data that we have access to today.
  2. Procurement needs to improve their advanced analytics capabilities, to be able to look at data and draw out the opportunities it offers.

The future of procurement is not about the way we execute processes. It’s really about the insights and intelligence we provide to our organisations to give them an advantage.

Read more from The Hackett Group in this article.

6.  Prepare for the worst – Nick Ford, Co-Founder Odesma

Nick Ford, Co-founder – Odesma discussed how procurement professionals can help turn Brexit into an opportunity for their organisation.

It’s an uncertain time for procurement professionals; who must consider how the function will be impacted by an increase in the cost of imported goods, freedom of movement (or lack thereof!) and a potentially depleted talent pool.

As businesses prepare, the role for procurement teams is increasing dramatically and it’s a real opportunity to put procurement at the front and centre of organisations. We just need to prepare!

Read more from Nick Ford in this article. 

Want to explore more content and video footage from Big Ideas London 2018. Sign up here (it’s free) to register as a digital delegate and gain access. 

Humanity, Environment, Ethics – For A Responsible Supply Chain

Tackling modern slavery might seem like an insurmountable problem for you to tackle alone, but even a reduction of one is huge. 

January: Human Trafficking Awareness Day

April: World Earth Day

In between these two months at the very beginning of the year, and surrounded with newly renewed resolutions, many of us go about our day to day lives.

Negative media and events increase. Technology brings these stories to us, and we “click” on them, but nothing changes.

Years ago it was easy to hide child labor and human bondage. No one paid attention to deep sea fishing trawlers or dingy factory floors in remote parts of the works. But now, this is front page news.

One thing is clear – the number of those in bondage have grown. How could that be? If there is now more exposure, more news, more awareness – how can the number of people enslaved be increasing?

The numbers are staring at us in the face. The International Labor Organisation recently shared that there are more than 45 million enslaved today.

This number grows yearly. Every corporate procurement individual must take responsibility for going beyond audit compliance to drive continuous improvement in our supply chains and eliminate modern slavery. We must go beyond one-off state level (California Transparency Act) and country level (UK Modern Slavery) initiatives to pave the way for a binding international consensus that covers global supply chains and cooperation between countries to accelerate action.

What can supply chain professionals do?

Turn to technology. Technology can help mine, collate, compile and quickly pin point areas of actions

  1. Breakthrough innovations in production and processing including IoT can generate signals that provide advanced warning helping to limit forced labor
  2. Mobile phones can be used to track labor rights violations and working conditions
  3. Blockchain is being used to track labor contracts
  4. Trusted distributed ledgers are also used for tracking at source ‘ethical’ practices
  5. AI/ML can scour through vast volumes of data to generate high intensity negative signal, sifting through noise to help corporate buyers focus on supplier co-development efforts
  6. Procurement networks can help provide visibility to ethical sources of supply, highlighting those companies that do good and establishing solid, long-term relationships for a responsible supply chain

I recently outlined the specific actions procurement can take to generate the much needed momentum to bring forced labor incidences down to zero.

But if you and I, the corporate and personal buyers, do not act on all this information – yet another decade will pass. The numbers of those enslaved might double or triple. Is this the world we want to leave behind?

Tackling modern slavery might seem like an insurmountable problem for you to tackle alone, but even a reduction of one is huge.  Little drops of water make a mighty ocean…

Are you ready to act?

As an individual?

For your team?!

Because as US Navy Admiral, William H. McRaven said in his motivational speech “If you wanna change the world, start off by making your bed”.

This article was written by Padmini Ranganathan, Global Vice President – SAP Ariba.


Procure with Purpose – Join the movement

Procurious have partnered with SAP Ariba to create a global online group – Procure with Purpose.

Through Procure with Purpose, we’re shining a light on the biggest issues – from Modern Slavery; to Minority Owned Business; and from Social Enterprises; to Environmental Sustainability.

Yesterday’s webinar on modern slavery,  Procurement Unchained, will soon be made available on-demand via the Procure with Purpose group on Procurious. Click here to enroll and gain access to this and all subsequent Procure with Purpose events. 

Could The 21st Century Wilberforce Please Stand Up?

The world is in dire need of a 21st century William Wilberforce to realign the corporate moral compass on this increasingly pressing issue of modern-day slavery

In the early 1800s, the politician and social reformer William Wilberforce famously spearheaded the movement to abolish slavery. His campaign was long and hard-fought, beginning in 1787 with the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade and culminating in 1833 when the House of Commons passed the Slavery Abolition Act.

Wilberforce, by this stage, was in poor health and died just three days after seeing his life’s work pay off. But he had achieved what he set out to – slavery was effectively wiped out across most of the British Empire.

Modern Slavery Today

There are more than 30 million forced labourers around the world today.

Now, nearly 200 years later, I can imagine Wilberforce turning in his grave at the prevalence of modern slavery in today’s supply chains and the thought of all he worked for being undone.

According to the International Labour Organisation, there are more than 30 million forced labourers around the, with recent high-profile cases uncovered in almost every industry – from indentured servitude in commercial fishing near New Zealand to child labourers in the cocoa and coffee industries in Latin America and Africa.

Closely analysing suppliers and, perhaps even more importantly – where businesses tend to source their components or raw materials, can reveal alarming and eye-opening results.

A construction company, for example, might discover it is using iron from China, where the industry is poorly regulated and there is a high probability of forced labour.

A search for women’s shirts in Malaysia could reveal cotton sourced from Mali, another potentially problematic region in terms of labour practices.

As with so many areas of modern life, it feels like we’re forgetting the lessons we should have learned from history – to the point that we’re in dire need of a 21st century Wilberforce to realign the corporate moral compass on this increasingly pressing issue.

Procurement pros should take center stage on tackling modern slavery

Procurement has a crucial role to play in the fight against modern slavery. These issues allow procurement to move away from the “back office” and take centre stage.

Previously mundane tasks such as supplier screening actually turn out to be critical in helping a company stamp out the scourge of poor labour practices, indentured workforce and poor working conditions, whether in Bangladesh or the UK – where recently arrived immigrants are working for less than a minimum wage.

More than a third of UK businesses are still failing to combat modern slavery, according to the latest CIPS survey.

The EU recorded the largest increase in slavery of any region worldwide (according to research by British analytics firm Verisk Maplecroft) with 20 of its 28 states reporting higher levels of slavery than they did in 2016.

There is clearly still more work to be done.

Who should step forward and become the new William Wilberforce?

Another Parliamentarian?

A leader with deep religious beliefs?

NGOs?

Pressure groups who can organise boycotts?

Brand attacks might ignite fleeting moments of righteous social media outrage, but society needs to dig a lot deeper to effect lasting change. You can boycott your local shop but that won’t impact a large buyer of steel or soybeans.

You have to persuade companies that it’s not just the right thing to do but that it’s also better business.

My view is the CPOs of the largest companies are best placed to start solving this problem. Collectively, the Global 2000 spend $12 trillion on goods and services annually so by tying their purchases to purposes, these companies can ensure they provide fair labour practices across their supply chain.

Now is the time for a coalition of well-intentioned and influential businesses to come together and become a modern-day Wilberforce that can stamp slavery out for good.

SAP Ariba’s James Marland will be speaking at Big Ideas Summit on 26th April 2018. To find out more information and register to attend in person or as a digital delegate visit our dedicated site. 

Exploding The 4 Social Enterprise Myths

Social enterprises require a LOT of extra procurement work and handholding. So it’s totally fine to avoid them…right?

We love busting the most common myths in procurement.

And there’s no myth more satisfying to bust than one that can benefit everyone.

There’s a lot of misinformation going around about the pros and cons of social enterprises. So we decided to find out the actual facts from an expert.

We spoke to Mark Daniels, Head of Market & Sector Development -Social Traders and asked him to clarify a few of the most common misconceptions about social enterprises.

What is a social enterprise?

Social enterprises (SEs) are businesses that trade to intentionally tackle social problems, improve communities, provide people access to employment and training, or help the environment.

Using the power of the marketplace to solve the most pressing societal problems, SEs are commercially viable businesses existing to benefit the public and the community, rather than shareholders and owners.

Social Traders, Australia’s leading SE development organisation, define a SE by the following three factors:

  1. They are driven by a public or community cause, be it social, environmental, cultural or economic
  2. They derive most of their income from trade, not donations or grants
  3. They use the majority (at least 50 per cent) of their profits to work towards their social mission

We asked Mark Daniels, Head of Market & Sector Development at Social Traders, to bust some of the most common myths associated with SEs.

Myth 1: SEs are less capable

The idea that SEs are limited in terms of capability are generally not founded, explains Mark.

“But many are limited in terms of scale. There are very few SEs that can be a major tier 1 supplier, which is mostly what procurement teams are looking for.”

Procurement teams, instead, “have to become more creative and look to tiers 2 and 3 to buy from or work with organisations like ours to work out new and different ways to buy from them.”

Another option is to encourage tier one suppliers to buy from tier 2 SEs.

Myth 2: SEs are a risky business

“To date, we haven’t seen any examples where SE have failed during contracts,” asserts Mark.

“Delivery is comparable to private sector suppliers.”

Myth 3: SEs are expensive

“Just like any other supplier; some [SEs] can be expensive, or the same, or cheaper.”

“We run a SE audit of any new buyer members. Coca Cola Amatil, for example, was spending over one million dollars on SEs and didn’t even know it!”

“There are 20,000 SEs turning over 3 per cent of the Australian economy. They’re already winning work without preferential treatment!”

“In some cases corporates do assist SEs with capacity building. This might involve paying more now but they know that in three to four years they’ll achieve scale and prices will drop.”

Myth 4: SEs require a lot of handholding

A lot of the time, SEs won’t require any more support than their private counterparts. “Coca Cola discovered that they had four or five SEs that didn’t require any hand-holding – they simply won the tender processes.”

On some occasions, however, “procurement may realise that these suppliers need help.”

“Social Traders has shifted to invest heavily in capability building for SEs. Some SEs need help to transition from a $1m to a $5m business. That’s the sort of assistance we’re giving – strategic support, accessing capital and so forth.”

“We’re also seeing things like 90-day payment terms being an issue.” Which is something procurement teams can work to change.

“The industry is starting to change the way they do payment terms – Broadspectrum, for example, has moved to 14 day payment terms for SEs and indigenous businesses.

“Suddenly more suppliers can work with Broadspectrum.”

Social enterprise policy

As we explored in last week’s blog , countries around the world are taking different approaches to improving their supplier diversity.

Buying from SEs is a great way to start.

In Australia, the opportunity around SEs came off the back of indigenous procurement proactive policies, which set targets and created social procurement systems in government to enable targets to be met.

“Level Crossing Removal Authority requires that 3 per cent of the supply chain must be indigenous-owned or SE businesses, or SE.

This has been quite powerful in changing behaviour in the infrastructure industry. We will see hopefully something to the tune of $300 million spent with SE or indigenous businesses.”

“France, Germany, Austria have requirement that around 6 per cent of your workforce and supply chain have to be people with disabilities. If that isn’t the case you have to pay a higher tax rate.”

“That tax was used to create more SEs to help people with disability. It’s an impressive policy.”

About Social Traders 

Social Traders is an Australian organisation that works to put social enterprise into business and government supply chains. They do this in order to create employment for the most disadvantaged by increasing the trading activity of social enterprises and to create new value streams for buyers.

It emerged over time was that there was a new marketplace starting to establish, which was corporate and government buyers interested in delivering social value through their procurement processes.

Social traders enable more organisations to buy from SEs, certifying them to give buyers the assurance that they aren’t being deceived. Because, as soon as social enterprise becomes a competitive advantage in a tender process, people will claim they are when they’re not

The impact of Social Traders work is impressive. In 2017 they enabled approximately $20 million in deals, which translated roughly to 300 jobs for disadvantaged people.

Their target in 2021 is $105 million in deals, creating 1500 jobs.

“We can see a market where hundreds of millions will be going to SEs every year.”

This can start to make a real dent in the unemployment of disadvantaged people.  Social procurement is a real lever for addressing social inequality.

Procure with Purpose – Join the movement

Procurious have partnered with SAP Ariba to create a global online group – Procure with Purpose.

Through Procure with Purpose, we’re shining a light on the biggest issues – from Modern Slavery; to Minority Owned Business; and from Social Enterprises; to Environmental Sustainability.

Enrol here to join the Procure with Purpose group and gain instant access to our exclusive online events.

Supplier Diversity? I Don’t Have Time For That!

“No one wants to change suppliers…” but embracing Supplier Diversity is getting easier than ever before, and there’s a whole host of reasons it’s good for your business! 

Sunny studio/Shutterstock.com

Supplier diversity programs are a hot topic.

We know we’re supposed to have them…

And we’re told that they’re a great thing both for our organisations and the broader communities in which we work and live.

But what are the actual facts when it comes to embracing a supplier diversity program? Do they really add innovation and value to your business? Is finding a minority owned supplier more trouble than it’s worth?

What is supplier diversity?

Supplier diversity is a business strategy that ensures procurement professionals source their goods and services from a diverse range of suppliers; whether they’re minority or women owned businesses, not-for-profits or social enterprises.

How suppliers gain classification as a diverse business differs across the globe but both a formal process of classification and legislation supporting these businesses is extremely valuable to both buyers and suppliers.

United States

The United States is often regarded as being at the forefront of advancing supplier diversity.

The National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), with a network of 1,750 corporate members, advances business opportunities for certified minority business enterprises and connects them to corporate members.

Businesses in the US that are least 51 per cent  owned by citizens who are Asian, Black, Hispanic and Native American can be  Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) certified.  According to the Minority Business Development Agency, there are 8 million minority businesses in the US that account for nearly $1.4 trillion in revenues.

South Africa

The Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) Act passed in 2003 with the fundamental objective  to advance economic transformation and enhance the economic participation of black people in the South African economy.

UK

The UK has been slower to implement clear policy in this area but is an increasing number of organisations working in this space .

MSDUK, for example, is a non-profit membership organisation driving inclusive procurement. We promote the ethos of diversity and inclusion in public and private sector supply chains by identifying and introducing innovative and entrepreneurial ethnic minority owned businesses (EMBs).

CIPS supports the definition of a diverse supplier as one that is “51 per cent owned, controlled or operated by one or more individuals who are members of an ethnic minority group, are disabled, or are women and who are ‘economically disadvantaged’, in that their personal net worth is less than $750,000”

Australia

Supply Nation connects Australia business with Indigenous businesses and is endorsed by the Australian Government as the leading directory of Indigenous businesses for their procurement teams to fulfil their targets under the new Indigenous Procurement Policy.

We interviewed two people who know a thing or two about the benefits;  Rod Robinson, Founder & CEO, ConnXus, Inc. and Lamont Robinson,  Vice President, Supplier Diversity -Nielsen.

Why should our organisations support supplier diversity?

“Supplier diversity has evolved throughout the years since its original inception through Executive Order 11458 in 1969, establishing the Office of the Minority Business Enterprise,” begins Lamont.

“Since that inception, supplier diversity has grown into a business imperative.”

He explains that organisations are establishing these programs to meet needs in six areas:

1. Clients

“Clients are increasingly asking their suppliers to help them with their diversity efforts. It is important to understand the reality that consumers use their purchasing power to support businesses that support companies with owners that look like them.”

2. Competition

“Having a successful supplier diversity program is often a differentiator for retention/recruitment of clients.”

3. Compliance

“Since some clients have federal contracts, they turn to their suppliers to assist with their diversity goals”

4. Communities

“Since diverse businesses typically employ more individuals in underserved communities than their larger counterparts, increased sales for those businesses should lead to more jobs in the community and more paid insurance for those employees.”

“A successful supplier diversity program could positively impact the recruitment and retention of diverse talent.”

5. Customisation innovation

“Diverse suppliers are more innovative and flexible in providing [a] solution.”

“Smaller, more nimble companies typically have greater customer service than their larger counterparts. The customer service is also more personable than with what is provided by large companies.”

6. Costs

“A diverse supplier base creates more competition, which leads to aggressive pricing.”

Rod Robinson argues that “corporate supplier diversity programs yield proven, measurable results in improved innovation, quality and value.

“Overall, it makes good business sense for corporations to do business with diverse suppliers to build a more sustainable supply chain.

“The U.S. Census Bureau reports that minority-owned businesses continue to grow significantly faster than non-minority-owned businesses. From 2007-2012, the number of minority-owned firms increased 29 per cent.”

How can supplier diversity add value to your organisation?

“If a procurement policy requires at least two diverse bidders for every three bidders, those new suppliers will not only have a chance to offer competitive pricing, but they can expose the organisation to new avenues of revenue growth, including access to new markets,” says Rod.

“Furthermore, these suppliers often align with corporate sustainability efforts (energy conservation, reduced paper consumption).”

Lamont believes that “diverse suppliers are typically created by individuals or groups looking to disrupt the marketplace.”

“These individuals seek innovative ways to create a service or product that more effectively meets the needs of clients. Working with smaller, nimble, and more innovative diverse suppliers allows supplier diversity to introduce innovation to the supply chains of their respective organisations.”

Supplier diversity programs are too time consuming

“No one wants to change suppliers,” Lamont admits.

“We all would like to maintain status quo when partnering with the companies that supply us products and services we consistently use and consume.

“However, there are various organisations and tools created to speed up the time needed to source from diverse businesses.

“Best practices are identified when organisations join diversity advocates such as the National Minority Supplier Development Council, the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and other similar organisations. Networking with peers from organisations that are members of the aforementioned advocates provides a platform to source for diverse businesses to meet an organisation’s needs.”

Rod agrees with this point of view, arguing that “vetting diverse suppliers requires the same process and time as vetting non-diverse suppliers, but procuring with purpose and intention yields a more sustainable business model, supply chain and economy.”

“Partnering with a technology leader such as ConnXus offers procurement professionals increased visibility and ease-of-use for what might seem to be a difficult or time-consuming task. Choosing the right technology partner can enable procurement professionals to have a unified tool to manage diverse sourcing, supplier diversity, supplier risk, economic impact and more.”

Procure with Purpose – Join the movement

Procurious have partnered with SAP Ariba to create a global online group – Procure with Purpose.

Through Procure with Purpose, we’re shining a light on the biggest issues – from Modern Slavery; to Minority Owned Business; and from Social Enterprises; to Environmental Sustainability.

Enrol here to join the Procure with Purpose group and gain instant access to our exclusive online events.

6 Reasons It Pays To Care In Procurement

“Do good, feel good” or “Do good, and save lots of money”? Whichever  you find the more enticing, we can certainly conclude that it pays to care in procurement!

Roger Clark ARPS/Shutterstock.com

Pat McCarthy, SVP and GM, SAP Ariba North America, is one of the driving forces behind SAP Ariba’s Business with Purpose initiative. Over time, he’s noticed how business attitudes have shifted as corporations become more socially aware. “For companies in the past it was pretty simple, the charter was pretty simple – increase profits for their shareholders or their owners. But today we find that many companies are taking on a higher mission to make the world a better place to live and work and to run their businesses with a higher purpose.

Of course, you don’t need Pat to tell you that sourcing from minority owned businesses, eradicating slave labour or watching your carbon foot print is a good thing. No one would try to contest that. But aside from the “do good, feel good” ideology, is Business with Purpose actually good for your business, or is it going to cause your procurement team a whole lot more – in money and stress!?

“We know that purpose driven companies out perform the market by almost 5 per cent” says Pat. “In other words they can do good and do well. Procurement has a unique opportunity to lead the way.”

And so it would seem that there’s a strong business case far beyond the moral imperative to embrace a higher cause in your procurement team.

Peter Holbrook, CEO Social Enterprise UK, gives six reasons why this is the case.

1. It’s cost effective

“We’ve undertaken research with PwC to look at what social value means for people within procurement departments” begins Peter. “We see that in the majority of cases when you take a social value or an environmental lens to procurement your new suppliers coming in to support your business are in most cases creating value add but are actually cheaper. [You will find] suppliers are much more cost efficient as a result of being more socially and environmentally imaginative.”

2. It brings in top talent

Attitudes of the millennial workforce is a significant factor for organisations to consider in today’s world if they want to recruit and retain the best talent. Employees, for the most part, want to feel as though they are working for companies who care for more than simply profit, who are making the right decisions for the world around them as well as the right decisions for the business.  As Peter explains “the good work your business does can give you the cutting edge or differentiation to bring in the very best talent.  When [organisations] take these approaches and staff believe they are authentic they are more likely to stay in the business in the long term.”

3. It makes suppliers more responsive

The research Social Enterprise UK carried out with PwC revealed that in two thirds of cases  suppliers were more responsive in purpose led companies. This, Peter explains, is due to the relationships created that meant suppliers “were more responsive in terms of responding to the changing needs of companies buying from them.”

4. It makes your organisation more innovative

Purpose driven companies, according to Social Enterprise UK’s research carried out with PwC,  “brought on new products and services to market, which is the traditional way we assess innovation.”

5. It keeps you ahead of the game

“We all recognise that businesses have to change and adapt to help meet the challenges that we all face. Using supply chains as a way to do this is a way of really being cutting edge, staying ahead of the pack and building brand differentiation that all companies increasingly need to be able to define themselves.”

6. It gets your customers on board

“We have researched customer loyalty” says Peter, “And whether it’s members of the public or in B2B relationships – [people] are more likely to remain with companies that are also creating a social benefit.

Peter has some reassuring advice for anyone feeling overwhelmed by the challenge of becoming a purpose-led procurement team. “The risk is that we overcomplicate it. There’s something to be said for proportionality. Start small and start easy- culturally within a company you’ll get much greater buy in if it feels as if its accessible and something that can be achieved relatively simply rather than an additional burden you’re putting on everybody.

“It’s about starting a journey and taking small steps to evolve your methodology and your approach and being fairly honest about where you are succeeding and where some of the challenges exist. No one is assuming and no one should assume that when a company starts embarking on this route that they will come to the ultimate solution within weeks months or even a couple of years!”

Sign up for #FeeltheLove, the first Procurious and SAP Ariba Procure with Purpose webinar, which takes place later today  at 10am EST/ 3PM GMT.

Procurement with Purpose: Beyond the Bottom Line

How can you embrace the notion of procurement with purpose authentically and in ways that are consistent with your core beliefs and ideals?

Sustainability improves the bottom line, and companies can do good while doing well.

In fact, research shows that purpose-driven companies with strong performance in environmental, social, and governance outperform the market by 4.8 per cent. But this is not “new” news.

So what is different now that makes purpose more vitally important? It comes down to transparency and trust.

In many segments of life, trust is at an all-time low. The swarm of misinformation, slanted stories and editorials, and paid reviews have continued to foster these low levels of trust. This presents a unique challenge to companies.

How do companies and we as leaders embrace the notion of purpose authentically?

How do we do so in ways that are consistent with our core beliefs and ideals?

How do we “walk the walk” and not just talk the talk?

In the past, business leaders might have defined their goals as “increasing profits for shareholders and owners.” Now leading companies are beginning to recognise that this is only part of the equation. They see the bigger picture and are taking on a higher mission to make the world a better place to live and work. They are finding new ways to solve the world’s most pressing challenges. Gaining (or regaining) trust will happen through transparent action that demonstrates a commitment to creating a more purpose driven business environment.

Purchasing with Purpose

Those of us in procurement have a unique opportunity to lead the way. With increasing frequency, companies are redefining their supply chains and buying from suppliers who support, for example, people with disabilities or are female led. Companies want to know that no forced labor is being used by their suppliers, and their supplier’s suppliers, and all the way back up the value stream. Procurement is in the unique position to address these issues and have an incredible impact.

Collectively, the Global 2000 spend $12 trillion on goods and services annually. By tying their purchases to purposes, these companies can take a stand and drive ethical behavior across the supply chain. And technology exists to make this possible. The key is to get started. Business networks, for instance, provide transparency and insights into supply chains that enable companies to ensure they are acting in responsible ways.

Take SAP Ariba, the world’s largest business network. Leveraging historical and real-time purchasing data, supplier intelligence, and network insights, along with data and services from third parties like Made in a Free World, procurement can shine a light on materials, regions, and suppliers to ensure they are meeting the organisation’s standards.

Through a link between SAP Ariba Discovery, a global business matching service, and the ConnXus Database, buyers can tap a wider pool of minority, woman, LGBT and veteran-owned businesses and enable global supply chains that are more responsible, sustainable and inclusive. Extending our network even more, we’ve partnered with Nicole Verkindt, founder of OMX, to help our customers analyse the economic impact of their spend in industries such as international defense, aerospace, oil & gas, mining, automotive and construction industries.

But it doesn’t stop there. SAP Ariba is a sponsor of the UN Global Compact’s Decent Work in Global Supply Chain Action Platform. The UN developed the Action Platforms to accelerate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Action Platforms offer a systematic solution to sustainable development challenges through new fostering innovation, developing new financial models, and identifying sustainable solutions across a range of issues. As a Platform Sponsor for the Decent Work and Global Supply Chain Action Platform, SAP Ariba has deepened our commitment to driving purpose across the global supply chain.

Procurement professionals will always be responsible for doing more with less and for delivering value to our organizations. And we can do even more than that.

There’s real power in purpose. It inspires us. It moves us. It enables us to reimagine and to reinvent what is possible and to achieve great things. It is also one of the greatest challenges issued to business leaders today. Join us in taking it up. Together, we can make a difference.

Sign up for #FeeltheLove on 14th February – the first Procurious and SAP Ariba Procure with Purpose webinar .