Social responsibility in the Finance Directorate

Steve Mole, Director of Finance, The University of Manchester, looks at the issues inherent in responsible procurement

My colleagues in research centres across The University of Manchester undertake world-leading research; making discoveries that save lives, creating materials of the future and contributing to policy developments across the world. We are used to seeing their achievements celebrated and rightly so.

They are arguably leading the way when it comes to supporting our institutional goal of being socially responsible; one of three strategic goals that are central to delivering our Manchester 2020 ambitions.

However, within this goal we have also identified responsible processes as a priority, which we believe falls squarely within the remit of the Directorate of Finance. Relying solely on the successes of our academic colleagues to provide our response to this agenda is not going to be sufficient. As a Directorate we are perhaps more likely to be considered as a hub of quiet efficiency (if we are lucky) than a focus for sustainability innovation, but if we want to make a meaningful contribution then this means taking responsibility for shaping the agenda in ways that make sense in our own context.

How, for example, can we embed social responsibility into the principles that drive much of our thinking? We probably refer to ‘value for money’ on a daily basis but as part of our strategic commitment to social responsibility we have been reflecting more on what constitutes value?  And going a step further, how can we unlock the value we know is contained within our supply chain?

Why start with procurement?

We are one of the largest procurers of goods and services in our region and one of the biggest universities in the world, so our procurement processes have been a sensible starting point for us in terms of the understanding and looking at the impact of our Directorate.

The Central Procurement Office committed to making great strides, using the Flexible Framework as a starting point, in a short period of time and has previously shared how it developed our institutional approach to responsible procurement.  How we engage with our suppliers is now the next step for the team and they are being no less ambitious!

Working with our suppliers

We have recently begun the process of rolling out an innovative supplier engagement tool that supports all of our suppliers to develop a free bespoke sustainability action plan for their business.  In doing so, the data the tool provides us with as an institution can help us measure our own impact, and help our Directorate demonstrate the social and economic contribution delivered within our supply chain.

Over time, we can work with our suppliers to maximise their contribution to society through our ongoing supplier engagement and contract management processes. We will continue to report on progress but we have already got over 100 suppliers who have created action plans and the roll out process is only in the very early stages.

Over the coming months all 8,000 of our suppliers will be given the opportunity to create an action plan and we intend to support and celebrate their achievements.

We think this supplier engagement is a demonstration of social responsibility

The hard work of the team is paying off and has meant that at our recent ‘Making a Difference Awards’ the work of our Central Procurement Office was recognised as part of the spectrum of institutional activity; it has also been shortlisted for a THELMA in the category of Best Procurement Team. Perhaps in future we will be sharing a little of the limelight with our academic colleagues after all!

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