Future Fleet Forum 2018: responsible procurement strategies, by Christopher Bell, City of London

Published:  10 March, 2018

Putting an innovation culture into action, Christopher Bell, commercial director for City of London, told delegates how he transformed a poorly performing procurement operation and successfully implemented a responsible procurement strategy. ‘We wanted to change the game. Innovation was key, and we had big ideas to take things forward quickly.’

Responsible procurement, said Chris, is the foundation for the whole operation. It needs dedicated resources and therefore buy-in at a senior level. This can be justified through legislation, risk, industry benchmarking and added value – CoL has 30 targeted objectives and pieces of documentation underpinning its three strategic pillar of social value, environmental sustainability and ethical sourcing.

Then it needs to be prioritised and tied into overall business values and objectives. The 30 objectives were prioritised over three years. Finally, a responsible procurement strategy requires internal collaboration. People from all sides of the business need to get on board, exchange best practice and lessons learned.

To implement any responsible sourcing strategy successfully requires governance and accountability. The City of London included objectives in appraisals, for example, to make it part of the day job. They also prioritised focus areas. ‘Pick quick wins, do good things, and get good new stories,’ said Chris. ‘This makes people want to get involved. To succeed you need engagement, collaboration, and cross-department buy in.’

Transparency and the sharing of ideas is also essential. ‘We were honest and said we were not good at this when we started, but we created roadmaps of where we wanted to go and delivered on that.’

Examples of City’s collaborative approach include the London Responsible Procurement Network. This is a group of 40 public sector organisations that started out as a way of sharing tips online and has evolved into an effort to harmonise all things to do with responsible procurement.

Another is the establishment of a Social Value Panel. ‘This was our response to the Social Value Act. We take every contract to this panel to hear from the people of the community about what’s important to them. We have had some great ideas to take forward. If you ask for help, the response is incredible.’

For low level procurement between £10,000 and £100,000, CoL can seek three quotes. One of these has to be from either a UK SME, a social enterprise, or a local supplier. ‘For more strategic procurement above this level we have mechanisms for the complete procurement life cycle, and 10% of the evaluation criteria on every tender focus on responsible procurement.’

Pre-procurement is critical, said Chris. ‘You have to know your market. We do everything from desk-based studies to market engagement and speaking to experts. We trial ideas so we understand what is achievable because sometimes our aspirations are ahead of time. We also have an ongoing dialogue with industry. Outcomes include vehicle trials that have resulted in us embedding them in the supply chain.’

Then comes specification. ‘We try not to fully specify anything as we are not the experts. Instead we provide a menu of options, six or seven themes that give suppliers guidance about what it important to us but doesn’t put them off through an inflexible approach.’

Supplier selection is a two-stage process and CoL has some mandated requirements, such as FORS Bronze within three months because of road safety targets. For supplier evaluation, however, CoL does not mandate specific accreditation. ‘We focus instead on what a business can do for us. For instance, we provide examples of environmental management systems and ask suppliers to explain how they will manage this. And we use the menu idea here to provide examples of social value options such as creating apprenticeships.’

Mobilisation is about ensuring that responsible procurement is embedded into every contract. This is really about managing relationships with suppliers and encouraging them to do more to build on responsible procurement objectives.

Finally, in terms of contract management, CoL is launching a corporate procurement score card and all suppliers will be measured against ten criteria. Three of these will fall under responsible procurement, and suppliers will be assessed every three months.

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