Ensuring minimum standards for responsible business conduct within any company is a large undertaking. The challenge of extending those standards to suppliers and sub-tiers of supply chains is complex and evolving, which is one of the reasons this work can be so interesting, frustrating, and rewarding.
Over the past few years I’ve worked with many individual companies, industry groups, issue experts, and civil society to try to improve company practices with respect to their supply chains. The questions posed run the gamut:
- What are the risks in our supply chain?
- Where should we focus our attention?
- How do I get my colleagues motivated to change how they source to consider suppliers’ sustainability performance?
- How do we address poor conditions?
- Where does my company’s responsibility end and where does the supplier’s begin?
- What leverage does my company have?
- How can we shift our approach from mitigating risks to also create value for the company?
Over time, I’ve learned that the answers to these questions, while specific to any particular company’s situation, can also be generalized and formulated into guidance applicable to any company. The result is the new guide for supply chain sustainability from BSR and the United Nations Global Compact. This guide represents a comprehensive, practical, and (I hope) inspirational set of practices and examples that squarely address the most significant questions from companies about how to make progress on supply chain sustainability. The topics covered include getting started, establishing expectations, determining scope, and engaging with suppliers and other stakeholders. (See a full table of contents here.)
The practices and examples in the guide are comprehensive—meaning they cover all the issues covered by the Global Compact principles: human rights, labor standards, environmental sustainability, and anti-corruption. However, this guide is only the first step. Supply chain sustainability remains a complex and challenging aspect of corporate responsibility and one that requires continuous attention and innovation to ensure that all stakeholders in supply chains can benefit from the improvement of social, environmental, and economic impacts.