A truly just cause

David Noble, Group CEO, Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply
10 December 2013

David Noble, CIPS CEO12 December 2013 | David Noble

I’m referring to cases such as the imprisonment of women for domestic labour in what appears to be a religious sect in south London and to the wide exploitation of male migrant workers as reported by Amnesty International ahead of the Fifa World Cup 2022.

This modern slave labour trade has a devastating effect on the victims themselves but also on us as a global society. Where victims are denied their wages, work in dangerous conditions, are beaten, undernourished and subjected to squalid living conditions, we exist cocooned from the knowledge of where and how our goods are actually created.

Such stories may seem far removed from our ordinary lives, but they’re on our doorstep. Complete the slavery footprint yourself (www.slaveryfootprint.org) to get an inkling of how endemic modern slavery is. Each of us has a responsibility to understand our individual contribution and how accountable we are on a personal level as well as being aware of the part modern slavery plays in our professional lives. To make the right moral, ethical choices takes constant vigilance and may feel like compassion fatigue – too vast to contemplate; so the danger is that unless we can act in a manner beyond reproach we end up doing nothing. Discussions around ethics can also become an academic, intellectual exercise on what it actually means, so we must make this firmly practical. CIPS has partnered with Traidcraft and the Walk Free Foundation to publish a freely-available guide to Ethical and Sustainable Procurement to support professionals in beating a path to a more ethical and sustainable procurement strategy.

Publishing this guide and having a code of conduct is a cornerstone of the institute and offers real solutions to ethical dilemmas.

Ethics is not about emotion, or religious commitment and is not regulatory to a large degree. It’s not about cultural norms or attacks on other societies. Following on from my comments in last month’s SM about how CIPS has committed its resources to licensing the profession, this forms part of that road and the work we’re doing with these partners to make it a reality in years to come.

Just as others have been rescued from slavery as a direct result of the brave actions of some, so we can make the right choices about how we conduct ourselves in business and change the lives of others. As MP Frank Field calls for a Modern Slavery Bill and others call for more actions to help eliminate this activity, let’s act now because it’s the right thing to do to lead the way in our profession.


Tomorrow’s leaders in the making

Anyone who aspires to be the best in any discipline can take comfort in the opportunities that surround business and other professions. There is always somewhere to go for knowledge and skills improvement, whether MBA 
or masters-level programmes.

CIPS recognises the need 
for professionalism at these highest levels. I mentioned our partnership to offer a masters-level qualification recently, 
now we have two dedicated leadership programmes to support anyone grappling with complex capital projects and also risk and resilience. When NHS IT projects are cancelled at a cost of £12bn to the taxpayer and BBC Broadcasting House overruns by four years and costs £100 million more than expected, there’s something seriously wrong in how some large projects are being handled in the public sector. While this could equally be applied to examples in the private and third sectors, 
there is a real need for senior procurement practitioners to get support to tackle high-profile projects with practical tools and frameworks. And, of course, to plug any skills gaps.

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