Part and parcel

16 December 2010
As the Christmas season gets into full swing, corporate gift-giving reaches its peak as a traditional aspect of business practice. Unfortunately, procurement professionals will be increasingly nervous about this as a result of the conflicting demands of their role and the existence of unclear, outdated and even contradictory policies of the company they work for.
 More and more the role of buyers is becoming one of relationship management in an increasingly global environment. This amplifies the dilemma for the buyer because in many countries around the world it is traditional to mark good relations with the giving of gifts. In Asian nations in particular it is part and parcel of building relationships. In an attempt to appear blameless, many companies took a pre-emptive strike against the practice of gift-giving by sending letters to suppliers, with just one request: “No gifts please, they’re against our principles.” Bah humbug, I say. Regrettably some of those companies will be sending their sales reps out to deliver the very kinds of gifts they say are against their principles to their own customers. More companies are adopting a code of business ethics which outlines their policy on staff accepting gifts from third parties such as suppliers, contractors and advisers. It is incumbent on both the supplier and the buyer to observe the policies of the company with which they do business. Should companies have a policy that covers presents? Yes, but not at the expense of relationships. CIPS has a policy, and it makes a lot of sense. And it is a policy that still allows people to receive gifts. An outright ban on gifts or an overly rigid policy describing what an employee can accept is a policy waiting to be broken and only serves to make presents secret and cut off the organisation from some of the relationship benefits. Do you disagree? If David Cameron and Barack Obama can exchange bottles of local beer as gifts at their recent meeting, our leaders don’t believe it is humbug.
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