Repeatedly asked to do something unethical? Walk away, buyers advised

Paul Snell is managing editor at Supply Management
5 October 2014

Procurement professionals should walk away from a role if they are frequently asked to behave unethically.

This was the advice from the experts answering the ethical dilemmas of delegates at the CIPS Annual Conference in London last week.

“I think there comes a point if you are working for a company and consistently find that people are asking you to do things that are not ethical, you have to think “do you want to stay here?,” advised Meryl Bushell, consultant, former CPO and a crown representative for the UK government.

“The odd occasion where someone suggests something inappropriate and you can talk them round is one thing, but being somewhere where you are consistently asked to set aside ethical considerations and are being asked to behave in a manner you find personally doesn’t suit and doesn’t fit with the CIPS code of conduct – walk is my advice, do not stay there. I absolutely believe you need to work somewhere where your values are aligned to company values.”

When asked what to do if the CEO comes to you with a list of 'preferred' suppliers he wants you to use, the panel of experts suggested getting to them to endorse the organisation’s supplier selection process in advance, so when the day comes, you are able to respond that you will follow the procedure they have already put their name to.

“Hopefully you will have a relationship with the seniors in your organisation that you could have already articulated the benefits of having a transparent process of choosing suppliers,” added Bushell. “But if that hadn’t happened I would try and sit down with the CEO and ask him what he is trying to achieve. I wouldn’t go into a head-to-head fight and say you can’t do this. I would talk to him about the company’s published code of values and mission statements, and how what he was trying to achieve aligned with that.”

Other dilemmas debated at the event included in which circumstances it was acceptable to accept hospitality from suppliers, how to encourage vendors in emerging markets to meet common standards, and whether FIFA should strip Qatar of hosting the 2022 football world cup.

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