Local supply as an example of more responsible procurement

10 November 2010
I was interested to see the responses to my blog a few weeks ago. My intention was to use the example of local supply to illustrate the changing nature of our profession and the need to consider impacts beyond the traditional cost/time/quality equation. From the feedback I received, I obviously didn’t get the message across very well, so I will try again. The responses were along the lines that it is a buyer’s duty to get the best price and value regardless of any other consequences. My example of a plasterer from Powys, Wales, doing work in Pangbourne, Berkshire was met with a resounding “so what?” The purpose of the blog was to say that buyers in future may be required to consider some wider consequences of their decisions. For example, taking a plasterer from Powys to work in Pangbourne has an adverse impact on carbon emissions, air quality, traffic congestion, road safety and the well-being of the plasterer. Of course one plasterer makes little impact but if you multiply this by millions of contracts all over the country the impact is massive. The price that a plasterer is prepared to work for is variable and negotiable, the results of travel are less flexible. It seems that some buyers consider this to be somebody else’s problem. My other point was about lack of good information. The construction industry is nomadic by nature and contractors do not necessarily have good information about competitive local services, so they stick with the suppliers they know. Other professions are taking these issues much more seriously in the interests of sustainability, cost and long-term competitiveness. Other professional institutions such as the Institution of Civil Engineers have this at the top of their agenda, the car industry is competing around emissions, and retailers are all trying to out-green each other. My fear is that the procurement profession will be left behind if we continue to take such a narrow view of buyers’ responsibilities. Travel for trades is only one example of the wider impact that procurement professionals will need to consider in the next 10 years. You may want to ponder this next time you are sitting in motorway traffic going nowhere: Are you part of the problem or part of the solution?
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