2015: a year in procurement

23 December 2015

From eco firsts to 30-mile gridlocks and non-existent government standards, this has been a fascinating year in the business of procurement.

The good...

FMCG giant Unilever became the first company in Europe to send no waste to landfill and announced that it aims to create a global “zero waste value chain”. In similar vein, Ikea announced in November that all the cotton it purchases now comes from sustainable sources.

Researchers from Cardiff University, working with Thames Water, literally struck gold after investigating Britain’s sewers. They found that deposits of sludge contain between one and seven parts per million of gold, which would make it economically viable to extract. The next task is to find out how to do so.

The British response to the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone would not have been as effective without John McGhie, procurement and commercial supply chain manager at the Department for International Development, who helped organise the build and supply of six treatment centres. Offered a weekend to think whether he wanted to get involved, McGhie said: “I decided within 30 seconds but I thought it was the better part of valour to discuss it with my wife and daughter.”

Two global organisations – the UN and World Bank – took steps to improve procurement practices. The World Bank’s new rules are designed to improve standards in countries it works with and allow social impacts to be taken into account in contracts associated with its £27 billion worth of projects. As part of its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the UN has called for sustainable public procurement as it seeks to tackle the annual £830 billion cost of bribery, corruption and tax evasion.

It’s official – Amazon has the best supply chain in the world, according to consultants Gartner. Apple had won this award for the past seven years and, perhaps as a consolation, Gartner created a special category of ‘supply chain masters’ for the tech company and FMCG giant Procter & Gamble.

...the bad

Kenya’s National Highway Authority came under fire after a 30-mile hour gridlock, in which some vehicles were trapped for 60 hours, on a road off the Mombasa-Nairobi highway. Heavy rains, poor roads and delayed construction works were blamed for the chaos.

To the disgust of the CBI, the government’s indecision over the issue of a third runway at Heathrow will be extended until the summer of 2016. Despite a 344-page report by the Airport Commission endorsing Heathrow’s expansion, the government decided it needed more time to make its mind up. So it could be 2025 or 2026 before any new capacity – be it at Heathrow or Gatwick – is delivered.

This autumn, the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration published a long awaited document on the commercialisation of space, the first step in procuring data from privately-owned satellites and instruments. Suppliers must, the NOAA decreed, meet government standards – although no such standards existed.

...and the ugly

What could possibly go wrong? Enriched by a new sponsorship deal, Scottish football club Partick Thistle hired lifelong fan and Turner Prize-nominated artist David Shrigley to design a new mascot. His star-shaped creation certainly broke the mould but was critically panned, with one reviewer wondering why the head of the club’s new symbol “looks like Lisa Simpson if she had been tortured and melted – and then addicted to crystal meth for a while”. The resemblance is even more striking when you see the logo on Partick’s shirts.

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