“Procurement with Purpose” - how SAP Ariba guides supply chain and procurement transformation

By Harry Menear
Social, economic, and environmental sustainability should be at the heart of supply chain and procurement trans...

Social, economic, and environmental sustainability should be at the heart of supply chain and procurement transformation. SAP Ariba is perfectly positioned to guide companies in this noble direction.


“Purpose is no longer something that’s nice to have; it’s become a must-have strategic imperative that is high on every organisation’s agenda if they want to be perceived as relevant, admired, and innovative by their customers, employees, investors, partners, communities, and public entities,” advises SAP Ariba in its latest white paper which outlines its commitment to supporting its customers in their “mission to create a more purpose-based, equal, and nondiscriminatory world through partnerships with organisations such as a Made In A Free World, ConnXus, EcoVadis, Maplecroft, and UN Global Compact”.

Increased awareness of the negative effects of supply chains which fail to conform to modern ethical and sustainability standards has been a wake-up call for organisations around the world. Due to the rise of social media the pressure on brands to be seen to be operating ethically has risen exponentially as public opinion, both positive and negative, can go viral in an instant.

SAP Ariba identifies the challenge for businesses as confronting how to “use their influence to improve the human, economic, and environmental impact of every organisation that their supply chain touches”. Defining this as “procurement with purpose” SAP Ariba believes purpose-led businesses can redefine the value chain by designing models that create value for all stakeholders, supply chains, communities, and the planet. “SAP Ariba is a purpose-driven business and we fundamentally believe it is our role to find like-minded companies and provide a platform on which they can work together to build ethical, sustainable supply chains and make the world a better place,” maintains the software giant’s President Barry Padgett.

An historic focus on the most cost-effective solutions has built harmful trends in communities which are open to exploitation, including forced labour, dangerous working conditions, impoverishing wage structures, and damage to the environment. For example, the whitepaper makes note of charity Amnesty’s accusation against tech behemoths Apple, Sony, and Samsung for their failure to ensure their suppliers in Africa are not making use of child labour.

The white paper warns that, in 2018, 48.5mn people around the world are living in slavery, and they are often “working at the very bottom of the supply chain”, therefore focusing on ethical practices that cut slavery out of the equation is paramount to eradicating this human tragedy: “In the old days, a CPO may have said, ‘I can save us three percent on our annual purchases and streamline our supply base.’ But times have changed. Today, it’s the CPO who says, ‘I can lift a man, woman, or child out of forced labour,’ who ultimately moves forward.”

The white paper highlights examples of major global brands leading the way to proactively drive purpose. 3M integrates sustainability into its innovation pipeline through its ‘Pollution Prevention Pays’ program, which aims to proactively minimise waste and avoid pollution. Apple, though criticised for its child labour lapses by the report, has diverted 625K metric tons of waste from landfills since 2015 - enough to cover 2,545 soccer fields about one metre deep. Elsewhere, Adidas sold one million shoes made out of Ocean plastic in 2017 and The Coca-Cola Company, the 24th biggest industrial consumer of water, has invested $2bn to reduce water use and improve water quality in the communities in which it operates.

SAP Ariba is a signatory of the UN Global Compact and supports the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. It serves as the Patron Sponsor for the Decent Work in Global Supply Chains Action Platform for the UN Global Compact and believes that, to achieve these goals, organisations need an integrated approach implemented through partnerships and involving the private sector.

SAP Ariba wants to lead the charge against unethical and unsustainable supply chain and procurement practices by “making procurement awesome”. Its three pillars of Social Sustainability (to champion human and workplace rights), Environmental Sustainability (to aid the delivery of energy and climate change), and Economic Sustainability (to support decent work and fair employment) form a focused framework for best practice.

These pillars support the definition of what SAP Ariba calls a “triple bottom line” which the white paper recognises as being in tune with the desires of the modern consumer: “Not long ago most consumers bought products with little thought to questions like, ‘Where are these products made? What is the carbon footprint involved in manufacturing them? Who made them, and are these people being paid properly?’ Today, many consumers want organisations to be transparent about their practices and considerate of all stakeholders. The triple bottom line concept accounts for this full cost of doing business. Adding the ‘people’ element of social responsibility to corporate bottom lines shifts the focus to the fair treatment of employees and favourable practices in the communities where organisations operate.”




By driving responsible sourcing that focuses on ethical operations, safe workplaces, fair wages, and mitigation of emissions and plastic pollution, companies can have a significant, meaningful, and deeply positive impact on communities and environments around the world. To that end, SAP Ariba is continuing to develop and supply cutting-edge solutions that focus on supply chain transparency and sustainable development goals. Supplier Risk and Lifecycle Management, Strategic Sourcing and Spend Analysis, and Commerce Automation (for touchless processing to remove paper and reduce carbon footprint) are just a small selection of the firm’s solutions enabling companies to zero-in on the most vital data to help build sustainable and ethical supply chains. Its E-Procurement software can mitigate risk while reducing buying cycles by 50%, cutting supply costs by 10% and lowering processing costs by 25-60% with market-leading innovations in guided buying and spot buy. Its solutions support the purpose-driven organisation by empowering them across industries to achieve corporate objectives around purpose. SAP Ariba can help companies utilise spend analytics to optimise purpose-related spend and diversity in the overall supply base, deliver source-to-contract tools that support supplier qualification and compliance verification based on inherent risk factors for each specific engagement. Offering supplier management with a risk and sustainability lens, they enable sustainability evaluation by third parties for environmental, forced labour, and other human rights violations.

“What truly makes procurement awesome, and the power we hold so important, is the collective purpose of our profession – to build a community and figure out ways that we can work together to create more ethical supply chains, eradicate slave labor, and level the playing field for everyone,” reasons SAP Hybris president Alex Atzberger.

With its suite of supply chain and procurement solutions, SAP Ariba offers firms the opportunity to identify and choose suppliers which can simultaneously boost profits and make a positive difference. In quantifying the value of sustainability, the whitepaper notes a positive correlation between it and stock market performance. In reviewing 200 academic studies on sustainability and corporate performance, researchers at the Harvard Business Review found that of those 200 studies, 90% conclude that ESG standards lower the cost of capital, 88% show that good ESG practices result in improved operational performance and 80% show stock price performance positively correlated with good sustainability practices. This results in brands with ‘purpose’ in the market outperforming those without by three times.

By focusing on ethics and sustainability via total transparency, companies can leverage the positivity of this image to build their brands as powers for good, encourage investment, mitigate risk both in terms of supply chain stability and public relations, and boost value for shareholders.

To find out more visit https://www.ariba.com/about/procure-with-purpose to download the white paper


Featured Articles

EU Supply Chain Law: Key Supply Chain Consulting Firms

The EU Supply Chain Law, also known as the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD), is set to hold companies' supply chains to account

The Categories – Part 3: Procurement & Supply Chain Awards

Mark your calendars for the debut of The Global Procurement & Supply Chain Awards 2024 at Procurement & Supply Chain LIVE London on 24 September 2024

Meet our Sponsors: Procurement & Supply Chain LIVE New York

ProcessUnity, ServiceNow, and Beroe are sponsoring Procurement & Supply Chain LIVE New York, due to take place on 5-6 June 2024

The Categories – Part 2: Procurement & Supply Chain Awards

Digital Supply Chain

Top 100 Women 2024: Sheri Hinish, EY – No. 3

Digital Supply Chain

Top 100 Women 2024: Gretchen McCarthy, Target – No.2