Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Is there a risk of procurement dysfunctionalism on CSR?

Procurement Leaders have just published some findings from their research on the embedding of CSR in procurement. I don't have access to the full report but you can gain a feel through the freely available Executive Summary. The research suggests that 82% of respondents have managed to include CSR in supplier selection and evaluation criteria yet "it barely features in the overall procurement strategy".

The question I want to pose is quite simply: 'Without a procurement policy or procurement strategy commitment, is it right to include CSR in supplier selection and evaluation criteria?'

I truly believe procurement could and should make a major strategic contribution to CSR. Indeed I have been arguing that for 20 years. However, is it appropriate for procurement professionals to pursue CSR objectives without a mandate from the corporate leadership? I don't think it is.

Shareholders, and in the public sector the electorate through their politicians, need to set the priorities of the organisation. The CPO has a role in shaping those objectives and helping the organisation understand what can be achieved through procurement. But if the corporate leadership of the organisation have not said CSR is a strategic priority why should a penny more be spent on it by procurement? Is procurement not acting as a maverick pursuing goals not strategically agreed?

We all recognise that to embed CSR in procurement will be a major challenge and we have to salute those Procurement Leaders the research has identified as embedding CRS in tactical decision making. However, I would argue that CPOs first need to agree a Procurement Policy or Strategy which embraces CSR before embedding it in their decision-making. Of course embedding CSR in short-term decision making means that it can just as easily be dropped from short-term decision making at the whim of a new CPO - excuse the pun but if we want a 'sustainable' approach to sustainable procurement we need to gain the ownership of the C-suite.

Taking another perspective, is it not likely we would be concerned if CPOs sought to embed personal prejudices in procurement decision making, so what's the difference?  

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