Tag Archives: responsible procurement

The Circular Economy Demands Procurement Collaboration

Faced with the dual challenge of sustainability and growth, businesses are looking to procurement collaboration to help.

Procurement Collaboration

Since the Global Financial Crisis in 2008, most established firms have reduced costs, focused their resources, and become more lean and efficient. Now, however, they face the challenge of how to grow. This will require the development and implementation of truly innovative products, services, and business models.

In this challenging economic climate, procurement professionals are being asked to do more with less. The efficiency of Procurement, as well as procurement collaboration, is now seen as a critical part of moving the business forward.

Research confirms the new picture

Recent research by Oxford Economics for Ariba and SAP shows that more than two-thirds of senior procurement executives and employees say procurement is “becoming more collaborative with other parts of the business”. These figures are also valid for Responsible Procurement.

According to Procurement Leaders Research from 2012 on how procurement aligns with other functions on CSR topics, 33 per cent responded that, “there is an informal communication between procurement and other functions”. 47 per cent stated that there is formal communication between procurement and other functions.

The Supplier Coach

Procurement collaboration with the supplier is also key, though it is also critical for the process, and the sustainable outcome, that procurement acknowledges its role as a ‘supplier coach’. Typically procurement is responsible for the Supplier Relationship Management part of collaboration, although there is a need for a more open interpretation of the relationship.

The relationship should build on a joint relationship with win-win approach, where both parties will be engaged in driving the sustainable agenda on an equal basis.

As a coach, the procurement professional should:

  • Ensure that the supplier is motivated to work with the company’s agenda.
  • Ensure that the supplier continuously improves by providing input for improvement.
  • Promote the supplier’s interest within the company.
  • Ensure that the supplier has the strategic capabilities, or the willingness, to contribute to the company’s long-term growth.
  • Develop effective communications both internally and externally with the supplier.

Need for Business as ‘Unusual’ 

Typically, a supplier will encounter CSR at the very beginning of the relationship via the supplier selection and evaluation process, through the risk management process, or through the settling of the contract.

No business can escape the fact that global economic conditions, the status and future availability of affordable resources, energy supplies, and a growing global population are creating an ever more complex business environment.

The limitations and growing problems of the linear economic model, that has served organisations well for many decades, demands that ‘business as usual’ is unlikely to be a winning strategy in the future. The winning strategy lies within the circular economy.

The Circular Economy

The Ellen McArthur Foundation defines the circular economy as “one which is defined as an industrial system that is restorative or regenerative by design”, essentially replacing the end of life concept with restoration.

It shifts business towards the use of renewable energy, eliminates the use of toxic chemicals, which impair re-use and aims for the elimination of waste through intelligent design of materials, products, systems, technologies and business models. We could call it circular innovation.

Supply chains are getting more complex every day in terms of the number of involved partners and the quality and degree of interdependency between them. One of the predictions in relation to the integration of circular thinking, is that complexity will increase.

Businesses operate in a globalised world, where the volatility of markets, the speed of technological progress and the pace of change in the economic and business environments, will continue to rise rapidly. As a result product life cycles are getting shorter and market demands become more and more unpredictable.

Collaboration with all types of partners, and their willingness and ability to share their knowledge, will be crucial and key to a successful development and integration of circular thinking.  

Key Questions

The key question is how procurement can advance procurement collaboration with suppliers on circular thinking in an effective way? How can procurement ensure that the suppliers are willing and able to share their knowledge?

In many companies it is typically a challenge to include suppliers in the front end of the innovation process. Procurement teams are often disconnected from the functions they serve and the markets they engage with. They are not fluent in the nuances of the business and hence lack experience and authority.

Also in many companies, procurement are used to innovation being an internal capability. They are not used to working together with external partners on delivering it.

For procurement to be successful in these innovation oriented supply partnerships, I believe that it requires new models for relationship building and collaboration. It also requires procurement collaboration and integration across the whole organisation.

There is a great opportunity for Procurement to take a leading position within an organisation and transform the company approach from a linear economy to a circular economy. In order to do this, procurement has to facilitate the change of supply partnerships from a pure cost orientation, towards a strong focus on joint collaboration and innovation.

Is Your Company’s Product Responsible Enough to Buy?

Is your company’s procurement ‘responsible’ enough? Which pressures and stakeholders are the most powerful ones for your company?

socially responsible procurement

According to a 2012 study by Procurement Leaders, 61 per cent of organisations are driven by end-customers. Governments and regulations represent the second-most influential pressure that organisations face, followed by 48 per cent of organisations that embed CSR principles in order to meet employee expectations of working for a responsible company.

The above underlines that if you do not have CSR activities in place in the procurement function (and the company in general), then you take the risk that your end-consumer will abandon your brand. Conversely, there is also a business opportunity, as consumers are becoming increasingly willing to pay a premium for CSR labelled products.

What does responsibility mean?

Responsibility, or in procurement terminology Responsible Procurement Management, can be divided into 3 main categories: environmental, social and economic.

Practically speaking, Responsible Procurement is about defining a set of mutually compatible requirements, specifications, and criteria that favour protection of the environment, social progress, and economic development. You do this by identifying resource efficiency, improving the quality of products and ultimately by optimising costs.

In short, you could say that Responsible Procurement is about increasing a company’s profit, improving its strategic supplier relationships, and strengthening its brand, while remaining vigilant towards competitors and revolutionising their procurement strategy.

What does this mean to your company?

From an environmental point of view, your company should ensure that natural resources that are extracted and processed into goods and services are consumed in a more efficient way – getting more out of less. By changing the way we produce and consume goods, we can still limit the impact that climate change is bringing about.

From an economic and social perspective, your company has to ensure basic human rights and economic development, regardless of age, gender, nationality, religious belief or economic status.

How could your company get started with the journey?

Risk in Responsible Procurement is the probability that there will occur violations of the company’s or its key stakeholders’ values and perceptions. Determining a company’s risk profile is specific to each particular company.

Some companies will choose to focus on suppliers where the company has some bargaining power, or suppliers who have a strategic importance to the company. Others choose to target all of them.

Creating the risk profile must then take into account the following:

  • Risk level: Is it a strategic or an operational risk?
  • Probability: Indicate the probability of the risk occurring. Do you consider this as high, medium or low risk?
  • Impact: What impact on the organisation would there be in the event of the risk occurring? Again use high, medium or low.
  • Risk treatment: You should indicate the appropriate treatment for the risk. This could be: avoid risk, reduce or control probability, reduce or control the impact, transfer risk or accept risk.
  • Owner: The owner is the person who is accountable for taking action or carrying out the risk treatment.
  • Current status: Detail the current status of the risk. For example, has vital information been gathered?

Start managing your risks

Following the risk assessment the next natural step will be to look for ways to manage the risks. Risk management options will be particularly affected by the following factors:

  • What bargaining options does your company have over your suppliers?
  • Is your company a major customer or just one among many?
  • Who are the drivers of the value chain; is it producer or consumer-driven?
  • To what extent are subcontractors used, and how big a role do they play in the manufacture of products: for example, in situations where the supplier is a wholesaler, it may be necessary to identify the actual manufacturers.
  • How many financial and human resources is needed to work with it?
  • How far back in the chain will it be necessary to manage the risks?

Don’t give up – though the picture must be right

When Procurement Leaders carried out their research in 2012, they asked participants how important CSR was currently in their respective organisations. 42 per cent of the respondents said it was ‘Very Important’, while 38 per cent said it was ‘Important’.

When asked about how long their CSR policy had been in place, 36 per cent stated 1-3 years, while 30 per cent stated 4-6 years. What was clear from the research was that nobody wanted to be left behind, nobody wanted to be seen as a laggard in this field. Appearances matter.

The most important message is, though, that the actions you take must be equal to the picture you draw to the public.