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    Blog

    Making Procurement with Purpose Real | Data is Not Enough

    Last month was the driest July in almost 100 years in the south of England, where I live. I’ve kept my vegetables alive with judicious use of watering cans (recycled water wherever possible) but my lawn is beige and crunchy to the touch. We also saw the UK’s highest ever temperature recorded recently – 40.3 Centigrade or 104.5 Fahrenheit. Even a decade ago, that would have been unthinkable here.

    There is little doubt that extreme weather is becoming more common as climate change starts to bite. A host of other serious issues are affecting individuals, governments and companies around the globe, from inflation and energy shortages to the war in Ukraine, whilst ongoing challenges such as human rights, inequality, water management, deforestation and species loss continue to affect the planet and billions of its people.

    My book, Procurement with Purpose – How organisations can change the way they spend money NOW to protect the planet and its people was published last November. It reflects how organizations are using procurement and working with suppliers to drive change, whether that is around the net zero agenda, pushing for improved human rights, diversity and equality in supply chains, or working to develop more circular approaches to avoid waste and pollution. The way many people have responded to this agenda is encouraging! But there is so much more we can do in the procurement community.

    Procurement with Purpose in Action

    Critically, we need to realise that actions such as gathering data, requiring climate change commitments from suppliers or asking them to provide certain accreditations or certification do not in themselves achieve anything. Unfortunately, having a filing cabinet (real or virtual) full of suppliers’ net zero plans does not in itself save one ounce of carbon. Such initiatives may well be helpful or even essential on the journey to a more purposeful and sustainable procurement.

    Data is important as an enabler! It is understandable that many have focused on this sort of activity over the last couple of years, as professionals embraced this agenda for the first time. But it is not enough. We now have to turn good intentions into actions to generate real change and positive outcomes.

    Having data on Scope 3 emissions is good; but how will we use that? How will that data translate into reduced emissions through our supply chains? Are we sure that our suppliers really aren’t destroying rainforest to produce our raw materials? Are our actions helping to improve the lives of those employed in factories, mines or fields two or three levels down the supply chain? A certificate indicating “good employment practices” in far-off lands means nothing, to be frank.

    Start to Embrace Procurement Change

    The first stage of embracing procurement with purpose is to develop an understanding of these issues. This development needs to happen within the procurement communities and throughout the business as a whole. Development must turn into plans, actions, measured results, analysis and continuous improvement. And this needs to happen quickly! The “burning platform” metaphor from change management is a cliché but when a born and bred Brit like me experiences 100F+ temperatures in our country, the cliché becomes worryingly apposite.

    Jaggaer as a firm has supported the procurement industry positively with the movement toward purpose. Which is why, I look forward to speaking at the JAGGAER REV2022 event in Nashville this October. I will be focusing on these challenges around making sustainable and purposeful procurement “real”. And looking at how professionals can implement meaningful programmes in their organisations. I hope to trigger some stimulating debates while I am there too. But these topics are very new to all of us. We are all still learning about new aspects to them each day. But we need to accelerate this process before it is too late, so we need to share our experiences together to make a brighter future for procurement.


    Author Bio

    Peter Smith MA FCIPS FRSA

    MD, Procurement Excellence and Business Author

    Peter started his procurement career at Mars Confectionery, then was Procurement Director for Dun & Bradstreet Europe, the Department of Social Security, and NatWest Group. He is a Fellow and was 2003 President of CIPS. He founded Procurement Excellence in 2004 and from 2010-18 was Managing Editor of the Spend Matters Europe website. His first co-authored book, “Buying Professional Services” was published in 2010. “A Procurement Compendium” followed in 2019, and Penguin published “Bad Buying – How Organisations Waste Billions Through Failures, Frauds and F*ck-ups” last year. With collaborator Mark Perera, his latest book, “Procurement with Purpose”, was published in November 2021.

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