CIPS Fellows event – “Doing the right thing – people, planet, profit – the role of procurement in walking the talk!”

Sustainability and ethicability champion Gill recently attended a CIPS Fellows (Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply) event on Doing the Right Thing and the role of procurement.  The topics selected for the evening are all hugely topical and it is vital any responsible business understands and delivers on this ever growing range of topics which include The Modern Slavery Act and, exploitation in supply chains, diversity and inclusion, and the risks on global brands from relying totally on ethical audits.

Among the speakers were hosts Pinsent Masons LLP, Oxfam GB’s Head of Corporate Responsibility, Head of Business Developments Gangmaster Licensing Authority, Global CSR Manager Intel Corporation, Sales and Marketing Director-Membership Stonewall – with the Chair of the CIPS Fellows Committee – Shirley Cooper facilitating the Q&A session.

As the speakers shared insights it certainly highlighted the huge demands on corporations and the ever growing challenges today’s procurement teams face.

Here are some of our favourite thoughts and takeaways from the evening …

“Responsible businesses stay engaged, share best practice and back up their claims”

“You need a strategic and collaborative approach – you can’t do it alone”

“Collaborate to build leverage in the supply chain and that will create the ripple effect”

“Why do we do the right thing – because we want everyone to feel safe, included and comfortable in being themselves at work”

“Audits don’t catch criminals – slavery exists, accept it and share the awareness”

“Take the lead – know your supply chain”

“If you suspect exploitation or trafficking – contact the GLA or Crimestoppers as a first step.  We would rather investigate what turns out to be a false alarm than let something go undetected”

The session had a packed agenda. Following the opening and welcome from Pinsent Masons, Oxfam shared their insights on what they termed “beyond audit” and how increasingly the general feeling is that audits to mitigate risk are actually not the answer.  They put forward a more strategic approach, helping to drive change through leverage in the supply chain.  We heard how critical it is to reduce the overload on the suppliers with multiple audits and assessments;  the importance of developing long term relationships and to better understand the impacts of late orders, late payments and last minute changes – all of which add additional pressure on the supplier.  Their key message was to work with procurement and ethical teams to ensure sustainable progress.

We as a company have seen the massive growth over the last 20 years for ethical and sustainable audits. We joined SEDEX as a matter of principle – Sedex aims to reduce audit fatigue – and yet, corporations continue not to have their own bespoke audits, even though they maybe participating in SEDEX SMETA or SA8000.  We agreed with the GLA speaker who pointed out that audits can hide all kinds of things and won’t help companies catch the criminals.   The major corporations are requesting all of these hugely expensive audits (expensive for all parties), however, is this really protecting their brand reputation?

Oxfam presented their approach for “beyond audit”. They cited an example where in five months, from January to May 2014, a factory had been audited seven times by seven separate retailers at a total cost of 12000 US Dollars. Surely this audit practice cannot be right?  The question facing the supplier was how to spend this money more effectively. As Oxfam pointed out, the starting point is to buy ethically, ensuring we protect the people down the chain and the planet.

As the topics moved from audits to diversity and inclusion, Intel presented great examples of work in the diversity and inclusion area, demonstrating how a dedicated strategy can bring innovation, creativity and velocity to a company.  Intel have four main areas of focus: care for people, inspiring the next generation, caring for the planet and Supply Chain responsibility. It was great to hear how Intel has collaborated to bring the World’s first conflict-free microprocessors though a partnering programme.  We heard how Intel work with organisations such WEConnect International who certifiy women owned businesses, and how they can support corporations globally with their diversity programmes. In Gill own words: “I loved the way Intel talked also about diversity of thought!”

Everyone was gripped by the speaker from the GLA – he shared an example of crime in the supply chain and took us through the process followed by criminals to enslave people here in the UK.  Labour exploitation has now overtaken sexual exploitation in the UK with a conservative estimate placed at 13,000 exploited workers.  The business model is a simple one.  Lure workers from another country with the promise of housing and job.  Don’t demand payment for their fares or their housing to begin with, thereby placing them in your debt.  Open bank accounts in their name, claim benefits and keep their ID and passports “safe”.  You can now control their money, siphon dirty money through their bank accounts (which you control) and take their benefits.

Bring the topic back to diversity, our last speaker explained the Stonewall Equality Index (WEI) and how that is helping organisations improve their diversity and inclusion. Joining Stonewall as a diversity champion offers access to advice, guidance, best practice and CPD accredited programmes, with their global focus on winning hearts and minds along with changing the laws.

It was a really, insightful event with fantastic speakers, over looking wonderful views across London – what more could you want!

Speaker panel CiPs Doing the right thing