Alexandra Tarmo, Unilever: “Procurement with purpose, Procurement by passion”


Alexandra Tarmo, Unilever: “Procurement with purpose, Procurement by passion”

scoutbee CEO Gregor Stühler and Alexandra Tarmo, Head of Partnerships & Social Procurement at Unilever, joined DPW2021 – the world’s flagship conference for digital procurement – for a fireside chat to explore how digital supplier scouting has helped to advance Unilever’s progress and how Social Procurement succeeds. Let’s explore the findings…

DPW2021 is the largest and most influential tech event for the global procurement industry – where the world’s biggest brands come together with innovators to showcase cutting-edge concepts and solutions that will pave the way for the future of procurement.

Of course, scoutbee was present and was joined on the virtual stage by one of its largest customers – Unilever: scoutbee CEO Gregor Stühler enjoyed a lively fireside chat with Alexandra Tarmo, Head of Partnerships & Social Procurement at Unilever, who has just been awarded the prize for the “Supplier Diversity Advocate of the Year” by Minority Supplier Development UK (MSDUK). 

Social Procurement at the core of Unilever´s activities 

Alexandra and Gregor explored some of the ground-breaking procurement initiatives that Alexandra is involved in, and which are proving to be highly successful for Unilever. Alexandra outlined the strategy and some of the projects for Social Procurement: “Social procurement is something new, but it’s really at the core of our activities”, she explained, “our overall purpose at Unilever is to make sustainable living commonplace”. 

Unilever has had a ‘Partner to Win’ strategy in place for the past 10 years which was relaunched in 2020 as “Partner with Purpose” to adapt to today’s evolving markets and Unilever’s sustainability journey, and to deliver mutual 4G growth that does good for people and the planet.

“Purpose is really driving everything we do. For the procurement function this means ‘procurement with purpose,’ and we pursue 4G growth – that is growth, which is competitive, profitable, consistent and – importantly –  responsible”.
Alexandra Tarmo

Gregor mentioned that he had the pleasure of recently interviewing Unilever’s Chief Procurement Officer, Dave Ingram, recalling: “Dave dropped some numbers that are quite significant: you have more than 50,000 suppliers, millions of people are working in the supply chains. Every bit that has been flipped by Unilever has a massive impact on the suppliers and customers”.

Is enhancing supplier landscape visibility instrumental for managing this huge amount of partners and delivering on such social aspects? “Yes, it absolutely is”, Alexandra agreed, “We need the best visibility across categories to always stimulate supplier competition, so we can involve a greater spectrum of suppliers, and so our partner ecosystem will achieve new heights. With markets so large and so dynamic, it is simply not possible to achieve such ambitious progress without technology that can enable us to see emerging opportunities and pursue them efficiently”.

A new set of diverse suppliers is needed

Historically, procurement was more driven by cost and to build up resilience but Alexandra’s new focus is to bring in a new set of diverse suppliers, and at the same time ensure that procurement is delivering the best possible innovations. “We are not saying we are replacing historical partners, but we need a good mix. scoutbee is a great tool to onboard suppliers quickly that we maybe haven’t even heard of”, she said.

Since the onset of COVID-19, Unilever began to use scoutbee to identify new suppliers in a fast, efficient and holistic way. Conducting cases driven primarily by resilience and innovation needs.
“Also cases prompted by value-driven objectives can en route uncover supplier innovations” Alexandra added.

“Enhanced supplier insights enable us at Unilever to pursue excellence and competitiveness across many categories”.
Alexandra Tarmo

The two discussed an example of how scoutbee helped to identify a supplier for a meat alternative for the UK retail market – an example of a hot and hyper competitive consumer market, and a fairly complex product and supply chain. Alexandra summarized the result of this scouting case, “scoutbee helped unlock much value – within 5 weeks end-to-end we had identified an innovative supplier that met new levels for innovation and also diversity”.

scoutbee clients are requesting more diversity in their supply base

Gregor highlighted that scoutbee is seeing more clients requesting diversity to be reflected in their supply base. And so does Unilever: the global player has a goal to spend two billion Euros per year of its annual supplier budget with diverse suppliers by 2025. Unilever started their Diversity & Inclusion Strategy for suppliers, and scoutbee would help to identify and analyze these suppliers. “To be able to attract and onboard more diverse suppliers there is a need to scout differently and to apply every technology that exists”, Alexandra said.

“Growing knowledge of our network of 56 000 suppliers is a fundamental part of making sustainable living a reality.”
Alexandra Tarmo

She described how Unilever has seen how their brands that embody their purpose and values are growing 63 percent faster than their competitors: “So it is a clear business case: If  we embed that properly into brands, they will grow faster”.

By using scoutbee, Unilever had been able to find suppliers to improve innovation, resilience and sustainability faster as well as better value.

“Unilever is a trail-blazer in procurement”

Both agreed on the importance of efficient supplier discovery:

“You cannot build good supply chains without options at hand, and you also have to know the capabilities and weaknesses of your existing supply base.”
Alexandra Tarmo

Gregor expressed how honored scoutbee is to support Unilever with its strategic procurement: “In many ways Unilever is really a trail-blazer in procurement and it’s great to hear the ways in which you are raising the bar”, he said.


BIO: Alexandra Tarmo, Head of Partnerships & Social Procurement at Unilever

Having joined Unilever in 2011, Alexandra has held multiple positions within procurement and is based in Schaffhausen, in Switzerland. She was appointed Head of Partnerships & Social Procurement in February 2021 and is responsible for designing and implementing the new Partnership strategy for Unilever that will embed a new ambition around growth, innovation, environment and social impact. She is also responsible for the global implementation of Unilever Living Wage and Supplier Diversity social commitments.

scoutbee regularly speaks with experts to learn and share the latest perspectives on how Smarter Supplier Discovery can best be applied to global industries. In this video, scoutbee CEO Gregor Stühler and Alexandra Tarmo, Head of Partnerships & Social Procurement at Unilever explore “The Silver Bullet for Competitive Supply Chains” at the DPW2021.