Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Case for Sustainable and Ethical Supply Chains

For most of my readers it will not come as a surprise I am a bit of liberal when it comes to ownership for the sustainability of your supply chain.  It is just a fact that companies must take ownership of this and your customers, more and more, are becoming "sustainable aware" of what it takes to get them your product.  Further, they are going to punish you for not caring for the environment.

But, what about ethics?  This is the next area and it is more difficult as it is harder to measure.  We know slavery is wrong and we know if we see great working conditions that is good.  However, what about in between?  Does $2 per day seem unethical even though when you account for purchase power parity it may not be too bad?  This is the dangerous area and precisely why companies have to take control of their entire supply chain and ensure there is nothing which can even be perceived as being unethical or immoral in how things are made, how people are treated and how the Earth is treated.

This article in Forbes on Sustainable and Ethical Supply Chains sums it up well.  Two big examples of problems and then fixes.  Nike in the '90s had real issues with this and Apple does today.  Both moved and are moving aggressively to tray to stop the unethical behavior and both have brand names that allow them a bit of latitude.  Bottom line:  They have provided so much value to the customer that the customer will forgive a transgression as long as they actively fix it and fix it fast.

The key question for you is whether your brand is that strong?  Most are not.  Most will be dead on arrival if they are seen to be exploiting people or the environment for financial gain.

The bottom line:  Take control of your supply chain, have a good code of conduct, demand compliance and put in strict audit systems to ensure compliance is occurring.  Trust but verify is the name of the game.

Don't let your zeal to jump on the outsourcing bandwagon cause you to put your brand and your entire company's future in jeopardy.

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