I think we can all agree that 2020 is not going entirely to plan.
That said, in the mad rush to pivot (hand sanitiser, face masks, oh my!) and the scrambled race to meet supply/demand, we need to remember that a global pandemic is not an excuse for us to lose focus on the core tenets of responsible sourcing – human rights, environmental management, business integrity and anti-corruption.
We only need to look at the cargo ship that lost 40 shipping containers off the coast of NSW last week to be reminded of the importance of managing unexpected logistical risk. Or at the recent spate of faulty face mask recalls and whispers that the TGA are relaxing their guidelines for masks being sold in Australia to get the feeling that short cuts are being taken.
So, what can procurement managers, promotional suppliers and their clients do better?
As always, it comes down to managing and maintaining transparency within the supply chain. This means asking the right questions, working with trusted suppliers and not accepting compromise over compliance. Because, the supply chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
- Covid-19 has likely increased modern slavery risks. When it comes to completing your modern slavery statements the ABF has published a guidance note encouraging entities ‘to consider how the impacts of COVID-19 may increase the vulnerability of workers in their global operations and supply chains’. Makes sense – factory shutdowns, order cancellations, job losses and overtime all create the perfect storm for increased exploitation of vulnerable workers. To make things a little easier the Government did recently announce that the deadlines for entities due to lodge statements under the Modern Slavery Act 2018 will be extended by three months. Need help with your modern slavery reporting? Get in touch (we also have produced a guide helping you navigate your modern slavery reporting which we would be happy to send you.)
- Certifications, CSR Policies and Codes of Conduct matter. In a largely unregulated industry where the barrier to entry is low, there are some easy ways to sift out the pretenders from the trusted promotional merchandise suppliers. By seeking out members of both the Australian Promotional Products association (APPA) and the Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) you get to work with partners who are committed to honouring and abiding by the Ethical and Responsible Code of Conduct of these associations. Did you know? 90% of complaints APPA receives are from companies who have bought promotional products from a NON-APPA member. Extra brownie points (and buyer confidence) comes from suppliers who have introduced their own code of conduct and CSR policy (you can view ours here.)
- Sourcing Direct Can Risk Your Brand’s Reputation: The PPAI’s Social Responsibility Policy for Distributors is very clear that ‘distributors that source direct from overseas partners assume all responsibilities and obligations that would normally fall under an industry supplier.’ Which means – all the complicated, compliant stuff that a company like INCK would take care of – mandatory safety checks, any required testing, ensuring adequate insurance – YOU would need to be responsible for. And, if even big companies like Chemist Warehouse can get caught out, then so can you!
- To Look for the Red Flags: In addition to sourcing direct, there are other red flags that might indicate potential risks within the supply chain. Rock bottom prices, clueless suppliers, time-sensitive, high volume and seasonal products are all factors that might risk the quality and safety of your products as well as increase the potential for employee exploitation. And, whilst the assumption is often that irresponsible practices only happen abroad the statistics prove modern slavery is not just an off-shore problem.
At INCK, we are proud of the relationships we have developed with our factories and of our efforts to ensure supply chain transparency and our ongoing commitment to producing branded merchandise you would be happy to put your name on. So, if you are looking to partner with a socially responsible supplier, please get in touch and let us know how we can help!