Three Steps to Making Supply Chain Transparency Meaningful

Three Steps to Making Supply Chain Transparency Meaningful

It has now been over a year since the Modern Slavery Act came into effect, calling for any company earning more than £36m per year to produce a report outlining its commitment to eradicating human trafficking and slavery in their supply chain. 

There are several interesting points here. Firstly, the legislation doesn’t demand that UK companies comply with Section 54, insofar as there are no consequences for not submitting a statement. Neither are their penalties for stating that nothing is being done to banish modern slavery in their business.

Reduce the risk of a supply chain scandal by giving your workers a voice

Reduce the risk of a supply chain scandal by giving your workers a voice

Audit processes, accompanied by occasional spot visits may (not overly optimistic) work where the supply chain is both short and simple. But in today’s economy, the supply chain is rarely short, or simple. This makes the reliance upon independent audit regimes quite literally dangerous. Inaccurate reports can leave you at risk of exposure which can lead to not only reputational damage, but significant financial damage also.  An independent audit regime only works, as many large brands have discovered at a cost, if the audit/compliance process is free from corruption and conflicts of interest.

Firefighting scandals can unlock long term supply chain improvements

Firefighting scandals can unlock long term supply chain improvements

Supply chain scandals are troublingly regular occurrences in the news. In this day and age where compliance is becoming mandatory and where ethics and human rights are loudly defended, why are companies allowing themselves to be in a position where they can be (rightfully) exposed as perpetrators of such bad business practices… and repeatedly?

A recent article about Nike’s transformation from sweatshop scandals to sustainable business really got us thinking about the typical response and action businesses take following a scandal.

Going undercover: Retailers need to expose their own supply chain risks before media investigators

Going undercover: Retailers need to expose their own supply chain risks before media investigators

In this month’s look at modern slavery, we’re focusing on the supply chain scandals at the forefront of public attention. 

Recently, the BBC’s Panorama exposed Syrian refugee children working in garment factories supplying the likes of M&S and Asos. The programme also found evidence of hazardous chemicals in another factory and observed the covering up of illegal factory practices during auditors visits. 

This important piece of investigative journalism adds to a long list of labour-related scandals that have implicated almost every industry and corner of the world. The apparel industry especially, and its “fast fashion race to the bottom”, is one of the biggest concealers of modern slavery and other unethical practices.

Big brands can learn a lot from independent ethical brands

Big brands can learn a lot from independent ethical brands

The biggest challenge that businesses who are transitioning to ethical practices face is striking a profitable balance between the moral underpinnings of ethically made products and conventional consumer considerations - price, trust, trends, etc.

It’s equally difficult for the conscious consumer. These factors dominate the buying decision process, often in direct opposition to ethical sourcing, which is why the transition to ‘ethical consumer’ can be extremely challenging. It can feel risky trying new products, especially in an era where we tend to find products we love and trust, at a value price we’ve grown to expect.

Retailers’ will live and die by the ethical practices of their suppliers

Retailers’ will live and die by the ethical practices of their suppliers

The quest for profit is the lifeblood of global commerce. Retailers, like any organisation, are hungry, short-term cash seekers who must pay their costs, reward shareholders and fund the next marketing campaign to acquire more customers.

What’s left over – profit, long term and short term – is the single true marker of corporate success, and as we know, retailers and suppliers are equally guilty of doing almost anything to get it – even if that means turning a blind eye to corruption and inhumane recruitment practices going on somewhere in their supply chain.

Supply Chains of Even the Most Ethical Companies can be Breeding Grounds for Modern Slavery

Supply Chains of Even the Most Ethical Companies can be Breeding Grounds for Modern Slavery

Supply chains in this day and age are complex, usually with multiple inter-connected strands spanning continents. This means that things can be distorted when looking down from the top - especially with regard to recruitment methods and working conditions. Those at the top of the chain (usually the retailer) have no idea what is going on within the separate strands of their supply chain in relation to these operations and practices because they tend to focus on production levels and profit over fair worker treatment.

Your Supply Chain: Don’t be Afraid of the Truth

Your Supply Chain: Don’t be Afraid of the Truth

The global retail and supply industry sits on a highly tangled - matted, even - web of supply chain threads. It is perhaps no surprise, then, that the associated lack of transparency and communication can lead to scandals, accidents, poor working conditions and labour violations.

From factory fires and building collapses, to slaves being kept under our noses in the UK, we need to ask, are we doing enough? Our traditional supply chain audit and compliance methods are not wrong, but we are still failing to identify the root cause of fundamental issues within our global supply chains.

Supply Chain Transparency Through the Worker Voice

Supply Chain Transparency Through the Worker Voice

Supply chains - it seems as though not a week goes by without a supply chain scandal breaking the news. Whether it be connected to the meat we’re eating, the t-shirts we’re wearing or the smart phones we’re tweeting from, we hear of corruption, archaic working conditions and slavery from the production end, to our very homes. So why does it keep happening when the lessons should have been learned by now?