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Supply chain suppliers can do more…action rather than words

Updated: Oct 27


The move towards more purposeful business is now becoming a mainstream strategy for many mid and top tier businesses. This is welcome and essential if we are to address many of the societal and ecological challenges facing us right now and for at least the next few decades.


However, allow us to make an observation. It appears it is the big brands who are leading the way and why is simple. Their customers are making the transition to a more caring persona and therefore it is quite right and logical that they align themselves with this mind set from a commercial perspective. But what of the companies who are essential components of the supply chain of these emerging and well established brands?


The truth is that service driven suppliers are often running so fast that they have little time to address the issue of social value let alone take action beyond short term measures like employee volunteering and philanthropic donations. Now don’t get us wrong, these are very welcome and much appreciated by the beneficiaries and we applaud the intent, but the potential is so much greater for all concerned.


Consider for a moment how the Social Value Act is disrupting the procurement process. According to the government, as of 1st January 2021, social value should be explicitly evaluated in all central government procurement. Social value, sustainability, and corporate social responsibility are no longer ‘nice to have’ they are now an intrinsic element of a suppliers offer and are being scored alongside service, quality and price.


These new trading standards are now being adopted across private sector procurement functions as a further demonstration of their alignment with government's request for more responsible business. So if you are a supplier this will land on your door mat and not being ready for this is not future proofing your business. In truth most businesses are moving in this direction but few in the supply chain are match fit or mindful of the competitive advantage it can deliver.


The fact of the matter is a more fundamental shift is required within supply chain businesses. The commercial and ethical imperatives now demand more sustainable impact and seek greater strategic corporate benefit, recognising that in the best scenarios social value delivers for all stakeholders.


What does good social value delivery look like?


· Well planned and executed

· Aligned causes with the needs of all stakeholders considered

· Sustainable delivery preferably with embedded value based on your core competencies

· Regenerative solutions – teaching to fish (upskilling), and empowering others

· Far reaching measurable impact measured in real terms and through testimony that captures and communicates the extent of social change delivered

· Celebrating success – the war is rarely won but celebrating small victories for what they are is important to maintain motivation, focus and to build and support an authentic reputation for social value delivery. [the important role that support businesses play in delivering on-the-ground and the role of beneficiaries MUST not be ignored and should form the lion share of the celebration – this is important to support the reputation and value that these organisations bring to the solutions provided]


At its best a supply chain would deliver social value at every level with every link in the chain contributing in its own way. In essence, responsible business from top-to-bottom, and/or cradle-to-grave. With this in mind cascading a social value mind set is important and is best served by role modelling activities that reflect an organisations social values through video, images or compelling narrative. Communicating social value requires particular sensitivity to avoid accusations of show boating or green washing. The objectives of any and all messaging about social value must be considered at the outset and the content carefully curated to ensure that the chosen lens is working for everyone.


We recommend taking a data driven approach to social value delivery. It is not good enough to approach an identified need without a full understanding of the context of the issue within a specific community and the underlying causes. The key is to fully map all stakeholders and issues before any action is decided upon. The proposed solutions can then be prioritised and planned to optimise the impact in a logical and sustainable way. The focus must be on the beneficiaries with the sustainability and efficacy of the solution coming a close second.


In summary, if you are a service business within any private or public sector supply chain it is now time to take social value delivery very seriously. It is a complex area but when done well can be the most effective tool to build your reputation whilst most importantly making you an powerful agent for change. When people speak of purpose, this is how it is defined, in action rather than in words.


Good Karma Media – is a registered social enterprise and a leader in social value creation and communication strategy. Contact us at www.goodkarmamedia.co.uk .


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