Currently at J Sainsbury, Dunne has also worked at Nissan, MFI, Boots and Howdens ©Cressida Jade
Currently at J Sainsbury, Dunne has also worked at Nissan, MFI, Boots and Howdens ©Cressida Jade

Winner: Patrick Dunne focuses on people not results

11 October 2019

Investing in staff brings value to the bottom line, believes Patrick Dunne, procurement lead at J Sainsbury, who was crowned Leader of the Year at the CIPS Supply Management Awards

Described by the panel as a successful leader in procurement and supply in multiple businesses, sectors and countries, Dunne’s sights have recently been focused on the UK retail institution that is J Sainsbury plc, which includes Argos, Habitat and Sainsbury’s Bank among its subsidiaries. 

With the benefit of almost three decades of international procurement experience, Dunne is a firm believer in investing in people, an approach he believes leads to value creation. His years of commercial experience have helped him take a relatively young, London-based team and begin a two-to three-year vision to develop them into a great team.

“There is a lot of expertise in the team, so I built their confidence and encouraged them to believe in themselves,” says Dunne. “I empowered them to believe they could drive procurement-led change, especially where we identified areas of greater value, such as marketing and property.”

He has supported the team in meetings, explains Dunne, and was able to open doors to the executive boardroom so that J Sainsbury’s procurement professionals could secure sponsorship and support at the highest levels.

Dunne’s leadership was credited by the judges for bringing “a real focus on developing people through training, development, and implementation of the apprenticeship programme to support CIPS qualification”. 

Supportive procurement

The aim was to make the team “more agile”, explains Dunne. And, where previously the procurement department was based solely in London, the company now has teams in locations such as Manchester, Milton Keynes and Edinburgh. “There are now procurement specialists directly supporting stakeholders from our logistics and technology teams.” 

Indeed, Dunne has challenged the traditional role of J Sainsbury’s procurement from an internal service provider into a value-adding contributor to the bottom-line. He has also realised ambitious cost-transformation targets by introducing a programme of procurement-led change across the group, creating synergies and savings as well as leading an end-to-end review of the group’s cost base. Most recently, his role has expanded to see him developing and leading property strategy for the group. 

Achieving step-change

The CIPS SM Awards judging panel applauded Dunne for “achievement of a step-change in the impact of procurement in a sector where procurement and supply best practices have not typically had real focus”. This change was achieved, Dunne says, by pushing a new procurement policy into the organisation.

When he arrived at the company, anyone could negotiate a contract, explains Dunne. “So we needed procurement alignment. I started by making sure procurement could help the business more. Previously, procurement was a service – people would call up and say they needed help with a contract and procurement would respond. It was acting as a contract approval team.” Now procurement drives commercial change, which is fundamental, given its £3bn spend. 

Dunne, who has twice graced the CIPS Procurement Power List, is proud to receive the CIPS Leader of the Year award, and hopes to be able to pass on his learnings, which began at the Nissan Motor Company. For a decade, he played leading roles in Nissan’s revival and integration with Renault, before working for furniture store MFI as purchasing director, establishing the firm’s Asian sourcing and supply chain operations. He was part of the team that grew Howden Joinery Group, and led the new Asian sourcing and supply chain operations, before taking the role of COO for UK-based Howdens Kitchens.

Prior to joining Sainsbury’s, Dunne spent 10 years at Walgreens Boots Alliance, where he led the group’s property and procurement functions to realise ambitious commercial targets. 

The most important lesson he’s learned so far, he says, is “it’s not about results per se, it’s about people. It might sound twee,” he continues, “but it comes down to the relationships those people create – that’s where the true value lies. My job is to ensure the team are of a high enough calibre to create value in the business.”  

The CIPS SM Awards judges recognised Dunne’s “acute commercial acumen and leadership, which has transformed procurement and supply in several large multinational brands with a real focus on developing people and raising the bar for the function. He is an inspirational leader who regularly gives back to the profession, demonstrating procurement’s value beyond its more traditional roots”. 

Career history

2018: director of group property, procurement and cost transformation, J Sainsbury plc

2017: director of group procurement and cost transformation, J Sainsbury plc

2015: chief property and procurement officer, Walgreens Boots Alliance (US)

2008: group property and procurement director, Walgreens Boots Alliance (UK)

2005: chief operating officer, Howdens Kitchens

2004: managing director, Howdens Joinery, Asia

2001: group purchasing director, MFI UK

1992: European purchasing manager, Nissan Motor Company


CIPS SM Awards 2019 Overall winner

Warwick, Warwickshire/Hybrid
Up to £45,000 per annum + bonus, life insurance, pension up to 12% and various flexible benefits
National Grid
Warwick, Warwickshire/Hybrid
Up to £51,000 per annum + bonus, life insurance, pension up to 12% and various flexible benefits
National Grid