Moral concerns

Andrew Pring
10 December 2013

Andrew Pring © Akin Falope10 December 2013 | Andrew Pring

Writing as someone still quite new to procurement, I’ve been deeply impressed by the high levels of social awareness I keep coming across amongst practitioners.

I’ve been particularly struck by two ongoing initiatives: the heartfelt commitment to sustainability many companies display; and even more impressive, the profession’s emerging support for Walk Free, the campaign to eradicate the appalling mediaeval-style slavery that nearly 30 million people still endure in these supposedly modern and enlightened times.

The campaign was given a notable boost at last month’s CIPS Australasia conference by the Walk Free Foundation’s chairman, Andrew Forrest, the billionaire Australian mining chief and philanthropist. He pointed out that, through repugnant labour hire practices embedded in supply chains, almost every industry is affected. And with enormous passion he declared it the moral duty of every procurement professional to map 
and audit their supply chain and ensure it is “slavery proof”.

CIPS president Craig Lardner tells me Forrest’s call to action moved both himself and the audience greatly. But he added, tellingly, that this is not an evil that can be extirpated overnight. Slavery will take years of endeavour to conquer and will be a true test of the profession’s commitment to a higher role than enhancing shareholder value. That said, though, self interest should play in favour of Walk Free’s tenets. As the public grows more aware of the scandalous use of slave labour by household names, those are the firms whose shareholder returns will be inexorably eroding.

Saving money in local government

It’s encouraging to see Surrey County Council saving millions of pounds annually through a shared purchasing initiative with East Sussex County Council. At last, the barriers that have habitually impeded such initiatives are starting to crumble in the hidebound world of local authorities.

Once these joint working initiatives start, scales fall from the eyes of local chief execs everywhere and real money-saving momentum builds and builds. To help give the process a further nudge, the TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA) recently came up with a list of 201 ways to save money in local government. It’s well worth a look, though a tad heartbreaking at how obvious they are and yet how unexplored. Top of the TPA’s list is the holy grail of sharing services with neighbouring councils and other public sector bodies. Joint procurement deals follows hotly on its heels. Stop hiring management consultants is another suggestion. The justification: “Managers and executives at councils are usually paid quite handsomely and claim to have expertise. Use it!” The TPA’s gimlet eye also espies waste in annual subscriptions to, for example, the Local Government Association – “a surprisingly significant sum”. One starts to wonder how much sway procurement chiefs have been exercising all these years. An unfair thought, I’m sure. Can you help me put the TPA right?

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