Retail buyers not under more pressure to be ethical, says SM Jury

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
1 March 2015

A majority of buyers do not believe those working in the retail sector face greater pressure to be ethical than those in other industries, according to a survey.

In an SM Jury poll, when asked ‘Are buyers in the retail sector under more pressure to be ethical compared to other industries?', seven voted “no” and five voted “yes”.

Jury members felt while the spotlight may be on retail at the moment following high-profile cases including the investigation of Tesco by the groceries code adjudicator, all buyers had a duty to behave ethically.

Alex Martin, IT business services principal consultant at SAP, voted “no”. “I believe this to be a temporary media spotlight on them,” he said. “Across the procurement profession, I believe many are being unfair to their business partners and will continue to be until the spotlight turns on them. Too often I hear of companies explaining how collaborative their procurement function is only to let themselves down by defaulting to a beat-up-the-supplier, knee-jerk reaction during deals, which leads to failures in the supply chain.”

Gary Moore, procurement performance manager at BAE Systems, also voted “no”. “Ordinarily, every and any professional procurement practitioner in any sector is subject to an equal level of ethical obligation,” he said. “You can’t perform your role if you indulge in unethical behaviour and practices, institutionalised or not, as the negatives will impact at some point. The truth will out.”

But David Turner, director of Spend Solutions, voted “yes”. “The public can very easily vote with their feet and switch brands. I think that retailers are now using ethics as a differentiator and as such can command a small premium in pricing in many markets.”

Nic Porter, managing director at Procuring, agreed. “The pressure on retailers to be ethical comes from consumers – it is perhaps not a conscious desire of consumers that their retailers are ethical but more a negative reaction when it transpires that they haven’t been,” he said.

“Retailers spend millions of pounds on advertising and reinforcing their brand values but even a small transgression within their supply chain - even if it is not directly their own product such as the horse meat scandal - can negatively impact on their business.”

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