On June 26 of this year, the United States Supreme Court ruled that “a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which denies federal benefits to same-sex couples, is unconstitutional,” according to ABC News. Since then, there has been much legislative activity in state and local governments to provide various measures of equality to same-sex couples.
Like many other aspects of life and business, the procurement profession stands to be affected by this movement. One case in point is a recent sponsorship of legislation in the City of Pittsburgh.
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Pittsburgh City Councilman Bruce Kraus has sponsored legislation that would require companies with city contracts over $250,000 to provide benefits for same-sex domestic partners.” Stated another way, the city would refuse to award contracts meeting that monetary threshold to suppliers who do not provide benefits for same-sex domestic partners of their employees.
I do not know what percentage of suppliers offer these types of benefits. But, assuming that it is less than 100%, this could pose an interesting dilemma. In some cases, the best supplier for a contract will also offer benefits to same-sex domestic partners of their employees. That makes for an easy procurement decision. However, one could imagine a scenario to occur where the best supplier available for a particular purchase did not offer those benefits and thus the city would have to select an inferior supplier who did comply with the requirements.
This scenario forces business decision-makers to ponder: what is more important, doing business with the best supplier or supporting equality?
Socially-responsible procurement is full of such dilemmas and this is the perfect example of how procurement will continue to get more complex as social responsibility continues to become a higher priority of organizations.
I’m sure that, among you readers, some will have strong opinions one way and some will have strong opinions the opposite way. Regardless of your opinion, though, I believe that it is undeniable that these types of requirements add more work to a procurement professional’s job.
I’m not saying that like it’s a bad thing or good thing. I’m just saying that the more constraints there are in the Sourcing Hierarchy of Constraints and Criteria for a particular purchase, the more work is involved in arriving at a procurement decision.
Qualifying suppliers, auditing suppliers for compliance, etc. all take time and effort. And, this is one of those situations where a leader of your organization could be publicly embarrassed in the press if you fail to provide assurance of compliance, so it is not to be taken lightly. Procurement professionals – particularly in government roles – who are required to award contracts only to suppliers who comply with same-sex benefit requirements will have to make sure all of the proverbial “i’s” are dotted and “t’s” are crossed while the same-sex marriage issue is still a sensitive subject.
Organizations may very well decide that the extra work is worth it to them. The situation is just another of the many evolving challenges of the procurement profession, which makes it an exciting profession in which to work.
To Your Career Success,
Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3
President & Chief Procurement Officer – Next Level Purchasing Association
Co-Author – The Procurement Game Plan
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