Collaborating for Sustainability By Mellita D'Silva

Dear Reader – I am guilty of recycling my own content. This one is from a LinkedIn post I wrote three years ago, but still very much relevant today, and you will see why later in this article.

“It takes two flints to make a fire.” – Louisa May Alcott

This is a case study I presented at the Institute for Collaborative Working (ICW) course in March 2019. All delegates had to make an individual presentation on how we had applied the principles of collaboration to achieve an outcome. I recognise that I was only thinking about sustainability outcomes at the time. But it was a pleasant surprise that I ended up with a collaborative relationship with Camden Council.

Why does this case study come to mind?

In my current consultancy day job, I work with a lot of local authorities who are trying to get the ‘best/added value for money’ from their supply chain whilst also trying to mitigate the harsh impacts of modern slavery, carbon emissions and plastic waste. Their understanding of added value or value for money, however, is usually money saved on budget rather than cost avoidance or mitigation.

When dealing with one such client, I heard the typical comment about ‘lack of time and resources.’ As a procurement professional, I completely understand this. Procurement teams often are understaffed due to a failure to recognise the crucial role this service department plays within an organisation. But what my client said shocked me:

‘Collaboration is a fancy term, why do I need to do it? I tell the supplier my requirements, they should supply what I need and do it now.’

Let us stop here for a moment, close our mouths from hanging open at that comment, and explore a positive case study about sustainability and collaboration.

A case study on collaborating for sustainability

On the HS2 Enabling Works Contract (EWC), the head contract Works Information suggested as an example (not stipulated) that we engage with the local boroughs affected by the project work to ensure community engagement and investment. There were also targets around the percentage of SMEs in the supply chain.

We saw this as an opportunity to engage early on with our local borough, Camden, to encourage local businesses and SMEs. Sound simple? Well, it was. And this is because both sides had a common goal and the right behaviours to collaborate, and managed to pull together all their resources and support to make it happen.

It was a meeting at our offices – the JV office working on the enabling works of HS2 with the economic development officers at Camden. The proposal was simple: to work together to encourage local and SME suppliers and subcontractors in our supply chain for this project. After deciding on the goal, all that was needed to do was make it work.

Process & outcome

We started by identifying tenders suitable for SMEs, any contractual dispensations we could offer them, any potential training needs, and ways we could simplify our ITT pack.

Then, together with Camden borough and CompeteFor, we advertised a workshop event for the SMEs and local supply chain. We invited suppliers from Camden to participate in an interactive session wherein we helped them fill out dummy tenders to break down the barriers to SMEs and diverse businesses being able to tender for works on large infrastructure projects. The outcome of this meant that we targeted the right supply chain for our works and had almost 52% SMEs, local and diverse suppliers on our projects.

The relationship between the EWC and Camden borough is one of the purest forms of collaboration as we did not have a contract between us.

We were not obligated to collaborate to make anything happen. But we came together with a common objective, we said what we would do, and we did it. Having the right people in the room – people who displayed openness, trust, and willingness to share information – made this possible. Moreover, we beat the client’s targets of having a diverse supply chain on board.

I am passionate about sustainability and collaboration and will continue to see them collide positively in my job.

Would you like to learn more about how collaboration can benefit your sustainability strategy and your procurement process to generate social value? Reach out to our Lead Sustainable Procurement Consultant – Mellita D’Silva.

For more information

Mellita D’Silva
Sustainable Procurement Consultant

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