Tag Archives: CSR

How to Build Procurement Influence

We successfully leveraged the COVID-era attention we got – now how does Procurement remain relevant and authoritative in the long term? Alex Saric shares how to build the influence to make your presence felt.


The pandemic has had widespread adverse effects, from health to finances to education. Yet for procurement leaders it has also been an opportunity to shine. As supply disruptions, cash flow and protecting margins became boardroom priorities and front page news, procurement was called upon to save the day. And for the most part the function has risen to the challenge. Companies and citizens should be thankful.

Yet to capitalise on their moment in the sun and remain on the board meeting agenda, CPOs must demonstrate how they can contribute long term value as well; how they can help companies restore growth via innovation; how they can improve the brand by driving CSR improvements; and much more. To do so, CPOs have to build their influence within the organisation.

Influence is Essential

There are a couple of reasons for this. First, the more strategic objectives procurement can support increasingly involve other departments and/or suppliers. Supporting company cash objectives requires collaboration with finance. Driving innovation requires collaboration with production, sales and suppliers. Sustainability often must be aligned with related departments and involves supplier collaboration. For that alignment and collaboration to take place, influence is key.

Second, increasing procurement’s impact requires transformation, with accompanying investments in people and technology. Digital transformation helps free capacity via automation, improve decision-making with better access to insights and scale collaboration by connecting stakeholders. The number one obstacle identified in a Forrester Survey to getting a digital transformation off the ground is executive buy-in / budget. Influence is essential to overcoming that initial obstacle.

The successful path to building that influence will certainly vary based on the organisational culture, individual personalities and other factors. That said, there are some common factors I have found to be important.

Sell the Vision

Too many organisations don’t comprehend how procurement can add strategic value and contribute to many objectives. It is essential to craft and clearly articulate a compelling vision for procurement and the various ways it can add value. And not just the what, but the how and the path to get there, including tangible benefits that can be achieved at each stage. Particularly in times of crisis, there will be resistance to any vision that requires years of investment to see the results. Explain precisely how procurement can deliver on or contribute to each objective, what’s needed and the timeframe.

When presenting the vision you should be simultaneously making the business case for necessary investments. You are selling your vision: remember that the best sales people understand how to speak to (after first listening to) their audience. There are a few “tricks” I’d recommend. First, build the case from the bottom up. The ROI on procurement investments is often tremendous and leaders naturally balk at a large top level number. But by explaining each value driver separately, each with a small contribution that seems logical and is easy to accept, you can build up the overall number in a way that leaders understand and accept. Show the typical range of benefits for each driver (vendors or consultants can help you with this information) and lean towards the low end on most, to avoid setting goals you may not achieve and increase executive confidence in the overall ROI.

Second, focus on value drivers that will resonate based on your current organizational pains. If cost containment is top of mind for the board, explaining how investments will bring more spend under management and the typical savings on each dollar that is managed is a logical place. For others, minimising supply disruptions or compliance costs may be top of mind. This helps the message resonate.

Lastly, back up the business case with example of companies (ideally competitors) that have achieved this. That plays on human emotion – anecdotes resonate and no one wants to feel their competitor is outdoing them. Together this approach is very likely to result in a convincing business case supporting your vision.

Show them the Money

Painting that clear vision is essential, but can damage your influence if not followed through. Hence, it is key that you deliver quick wins to demonstrate the potential, thereby building organisational support and credibility. Be sure that is built into your plan. What those early wins should be will vary by organisation. For some, it may be key to drive some quick savings. For others it might be improving visibility in the supply chain so they’re not disrupted and dealing with some of the issues they’ve had during COVID. By showing early progress against your vision, you will gain tremendous credibility as a trustworthy partner. You can then scale up over time, to more processes, objectives, spend, etc.

Values Matter

I have found that demonstrating certain values is as important as demonstrating results – you need both. Top of the list for me is ownership. If procurement is to build its influence, it needs to take ownership of objectives. Naturally, procurement will rarely be able to control everything required to succeed. That lack of control is often an argument against taking ownership. Resist any such pushback. Yes, there is risk to taking ownership of a result you can’t fully control. But the real risk is failing to deliver because of internal confusion. I’ve seen far too many initiatives fail because no one felt ownership and hence no one stepped up to steer the effort and course correct when needed. Building a culture of ownership, in procurement or any other function for that matter, is key to building influence. Your team won’t lead if they don’t feel a sense of ownership. If they do, you will establish yourself as the go-to team for strategic initiatives.

Less controversial but equally important, is demonstrating integrity. The more success depends on others, the more integrity is key. We may have moved to a heavily virtual workplace, but relationships are still key to success in many areas, especially building influence. Unless your team demonstrates integrity in every interaction, you will struggle to build influence. This depends more on your people than any policy of course, so it’s harder to fix if an issue exists, but leaders must insist on it and jump on any potential shortcomings.

Building influence is an art, not a science. If procurement is to make its move from the backroom to the boardroom permanent, CPOs will need to master it. For all its horrors, the pandemic is a rare opportunity to elevate the function. By painting a clear, compelling vision, effectively executing against the first stages and demonstrating the right values, CPOs will be well positioned to do just that.

How Much Business Does £300m Of CSR Get You?

That might sound subversive – after all, CSR isn’t about the bottom line. Is it…?

There are many definitions of CSR. In general terms, it is about delivering benefits for economic, social and environmental stakeholders. On the ground, we’ve seen fantastic work going on – exemplified by organisations like Business in the Community. We genuinely believe that for a number of businesses, CSR isn’t an add on – it’s seen as a key ingredient of a sustainable business model.

As a CEO of a for profit, the bottom line is, well, the bottom line. How do we get more customers? How do we make the ones we have happy? How do we get the best out of the team? How do we ensure our product is usable and therefore shippable?

I understand any skepticism around CSR.

But it is there. And it’s not going away. Moreover, in many countries it’s now backed by legislation.

How could we improve the conventional model of CSR? Let’s come back to that. First a few more numbers.

We carried out some research a few months back. We looked at 30 of the biggest suppliers to UK government, including Capgemini, HP, Balfour Beatty, Babcock, Fujitsu and Barclays.

What we found…

  • They account for up to 15% of government expenditure
  • The total UK Community Investment spend of the 8 companies who share their figures is £9,533,461
  • The total Global Community Investment spend of the 12 companies who have share their figures is £328,249,901.

And, according to the Charities Aid Foundation, FTSE 100 companies donated an average of 1.9% pre-tax profits in 2014.

What we ask…

  • Is there a direct link between this CSR spend and sales? Short answer: no.
  • Should there be?
  • Why not? What if you could demonstrate a clear ROI on this spend?

We think this not because we think CSR is an afterthought or an add on. If it is a a core component of business strategy it has to be a core component of your financial strategy – because these two things are so intertwined. This is what we mean when we think we can square the circle of CSR.

Why not do well by doing good, if you could demonstrate that your CSR budgets and resources were going into local community projects that were delivering clear outputs, and were rewarded for that with sales?

Why not do well by doing good and demonstrate this in terms of clear ROI for your CSR spend?

That would be a good thing right? If you want CSR to be a core part of your business strategy it has to be a core part of your financial strategy.

Social Value is increasingly a differential in government tendering – how much you give can determine how much you win. At the Social Value Exchange we use market design to ensure CSR is paid for at a fair and efficient price – the sweet spot between making sure community projects benefit and suppliers don’t break their business models. Suppliers have used this approach to win more than £20m of government contracts.

With this option, why wouldn’t you use CSR to get more sales? 

Firesouls make digital products that drive innovation in, and get more resources to, the public and community sectors. Our latest product is the Social Value Exchange, an online marketplace that gets more funding and resources into local community projects.

Duty of Care Law: You Got The Green Light In France!

France’s new legislation, The Duty Of Care Law will prevent serious human rights risks and threats to fundamental freedoms. Will other countries follow suit? 

It would be wise for procurement professionals to pay close attention to France’s new sustainable procurement legislation.   The Duty of Care law, which affects organisations with over 5,000 employees, is likely to have some influence on other nations,  starting with those in the EU.

If similar human rights legislation is implemented across the globe; forewarned is forearmed, and sustainable, ethical procurement is a hot topic that’s only getting hotter!

Whilst the progress of global sustainability standards have traditionally been  pushed by individual businesses and activist groups, things are changing. This month saw the publication of ISO20400,  (International Standard for Sustainable Procurement), which creates a standard for every organisation in the world to follow.

The Duty of Care Law

In its much-awaited decision last month, the French constitutional council has given a  green light to the “Duty of Care” law (Devoir de Vigilance) although they stated that there remain some provisions to the French constitution.

The major points of the law, requiring French companies with at least 5 000 employees, including in their French direct or indirect subsidiaries (or 10 000 employees in their direct or indirect subsidiaries worldwide) to develop a diligence plan (“plan de vigilance”), are recognised of general interest. The intent is for the diligence plans to prevent serious risks related to human rights and fundamental freedoms, health and safety of persons and the environment. The constitutional council considers however that the sanctions initially included in the law violate the constitutional principle that penalties must have a sound legal basis. As a result, the civil fine of up to €10 million, as well as its increase to €30 million in case of damages that could have been prevented by implementing the diligence plan, are removed from the law.

Developing A Diligence Plan

The obligation of implementing a diligence plan however, as well as the formal notice and the civil liability mechanisms in case of lack or deficiency of the diligence plan, are constitutional. Consequently, companies are still compelled to implement a diligence plan, even if the law loses some of its deterrent effect, which makes for the first law of this type: it introduces an obligation much more stringent than a mere reporting obligation, such as the ones required by the UK Modern Slavery Act or the California Transparency Act. Companies are required to implement specific concrete actions and cannot limit themselves to reporting on what they do (or do not do).

There are also some talks of developing similar regulations at European Union level.  Eight national parliaments have called for a corporate duty of care towards the human rights and local environment impacted by the company’s operations. They have jointly proposed that the European Commission take action on this matter. This shows that the French “Duty of care” law is indeed the first step of a generalized global movement requiring companies to address their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) risks, including throughout their supply chain.

This article was first published on the EcoVadis Blog