IT servers, enterprise applications, data centres and cloud services might seem world away from other sectors traditionally attracting attention in terms of a ethical sourcing strategy.
Yet many of the same issues like bribery, coercion, extortion, favouritism, and illegal sourcing are also potential risks in IT sourcing, both directly and indirectly.
Apple’s problems with Foxconn, its manufacturer of iPhones, illustrates the problem. Riots and suicides in the Taiwanese company’s workforce also tarnished Apple’s reputation. An IT sourcing strategy has to take ethical procurement into account if it wants to avoid similar problems.
Setting the right example in IT sourcing is crucial, even more so as shadow IT grows and users can buy cloud solutions with their credit cards without going through the IT department. It may also be a good idea for the IT department to lay out the ethical standards on which an IT sourcing strategy should be based, for the benefit of its own staff and any others likely to acquire IT solutions.
For such standards and guidelines to be effective, IT management can ask the company’s own procurement teams for advice (perhaps there is already a written policy that can be adopted), while paying attention to the following:
- Instructions and policies for ethical sourcing need to be clear and concise, while covering the essentials. General principles should be backed up with specific examples, as necessary to get the message across (for example, situations in which gifts should be returned to suppliers).
- The information must be freely available to IT staff and other employees, for instance, as a web page on the company’s internal website.
- Review and improvement should be conducted regularly, as IT solutions and IT sourcing strategies continue to change.
- Training should be provided at least to IT staff involved in sourcing, and other consumers of IT solutions should be aware that they can and should get advice about how to buy responsibly.
This does not guarantee that your company will never buy hardware manufactured with toxic chemicals or software or services from providers with spotty reputations for labour practices. However, knowledge and application of suitable policies should increase the chances of avoiding such pitfalls.