The living wage is not just about CSR

11 February 2013
With the dust having truly settled following living wage week last November, I am left wondering whether enough progress is being made at the right speed. There is no doubt that the living wage campaign really took off at the end of last year. The number of companies signed up to pay it has nearly doubled since November, to over 140. It has started to spread in the public sector as well as private, with the Department for Work & Pensions set to pay it, along with a growing number of local councils. There are plenty of discussions and there is certainly appetite from organisations to listen to companies like KPMG, articulating the benefits that can be accrued from paying the living wage, such as better retention, higher motivation, lower recruitment and training costs and, ultimately, lower absenteeism. However, are we seeing enough action? And can procurement play a bigger part in effecting change in this area? Change comes from challenge and positive change comes from positive dialogue. When was the last time you had a conversation with your senior executives regarding the living wage? Have you challenged enough internally and do you really understand your organisation’s position on this and why it is so? In procurement, we touch the organisation’s most significant areas of spend. By default, this means that we have relationships with a considerable number of companies, some of whom are market leaders in their field. Our influence reaches far and wide. We should not think about living wage as being an exclusive member of the CSR agenda – we are not the passenger here. Instead, we should use our platform - buyers and sellers coming together - to drive positive change in this area. At KPMG, we are now working with our key suppliers to understand the internal barriers that prevent them from paying the living wage. In parallel, the new Contractor Accreditation, being launched by the Living Wage Foundation, will allow suppliers to demonstrate their living wage credentials through a different mechanism. We believe that paying the living wage is the right thing to do; the supply chain is one of the main ways of helping it spread. Are you playing your part? ☛ Christina Vasili is head of Procurement at KPMG
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