Putting values and morals on the purchasing agenda

21 December 2011
Renata Towlson is senior buyer (best practice) at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS TrustLast week, David Cameron said the time had come for public figures to teach “right from wrong” and questioned whether the Church of England had done enough to defend those in the face of the “moral neutrality” that pervades modern life. Procurement as a discipline also has a unique opportunity to ensure that the commerce, finance and the contractual acumen of the purchasing process addresses values and morals. Sustainability is one of the most prominent features of today’s socio-economical environment. During our tendering processes we have an opportunity to formulate evaluation criteria against robust, sustainable specifications, but are we standing up for what is right – do we know what is right? Is there a need to clarify what is right for the environment and for society from a procurement point of view and are we well enough prepared to meet the intellectual and practical challenges of contemporary times? I remain optimistic. Every day I meet buyers, category managers and heads of procurement who understand and promote sustainability in their work. I am a member of a Carbon Management Group and a promoter of a sustainable agenda, but I can see how difficult it is to engage all stakeholders. One reason is a lack of a recognised legal legitimacy behind the creation and weighting of sustainable criteria. There is understandable fear of discriminating one supplier against another, one region or country against another, of being unfair, not transparent enough, not giving an equal opportunity to different commercial entities. These dilemmas will not go away. My son’s school motto is ‘learn to love and love to learn’. In the spirit of the season I would like to paraphrase it and say ‘care to love and love to care’. Maybe the time has arrived to change ‘the most economically advantageous offer’ to ‘the most socio-economically advantageous offer’… Merry Christmas to all SM readers.
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