Dave Ingram, CPO Unilever: “In FMCG, the consumer is demanding radical transparency and traceability”


Dave Ingram, CPO Unilever: “In FMCG, the consumer is demanding radical transparency and traceability”

We regularly speak to global leaders in the procurement world, many of which are our valued customers and partners. scoutbee’s Gregor Stühler chatted to our customer Dave Ingram, Chief Procurement Officer of Unilever, about Dave’s past experiences, his initiatives at Unilever and his thoughts on digital supplier scouting.

Unilever’s Dave Ingram is a visionary leader and a change maker in global procurement.  He also happens to be a scoutbee customer, and a passionate advocate for the use of insight engines to drive procurement value for organizations. With over 30 years experience at the FMCG giant, Ingram has earned hands-on experience and insights from the UK, Mexico, the Caribbean, Netherlands, and then North Asia, firstly in Shanghai, and then Singapore where he is based today.

Unilever has evolved its strategy in recent years to pursue ‘procurement with purpose’ – which means buying responsibly, buying better, and growing together with its partners. The vast scale of Unilever’s global operations means that the material impacts can be significant.

“Our impact from climate, greenhouse gas, conservation and regeneration and social inclusion, really does come through in procurement.”
Dave Ingram, Chief Procurement Officer of Unilever

Pioneering FMCG procurement 

Always attuned to trends, Unilever is responding to consumer demand for “radical transparency and traceability”. Thus, Dave Ingram leads procurement with sustainability at its very core. Every team at Unilever has sustainability gains as an integral part of their bonus structures etc., meaning that the entire organization is geared towards positive change.

“It helps to bring people together on a common agenda and common values, so we know it’s not just something that one team is trying to do.”
Dave Ingram, Chief Procurement Officer of Unilever

Teams are measured on buying responsibly according to goals for the area of the business they are in (such as greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation or, increasingly, social commitments). An impressive example of this is Unilever’s commitment for its collaborative manufacturing contracts it signs to be on a living wage basis. 

Unilever remains focused on the pursuit of excellence in its sourcing. The ‘buying better’ principle means that the company targets winning buying strategies for every market it operates in. Similarly, Unilever’s procurement teams seek shared growth with its thousands of partners – critical for the company’s top line growth, innovation, reach and profitability, and the finding of new propositions to enhance its value chain.

The company has a high benchmark for meaningful growth. Ingram explains that Unilever measures “4G growth – that’s growth that is competitive, profitable, consistent and importantly, responsible”. In identifying routes to sustainable growth, he sees new modern ways of working as key.

“This can only be done efficiently through digital means and operating in a new way, by using available data that can lead to insight far quicker than in the past.”
Dave Ingram, Chief Procurement Officer of Unilever

Even a FMCG powerhouse like Unilever needed to react and adapt to the pressures of the pandemic. Indeed, Ingram confirms that COVID-19 accelerated their implementation and commitment to the use of data and insights as analytical tools. Unilever has used technology to ensure buyers could access the best possible supplier landscape visibility.

“The speed of change, particularly in the procurement side of sourcing, has been so dynamic and you can only do that if you have knowledge of demand and supply opportunities that are immediately available to our buyers.”
Dave Ingram, Chief Procurement Officer of Unilever

Elevating procurement with supplier scouting insights

Indeed, since the onset of the pandemic, Unilever has been implementing scoutbee to leverage AI-driven supplier discovery and insights on many sourcing cases. Ingram points to the “huge visibility of the market” and the ability to assure and accredit suppliers faster than before and in a more consistent and holistic way. This means that when his buyers are “making a call on a particular contract or negotiation, they have all of that insight”. 

Enhanced supplier market visibility and knowledge enables Unilever to sustain excellent access to innovations and measure its competitiveness across its many categories. For example, its sourcing teams can now advise business teams about pricing scenarios for the next 6-9 months, the competitive nature that is publicly available, the supply structures it sees happening, and Unilever’s own positioning in terms of hedging. Ingram concludes,

“These ‘value-adding insight engines’ I think are really interesting, and are game changers going forward”.
Dave Ingram, Chief Procurement Officer of Unilever

Dave Ingram is convinced that best in breed platforms for strategic sourcing offer a strong source of value, as part of an “ecosystem of individual brilliance”. The deployment of value-adding tools is clearly a strategy that is working for him.

“I think the tech stack in procurement has moved dramatically from being procure to pay, large scale automation to being a value adding buyer tool, helping bring insight on innovation through solutions like scoutbee.”
Dave Ingram, Chief Procurement Officer of Unilever

scoutbee is incredibly proud of its collaborations with Unilever. Ingram summarizes that ethos perhaps perfectly, “Our journeys are a collection of our partnerships, and we value each and every one of those, so thanks to the whole team at scoutbee”. Unilever is of course a fine example of how procurement with purpose, and perhaps a little SmarterSupplierDiscovery, can achieve groundbreaking, sustainable results and earn admiration across the entire industry.

scoutbee’s Gregor Stühler spoke alongside Alexandra Tarmo, Head of Partnerships & Social Procurement at Unilever, at the DPW conference on the 15th of September 2021. Read the summary of their breakout session titled “The silver bullet for competitive supply chains” here.

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