Gemma Branney, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility at SThree, discusses the importance of sustainable and ethical procurement in the recruitment industry.

Within the global business community, conversations surrounding Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) are maturing beyond charity partnerships, inclusion activities and carbon disclosure scores.

Sustainable procurement is now a growing topic amongst business leaders and is high on the agenda of many organisations.

It involves the purchasing and investment decision-making process that not only takes into account price and quality, but also considers the environmental and social impacts of procurement partnerships.

But what does this mean for the recruitment industry?

According to research by EcoVadis, the leading provider of business sustainability ratings for global supply-chains, 97% of supply-chain professionals surveyed believe that sustainable procurement is important to their businesses.

New regulations, an increased commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and changes in public opinion are influencing the corporate world and driving business leaders to consider ethical supply-chain management.

As trusted partners in supply-chains, recruitment companies play a critical role in this change and we have a duty to ensure our own supply-chain is ethical.

We can perhaps go a step further and champion social procurement by incorporating social enterprises in our supply-chain.

In the UK alone, there are more than 471,000 social enterprises, including food and drinks companies, and stationery suppliers. At SThree, we’ve recently partnered with Brewgooder, a social enterprise that invests its profits in providing clean drinking water to the developing world.

That’s just one example of how the company is focusing its efforts on sustainable procurement, but our role, and that of other recruitment businesses, goes far beyond that.

Not only can we manage our supply-chain, we can influence and contribute to ethical practices among those we supply.

Ensuring candidates are accessing a fair and ethical workplace is a fundamental pillar in any recruiter’s practices.

On a very basic level, we have a responsibility to the candidates we place to ensure they are safe from bribery, corruption, exploitation, forced labour or modern slavery at the companies they are joining.

Helping to plug the skills gap through CSR initiatives

It’s massively important that business leaders recognise the role that their companies can play in driving ethical standards and at SThree we take our role as a talent supplier even further.

We know that across the UK, there is a talent shortfall of around 60,000 people in the STEM industries we serve as well as challenges with diversity. Unemployment, particularly amongst youths in underserved communities, is another major issue, not just in the UK, but across the globe.

With these challenges comes an opportunity to focus our own CSR initiatives on supporting people from underserved communities to develop the skills required to thrive in the STEM sectors.

It is this opportunity to couple CSR with a real business need that led to the formation of the SThree Foundation. The Foundation launched as the vehicle we use to invest our corporate philanthropy in high-impact projects that grow and diversify the STEM talent pipeline.

Through the SThree Foundation we support the development and delivery of programmes that provide STEM education and awareness to people from diverse backgrounds alongside STEM placements with our clients. Working in collaboration with STEM charities across the world, we strive to inspire people from underprivileged backgrounds to pursue an education and career in STEM.

In 2018, we invited our colleagues to nominate the projects in their communities that inspired people from diverse backgrounds in STEM. As a result, 10 projects are now being funded by the SThree Foundation as well as providing participants the opportunity to benefit from collaboration with SThree and our clients.

Leading sustainable procurement in the supply-chain

The recruitment industry has the unique opportunity to lead in sustainable procurement as we influence the full cycle of supply-chain management. We have a critical role in influencing the supply of talent – a position that allows our social impact to go beyond the norm.

Legislation is starting to drive sustainable procurement; however, many multinational companies are now employing experts in procurement and compliance and making ethical supply-chain management a key pillar within the CSR function.

It is this continued move towards driving up standards that will ensure recruitment businesses lead the way in driving sustainable procurement to provide the very best service to our clients.