Procuring the way to ethical supply chains – insight from the Government Procurement Conference 2017

I recently attended the Government Procurement conference and I was pleasantly surprised to find social sustainability was, within the first hour named as one the future trends in the procurement landscape. Kevin McCafferty, previous Group Manager of Strategic Procurement and Supply Chains at Fortescue Metals, inspired the audience with his story about supply chain assessment and described it as a simple process using supply chain knowledge to narrow down to the slavery hot spots (with a little external help) and ultimately improve supplier performance. By communicating Fortescue Metal’s policy on human rights and calling out the offenders, those supplier sites were transformed from a being slavery hot spot to having some of the best working conditions in the supply chain.

The future it seems, is in transparency. Momentum is building for social and environmental outcomes to be driven by procurement with a growing number of initiatives that all lead to transparent supply chains; the Australian Modern Slavery legislation; the recent launch of ISO20400 Sustainable Procurement; the Global Reporting Initiative procurement standard; or certification programs like Good Environmental Choice Australia.

On hearing the rest of the speakers share their expertise in all things procurement, it’s apparent that the knowledge and know how is there to be put to good (sustainable) use. Procurement teams already have the frameworks in place for implementing supply chain solutions, what’s left to do is the integration of social and environmental values. Focusing on these social or environmental values during everyday practices, like supplier relationship or risk management, has potential to go beyond simply transactional procurement. Collaborating and supporting rather than managing suppliers for example, may open up opportunity for innovation such as reducing the carbon impact of a product, implementing ethical policy or sourcing an ingredient more locally. Any improvement of products and services will bring mutual benefit for both sides of business (supplier and the buyer), in helping to meet those sustainability targets.

The procurement world is our oyster. An ethically and sustainably sourced oyster. Personally, I am looking forward to working with more procurement professionals to help ‘harvest’ the opportunities that lie in the improvement of procured products or services and transparent supply chains.

To find out more about modern slavery and how Edge can help your organisation visit the Edge Library to download our recent Modern Slavery brief for business’s or contact us on +61 (0)2 9438 0100 or

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