'Don’t neglect incumbent suppliers in pursuit of social value'

Procurement professionals shouldn’t neglect incumbent suppliers in the pursuit of social value, the CIPS UK Conference was told.

Sarah Fraser, head of the Willmott Dixon Foundation, said it was important to think about the “unintended consequences” which could come from seeking to incorporate social enterprises into your supply chain.

“If you go out and say, 'We're only going to work with these types of suppliers’, what about all of the people you were working with before? 

“If we're working with a family-run groundwork business, and then suddenly we say we're going to put all our money with another supplier, they could go out of business and lose their jobs, and that's not social value,” Fraser added. 

Accessibility remains a major issue for small businesses and social enterprises, and often they are put off from working with large corporates as there’s often “too much paperwork” and they feel like they have to “jump through hoops”. “We need to think about how we meet these suppliers half way if they're the people we want to work with,” Fraser added.

Nikki Rowbottom, head of supply chain management at the British Library, said: “We want to put social value at the heart of everything we do, but we have a background of regulation and we have to be seen to be treating all of our suppliers the same, whether they are a one-man-band, or a global multi-million-pound business.

“How do I actually make sure the playing field is level for both of them to tender their services to me? How do I make sure that I'm evaluating them in exactly the same way?”

Efficiency is key for Rowbottom’s team and streamlining tender documents and contracts and introducing contract management has, in turn, had a positive impact on social value. 

“All of it has really good social value messages which are a fantastic byproduct which we can share with our supply chain and our users to say, 'This is what we do and this is why we do it', so that we can help people understand how we spend our money to protect the legacy for the future.”

Ben Carpenter, CEO of Social Value UK, added social value is about having a positive impact on people’s lives and wellbeing. “If we want to impact people’s lives in a positive way, we need to know what they care about,” he said. 

“I think everyone's waking up to the fact that there is a climate emergency and there is rising inequality. Even as procurement officers, we have the power to change the way decisions are made by looking at other forms of value,” he said.

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