We're in this together WHY THE FUTURE OF SUPPLY CHAINS IS SYMBIOTIC
BY SARAH SANNEN (OPERATIONS & FINANCE MANAGER) & KENDALL BENTONCOLLINS (STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER) FROM GECA
Though an ancient practice, procurement, along with all the players involved, has recently been through a significant evolution. Procurement has moved from a purely ‘cost-cutting’ function toward a more holistic lens focused on economic, social and environmental benefits. After many decades as an ad hoc function, procurement is now an essential part of an organisation’s strategy and risk management process.
he days of competing on price alone are long behind us. For your business to maintain its social licence to operate and even be compliant with the law, there are many more factors that you need to consider. An essential aspect of having a fully evolved procurement process is the quality of your relationships with your suppliers. This means infusing your relationships with authentic dialogue, mutual respect and a spirit of inclusion.
MOVING FROM CHECKLISTS TO CONVERSATIONS
The very term ‘supplier’ implies a one-way, if not parasitic, relationship. In reality, these are your business partners. Reframing the language may help to shift the power dynamic associated with ‘suppliers’ and encourage collaboration. In the past, for instance, many businesses sent questionnaires to their suppliers that didn't allow for nuanced responses. Closed-form questions can result in a skewed version of your supplier's reality and certainly doesn't allow them to discover more about your company’s wider vision. Practical steps you can take when reaching out to your suppliers can include using open-ended questions and setting up face to face meetings where possible. Remember to treat this as the development of a business relationship. What are you both hoping to get out of this relationship? How can you meet your shared and different goals? Ensure that you invite feedback from your suppliers on your company’s performance. Use reviews to encourage both buyers and suppliers to adopt improvements for mutual benefit.
Have you communicated your company’s sustainability priorities? For instance, your hotels may have been developed around a commitment to creating beautiful, healthy spaces for people while treading lightly on the planet. Do your suppliers share your vision? Do the people within your supply chain work in healthy conditions? According to Edge Environment, most of their clients have found that over 80% of their impact is in their supply chain. Procurement practices are hugely impactful. You can make that impact meaningful by finding out how to support and strengthen communities and their environment. Ask your suppliers if they have a passion for a certain cause or if they are working to champion a social or environmental initiative in their local community. How can you help make this come to life? If your suppliers do something positive, don't forget to celebrate this! For example, you can feature them on your social media channels or submit them for an award. If your new approach to supplier engagement is met with resistance, remember that this is a valuable learning opportunity! Seek first to understand and then to be understood – meet your supplier where they are rather than dictating requirements and solutions. It's about moving from having separate to shared objectives.
Even the strongest business partnerships can come up against roadblocks. If you find something going on in your supply chain that goes against your values or is illegal, for example, there are steps that should be taken before ending the relationship.