'Magic happens when your values align with a supplier's'

Ensuring your values align with a supplier's will help implement social value, according to the procurement boss at Croydon Council. 

Rakhee Dave-Shah, head of commissioning and procurement at Croydon Council, said the authority had produced a guide to help suppliers understand its values.

Speaking at the Public Sector Solutions Expo 2019 in London she said: “Magic happens for me when our values and principles align with a contractor’s corporate social responsibility.”

During a panel discussion on social value, delegates were told:

Keep an open approach 

Avoid restrictive frameworks by giving suppliers a broad range of choice on where to deliver social value, while ensuring values align, to enable more opportunities for SMEs. Aaron Reid, head of sustainable procurement at Balfour Beatty, said: “We encourage suppliers to look at models that are more open and less descriptive in terms of KPIs.” 

Dave-Shah referred to a social value framework that Croydon Council launched in May 2019. The framework works as a guide to “what matters to Croydon” and suggests at least 20 potential areas including policies and processes, air quality, health and wellbeing and environmental outcomes. 

Support procurement and suppliers

Sustainable procurement shouldn’t be viewed as additional work, it’s just good procurement, said Melissa Bell, sustainable procurement manager at YPO. “Talking to procurement teams and ensuring they are part of the journey of change they can make” is key to embedding sustainability in procurement functions.

Maintaining a supportive dialogue with suppliers and providing them with the tools and techniques that give them a stronger voice will help them get to a point where they can contribute more effectively to the company’s social values. 

Reid said in his role as sustainable procurement manager he acted as a mediator to translate principles and priorities back and forth and ensure values are aligned between the company, stakeholders and suppliers. He warned there is danger in how social value is translated, as problems arise when suppliers don’t understand what it means.

Dave-Shah said: “Where our contractors have people working across multiple contracts to enable sustainable procurement you can see some real differences being made. A big part of my work is around building the capabilities of the organisation. It takes constant effort to educate people on sustainability and build awareness, but it pays dividends in the end.”

Drive motivation 

The new responsibilities that come with embedding increased social value in contracts brings opportunities for procurement professionals. William May, deputy director at Government Commercial Function, said: “My experience is that if you bring this into the job it motivates procurement people.”

Ben Carpenter, chief executive at Social Value UK, said that social value can create a culture of excitement in procurement as it is a chance for professionals to do things differently and have an element of power to influence decision-making for a positive impact.

“Young people do care about purpose more than profit,” he said, referring to statistics from Deloitte’s 2017 Millennial survey. Therefore, tapping into the younger workforce could be a vital driver in transitioning towards social value.  

Bell commented: “Young people are passionate about the world, they’ve got these beliefs and as procurement professionals we can harness that, and say, ‘You can make a change in big issues such as modern slavery and environmental impacts’.”

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