Helping others to help themselves: Solar Sahelis in India promote the use of renewable power
Helping others to help themselves: Solar Sahelis in India promote the use of renewable power

Member focus: sustainability and ethics in action

CIPS has made it even easier for members to embrace responsible procurement 

This month CIPS is celebrating Global Ethics Day (16 October) and Anti-Slavery Day (18 October) by focusing on sustainable and ethical procurement. 

To mark these events a dedicated page has been set up on the website, providing a one-stop shop for members to access all the latest CIPS guidance and e-learning, including the CIPS ethics test, and to increase their professional knowledge.

In recent years ethical and sustainable practices have risen to the top of the business agenda in most parts of the world and are no longer considered a “nice to have”, but are increasingly seen as an essential way to protect a brand’s reputation as well as being the right way to do business. As Malcolm Harrison, group CEO, CIPS says: “Ethical and responsible procurement is now an economic and reputational imperative.” 

The Rana Plaza disaster in 2013 marked a turning point for supply chains in the fashion industry and set the scene for a step change in the way organisations – and their customers – think of both direct and indirect suppliers. As awareness of human rights issues has increased, so has the level of discernment among consumers. 

It has been proved that being seen to have the right values can attract customers – as well as the right suppliers – and the best talent to your brand. And at the same time it can have a positive impact on the local community, help the environment and help put an end to modern slavery. 

Harrison says: “There is a growing number of people who feel so strongly about ethical issues, they will choose to buy from, work for or invest in those organisations with the right reputation.” 

For these reasons alone, it’s important for procurement professionals to understand the implications of their sourcing and buying decisions. But reputational and human rights concerns are not the only benefits to come from an ethical and sustainable approach. Increasing your knowledge of these issues is an ideal way for procurement professionals to advance their own careers and the wider standing of procurement within their business. It is also a great chance to add value to their organisation: “The opportunity is there for the taking for procurement and supply to show the rest of the business that these issues sit firmly with us,” says Harrison. 

So what can procurement professionals do to get on top of these sometimes complex issues that range from concerns with social, environmental and economic sustainability to modern slavery, child labour issues, embedding social value and avoiding corruption? 

One way is to take advantage of the wealth of guidance, e-learning and professional development available from CIPS. Sitting the ethics test is a good place to start as it will increase your confidence and provide an instant insight into the pitfalls of fraud, bribery and human rights abuses. It is also essential if you are planning on gaining Chartered status, for which an up-to-date ethics certificate is required.

Global ethics day: 16 October

Young professionals
Sustainable and ethical practice is something that is increasingly important to young people in procurement. Recent studies in both the UK and the US have found that the majority of millennials would prefer to work for a company that has a positive impact on the world, and the 2019 CIPS/Hays Procurement Salary Guide found that 29% of men and 47% of women would actively choose to work for a company that was well known for its ethical practices. We asked the young winners of this year’s CIPS SM Awards for their views:

Ashleigh Turner, procurement analyst at Hastings Deering and winner of the 2019 CIPS Australasia Young Talent Award
“The nature of procurement allows us to see companies come together to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes. By running this channel we are primed to assess the ethical alignment that will see not only the alignment of values, but also the alignment of downstream matters such as culture and business objectives. I think procurement should look to deontological-style ethics – doing the right thing simply because it’s the right thing to do – as opposed to consequentialism, where the most morally correct action is the one with the best consequences, that we have been traditionally encouraged to support. It is through a deeper understanding and thus alignment of our ethics that we can develop sustainable and more socially responsible connections between companies.”

Lanz Toh, procurement manager – services, Shell, and winner of the 2019 CIPS Asia Young Procurement and Supply Professional of the Year 
“With the increased awareness of our impact on society and the environment, it is essential that we broaden the scope of ethics in business beyond just legality to the treatment of people, our use of resources and its impact on nature. As a window to the market, procurement professionals play a key role in enabling that. More organisations are now committed to having sustainability metrics tagged to C-suite performance, making it a clear way forward for all to follow. I am proud to be working in one of these organisations.”

Adam Bektic, associate director – procurement, Expo 2020 Dubai, and winner of the 2019 CIPS MENA Young Procurement and Supply Professional of the Year 
“Sustainability and ethics have been hot topics globally in recent times and we all need to be more conscious of the impact we are making, be that social, environmental or economic. As procurement professionals we can impact positively and influence key decision makers on these subjects through the work that we do – ensuring that the practices we undertake in business are above reproach.”

Slavery action
Government partners with CIPS, as it tightens grip on eradicating slavery 

The CIPS ethical online learning programme is to be part of the UK government’s actions to eradicate modern slavery in its supply chains. The training – covering slavery, fraud, bribery and corruption, human rights and procurement’s impact on the environment – will help ensure relevant staff are skilled in all aspects of procurement, and follow best practice.  

Last month, anti-slavery commissioner Dame Sara Thornton said that modern slavery needs a ‘Blue Planet moment’ to raise awareness, adding that it is a complicated process to show that an organisation takes these responsibilities seriously. Chris Harrop, group marketing and sustainability director at stone supplier Marshalls, agrees: “It is very important for consumers to understand. But business should be doing this on the consumer’s behalf now. It is incumbent upon us to find and fix it.” He adds that, where you find red flags around ethical challenges, “you can bet there are other areas of concern, such as quality”. In the 15 years that Marshalls has focused on ‘making its supply chains hostile and toxic to those who seek to use modern slavery’, its product quality has also improved. 

Harrop will share his learnings at the CIPS UK Conference, Day 2, on 1 Nov. 

Ask about Brexit
On Thursday 31 October, procurement professionals will gather at the CIPS UK conference in London. At 10.15, the session entitled Global trade uncertainty, tariffs and the ‘B’ word, with CIPS economist Dr John Glen, will look at, among other things, scenario planning in the face of political uncertainty and Brexit. Glen will take questions, so whether the UK leaves the EU on 31 October or not, now is the chance to send in your queries ahead of the day. Email

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