Tag Archives: certification systems

3 Key Differences Between CIPS & ISM Certification – But Why It Doesn’t Matter!

When it comes to professional accreditation for procurement and supply chain, there are several options available. But, as it turns out, all are equally good for your professional development.


Unlike other professions, procurement and supply chain does not have one, single governing professional body. While this does make things slightly more complicated, it does provide professionals with a greater degree of choice when it comes to their professional accreditation journey.

Individual decisions may be based on geography, field of procurement, or even previous and current job roles. And while people will make different choices, it does not mean that any of these options are better than the other or will hinder career progression in the long-term.

Previous articles on Procurious on professional accreditation have focused largely on CIPS and the MCIPS/FCIPS qualifications. However, in order to provide a broader view on available accreditation, we need to look at other institutions like the Institute of Supply Management (ISM), and their widely-recognised Certified Professional in Supply Management (CPSM) qualification.

To understand which qualification is better suited to you as an individual, we need to look at the key differences in the organisations and accreditation, and how your decision may impact your future career.

1. Geographical

The main difference between the two organisations is a geographical one.

CIPS is headquartered in the UK and has a very strong network in its home country. It has also developed strong network bases in EMEA and Australasia, with each region having its own management structure, as well as a strong presence in Africa and East Asia. It is a truly global Institute, with over 200,000 members worldwide.

ISM was founded in North America in 1915 and has consolidated its base in this region. It doesn’t have the same global branch network as CIPS, with its networking predominantly focused in the USA. But it is starting to spread its network worldwide, including an increasing membership throughout Latin America, with over 50,000 members from 100 countries.

2. Time & Study Format

When it comes to qualifications, it’s hard to split the two bodies. Both take procurement and supply professionals from student or entry-level members and provide learning, development and examination in order to progress to accreditation. The time taken to achieve the qualification and the method of study are slightly different, however.

CIPS’ key accreditation is MCIPS, with the opportunity to become a Fellow (FCIPS) of the Institute beyond this. Depending on the starting level, experience and nature of study, accreditation can take anywhere between 3 and 6 years to complete. Learning materials and exams are all available digitally, though study can be undertaken in person where available.

CIPS also provides the opportunity to gain MCIPS via an accredited degree, a Management Entry Route or Corporate Award, all of which reduce the requirement for CIPS exams themselves.

The ISM Certified Professional in Supply Management (CPSM) qualification generally takes between 6 and 12 months to complete, depending on the method of study, time and experience. The Institute offers both self-study and classroom-based learning, but the only way to gain the qualification is to go through the three CPSM exams and have the required level of experience in procurement.

Currently there is no option to use other qualifications (degree, post-graduate degree, etc.) to provide an exemption for exams.

3. ‘License to Practice’

Possibly the biggest difference in the accreditation offered between the CIPS and ISM is what is offered beyond the main qualifications.

For ISM, this is the ISM Mastery Model. The model is based around a set of 16 core competencies and more than 70 sub-competencies which are seen as critical for a successful career in procurement and supply. Further learning resources help take individuals and teams from the first level, ‘Fundamental’, right up to ‘Mastery’, helping to provide a level of standardisation in skills for the profession.

Where CIPS differentiates from ISM is in its chartership programme. CIPS’ ambition with this when it launched its chartership programme was to create a ‘license to practice’, similar to other professions. With procurement looking to achieve the same recognition as these other professions, chartership seems like something that many people may consider going forward.

So which is better?

In some areas the differences between the organisations and their respective qualifications are stark, in others they are slight. Despite these differences, it doesn’t mean that one qualification is better than the other, or that there is more positive benefit for long-term career prospects in being a member of one institution over the other.

This is because of the key thing that both have in common: international recognition as a gold standard accreditation for procurement and supply chain. CIPS and ISM have together raised the bar for procurement, providing standardisation in learning, development and qualifications, and applicable to all areas, industries, sectors and individuals involved in the profession.

Irrespective of which route you choose, by choosing to undertake professional development and further qualifications, you’re playing your part in advancing the procurement profession. The best thing you can do is look at the organisation and qualification that suits you best and go for that. If everyone takes this step, then procurement will be the ultimate winner!

The Value Companies See With Sustainability Standards

As societal responsibilities grow, many organisations are turning to sustainability standards in order to demonstrate their supply chain transparency.

The discussions on Procurious reflect a number of questions procurement professionals face when trying to implement a sustainable procurement policy. Just what is sustainable procurement? Does it cost more to source sustainably? Have I got the time and resources to meet my own or my company’s targets? What value will sustainable sourcing bring to the business?

With the focus extending beyond environmental and sustainability issues to fair and ethical treatment of labourers and producers, the responsibility can be broad.

Increasingly, procurement managers are recommending sustainability standards as a way to ensure independent, transparent assurance of their supply chains. Partnering with a sustainability standard can help companies, which do not have the knowledge or capacity, to manage all aspects of responsible sourcing on their own.

Certification can work as a tool for managing the full range of issues. This is particularly the case for commodities, where environmental and social sustainability can be complex, and where the producer can be many links down the value chain.

Changing Procurement Process

However, making changes to well-established procurement processes is easier said than done. Businesses need to be clear on the value of choosing sustainability standards to meet their sustainable sourcing goals.

ISEAL Alliance interviewed existing users of sustainability standards – retailers, manufacturers, traders and others – on what they saw as the value of working with credible sustainability standards (certification systems), like those that are members of ISEAL.

It became evident that the value of certification was high, but it varied depending on the type of business, the sector, the geography, or other factors.  The interviews also showed that certification was not always valued in the way one might expect.

While market differentiation and increased sales were mentioned by a few companies, the potential value of a visible ‘ecolabel’ was never the primary reason for the partnership.  Instead it was often about supply chain challenges.

Companies revealed the value of sustainability standards to their business in five key areas:

  1. Making complex supply chains more understandable. This included providing better traceability, simplifying what is asked of suppliers by using agreed standards, and generating better relations with producers.
  2. Mitigating risk. Rigorous auditing, transparency of origin, and outsourcing assurance of responsible practices to local experts, helped companies mitigate risks of sourcing from complex supply chains.
  3. Ensuring sustainable supply for the whole industry. Several companies noted that by their investment in certification, they were strengthening the reputation and ensuring a sustainable future for the whole sector.
  4. Meeting consumer expectations. By communicating compliance with sustainability standards, companies said they were increasing consumer awareness of sustainable sourcing and creating market differentiation for their products.
  5. Reflecting a company’s values and heritage. As well as aligning companies’ goals with their values and maintaining trust, certification also provided a way to engage more deeply with employees.

Click here to read interviews with M&S, IKEA, Mars, Woolworths, Wilmar, De Beers, Domtar, Bumble Bee Seafoods and Tetra Pak.

Strengthening Commitment

ISEAL also recently created an online tool for companies to understand what good labels look like.  The site, called Challenge the Label, explores five universal truths of a credible claim or label. It aims to help procurement professionals have deeper conversations with their suppliers and partners, before choosing to develop or use a green claim on or off product.

Many companies also use their own codes of conduct or auditing programmes, and they see these as complementing their use of certification. While those interviewed agreed that the sustainability landscape is changing dramatically, they also said that their company’s commitment to certification will only deepen over time.

The goal for procurement professionals has to be to embed sustainability into everyday business. Using sustainability standards can help to deliver cost savings, address supply chain risks and ensure transparency. Making procurement decisions today in a manner which preserves resources for future generations as well as for future business makes good sense.