During the pandemic Unilever worked with a number of co-manufacturers to fast-track products from 'idea to product' in days rather than years during the pandemic. Dave Ingram's - Unilever's Chief Procurement Officer, commented in a recent article in Supply Management that: “Agility has been a big drive across our complete business and across our supply chain in particular. We operate a supply chain in the region of 50 to 60 days of stock. We want to have a mindset that we make today what we saw yesterday. There are many challenges to get there but we are moving in the right direction”.

What is particularly interesting here is that the 60-70 new co-manufacturing suppliers Unilever 'switched on' in the first few months of the pandemic appeared to have been ready and compliant with the company's responsible sourcing policy. 'Buyer' and 'Supplier' were able to undergo and process virtual audits in days rather than months. This is a great example of when needs must, appropriate and responsible checks don't necessarily need to slow things down - in this case the supplier base was evidently ready and willing.

With ESG issues increasingly prominent in consumers' minds, it's interesting to see how procurement is facilitating the ESG agenda in the supplier base at scale and at pace. Collaborating with suppliers to find solutions across the supply chain will be what drives a step change in more macro problems of climate change and harnessing scope 3 emissions reduction targets through the supplier base.

Elsewhere, as reported in this article Supply Management, both Sainsbury's and construction firm Mace have been talking about working alongside their vendor bases to try offer assistance, educate and look at ways to get to net zero. "No one organisation has the answer to all of this and so having to share and work across industries because it's for the good of the planet that we do this together. Procurement is well placed for that.” commented Patrick Dunne, CPO at Sainsburies. Clare Jones, CPO at Mace explained that working with steel producers to reduce emissions by 2020 might seem far out but changing steel production sites is not a quick fix.

All in all, it seems the game changer in fully responsible sourcing will be the ability to collaborate with agility and procurement's increasing role as a facilitator and driver of an organisation's ability to partner and execute on change has never been more important...