In times of crisis, procurement should lead with care

Just when we think we are past the depth of the pandemic and seeing relief in our convoluted supply chains, a war erupts in Ukraine. Supply chain risk is here to stay.

The threats to Europe are likely impacting your business today. Fast paced and damaging economic sanctions against Russia have far reaching economic and political ramifications at home. Chances are that some portion of your global supply chain snakes through Russia and Ukraine, or their neighbors. And we are all at the mercy of forecasted cyberattacks.

As a profession, we have the opportunity to make sourcing decisions that support the common good. It is in this uneasy, perilous time that buyers really need to make a difference. Here’s how to get started.

Care

Sadly, I’ve been disappointed by many who claim to be too busy to care, succumb to pressure from uninformed management, or are just disinterested in the world around them and their role in it.

Care about your community, your country, and the world. We get consumed with the day-to-day minutia and often lose sight of how we interact with the world.

Beyond the current situation, we have the opportunity as a profession to make sourcing decisions that support the common good. We can green our supply chains, making sourcing decisions to work with suppliers who don’t pollute or damage the environment. We can support the ethical supply chain and work with companies in countries that support human rights. We can champion the social supply chain and advocate for HUB and small businesses.

Too often I hear buyers at all levels say things like “they don’t pay me to care” or “if I had time I would.” That’s a short-sighted and inappropriate attitude. Understand that the money you spend on behalf of your company is meaningful and has influence around the block or around the world.

engagement

Read, watch and listen. Pay attention to the headlines and understand that everything that happens in the global economy impacts your company, suppliers and extended supply chain.

Part of your fiduciary responsibilities as a buyer is to be aware of the impact of global trade on your business. Actively listen to your suppliers as well. They are often the emblematic canary in the coal mine. Share your knowledge with company management so they can adjust their plans and communicate with customers.

Buyers are on the front lines. Take advantage of your proximity.

lead

Take the initiative and lead. View procurement through the lens of leadership, not support.

Look at your long term sourcing decisions holistically and across all domains. Lead with the company in mind, but exercise your authority and leadership in the supplier community with how you spend your company’s money. Buy with purpose in mind and be prepared to proudly defend your sourcing decisions.

Be realistic on the limits of your influence. While today everyone seems focused on supporting Ukraine and penalizing Russia, don’t lose sight of procurement decisions at the local level.

There are two gas stations in my small town. Both sell gas at roughly the same price. One is owned by a large faceless corporation and the other by a local family that actively supports our community. I get my gas at the family owned station.

It all makes a difference.

This story was first published in our Procurement Weekly newsletter. Sign up here.

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