Integrity is key in procurement – here’s how to preserve yours

When it comes to making key decisions in procurement, as any professional would know, the path forward is not always as simple as ‘this is right, and this is wrong’. How, for example, do you find the balance between good supplier relationship management and maximum value for your organisation? How do you ensure your contracts are legally watertight, while also allowing for appropriate exceptions if needed? The list goes on, but one thing is clear: you need to keep your integrity – or your moral compass – at all times. 

This is especially important when temptations can abound with suppliers: what’s the difference really, between a business meeting at a nice restaurant, and a supplier-funded gift? 

Integrity is key in procurement – here’s how to preserve yours

We all know someone in procurement who has crossed that ‘line’, but we also know that it’s exceptionally easy to do when the line isn’t clear. 

But why do some procurement professionals cross it, while others don’t? And how can we ensure that we keep our morals and integrity at all times? 

Why do people known for their integrity do unethical things? 

Renowned leadership coach, Founder and CEO of Populis, and author of Rise Warrior Rise,  Roh Singh – who has been successfully coaching businesses and executives for more than 30 years – has seen even the most exceptional leaders behave in highly questionable ways.

Based on his decades of observation, he believes that people make unethical decisions because: “Along the way they have fallen prey to seductions of external gratification over inner satisfaction….Their sense have overtaken their moral standings…because they may have lost respect for conducting their duties…instead prioritising ego-driven factors.”

Choosing to accept gifts from a supplier may indeed be prioritising ego or gratification over a company policy, but more so, what you know or feel is right. 

But there are a lot more ‘grey area’ decisions to be made in procurement. How can you ensure you keep your integrity? 

How to keep your integrity in 3 steps:

Step 1: Define your values

When it comes to all things procurement, your team and organisation will likely have a number of black-and-white policies that govern what you can and can’t do. 

But beyond those, the first step to keeping your integrity is to decide, outside of those policies, what is important to you at work – and to stick to this. 

These decisions can include everything from whether you prioritise sustainability when it comes to your suppliers (hint: you most definitely should), to how you feel about making concessions to your suppliers in the name of relationship management, vis-a-vis securing a better financial outcome for your organisation. 

Wherever you land with these decisions, it’s important to have a strong moral compass guiding you at all times. 

Step 2: Interrogate your choices 

Procurement is one profession that has a lot of power. Ultimately, when selecting suppliers, we can literally make or break someone’s business. 

And with power comes temptation, especially if you’re in a procurement role that is particularly autonomous and you are trusted to make critical decisions without considerable oversight from others. 

Maybe, just this one time, you engage a supplier that might not be the best for the business, but who makes your life that bit easier…

Although the temptation is always there to make a choice that might not be quite right, a great way to uphold integrity is to analyse every single choice you make. Ask yourself questions, such as: 

  • If my CPO knew about this, would he or she sing my praises? 
  • Would this decision advance my career, or detract from it? 

Step 3: Own your choices 

A big part of acting with integrity in procurement is not just questioning your decisions, but owning the choices you make. 

What this essentially means is, that if you do make a decision with a supplier or within a process that doesn’t result in the optimal outcome, that you’re honest and upfront about the mistake you’ve made – and that you don’t blame others for it. 

To ensure you do this, every time something goes wrong within your role, before reacting, it’s important to: 

  • Interrogate what went wrong, why, and what you could have done better 
  • Take responsibility, and endeavour to learn from your mistakes. 

What does integrity in procurement mean to you? How do you ensure you always act with integrity? Let us know in the comments below. 

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