Any supplier of clean water and sewage removal services has a social responsibility, and reaches a huge part of its local community. The procurement team of Northumbrian Water Group has taken that further, setting out a plan to deliver value to the business by ensuring it procures responsibly, and delivers benefits back to the community. And it has brought its suppliers along on the ride.
The utility, which supplies to 4.5 million people across the north-east and south-east of England, has been on a journey to redefine how procurement delivers value to the business, providing a competitive advantage, and helping the company become the industry leader of sustainable water and waste water services.
The judges were impressed with this contribution to corporate responsibility, praising the team’s plan, which pinpointed clear objectives and benefits, and offered some great initiatives. They voted it not only the best in its category, but the overall winner.
Northumbrian Water Group’s AIME programme identified four commitments:
- Awareness. To embed knowledge of responsible procurement within the team, internal stakeholders and the supply chain, and provide tools to ensure it was considered in all decisions;
- Identification. To understand and set in place processes to manage the areas of risk and opportunities, including across the supply chain;
- Measurement. To prove supply chain performance to help drive change, using the CIPS Sustainability Index and discussing areas of improvement required;
- Enhancement. To identify and implement best practice by engaging with suppliers and increasing the social value of contracts awarded.
The team made use of external resources such as the Ethical Trading Initiative and the Government’s Flexible Framework Model for sustainable procurement to establish best practice for suppliers, sharing them through supplier workshops, and publishing booklets explaining what is expected of suppliers, including indirects.
As well as powering all its sites with 100% renewable electricity, it has created 32 apprenticeships and traineeships, added a student summer placement scheme, offered over 100 weeks of work experience and engaged with primary school pupils to educate them on safety on construction sites.
Its social value initiatives have helped to improve the utility’s reputation in the local community, develop local skills and help establish opportunities for employment. By promoting the water industry and jobs within it to a wider, more diverse workforce, Northwest Water Group hope to foster creativity and innovation at the same time as better understanding its customer base.
The judges commended the team on clearly engaging across an array of internal and external stakeholders, with one construction supplier saying that its approach to responsible procurement and social value is a shining example of what can be achieved by working collaboratively, with a shared ethos to achieve the goal. Its reputation internally has also improved, with the commercial director stating that by understanding the challenges, identifying areas of risk and continuously looking for improvement, the leadership team now has confidence in procurement’s ability to be a key strategic partner.
The company is the only water and sewerage company, and one of only four UK firms, to be listed on the Ethisphere most ethical companies list.
Judges particularly loved the communications road show and creative poster that showed cultural and transformation change to complement procurement.