Sedex Conference 2018: Beyond Compliance in Responsible Sourcing
Defining ‘Beyond Compliance’ in Responsible Sourcing was at the core of the recently concluded Sedex Conference 2018,..
Defining ‘Beyond Compliance’ in Responsible Sourcing was at the core of the recently concluded Sedex Conference 2018, London. Delegates from over 40 countries representing brands, retailers and all stakeholders of industry, participated in the 2-day long event and discussed many important issues like the future of impact measurement, leadership skills, forced labour and technology innovation, to name a few. Sharing the difference, Jonathan Ivelaw-Chapman, CEO, Sedex said that a year has passed since the last Sedex Conference took place, comprising of many global issues that are sadly in a worst state of affairs. Jonathan discussed how too often businesses are simply meeting objectives and standards, rather than striving to go beyond them which would help make organisations perform better socially, environmentally and financially.
Tom Smith, the Director of Stakeholder Strategy for Walmart, discussed ‘Trust’ within responsible supply chains. He analysed why and how consumers begin to trust companies, while navigating through what he described as a VUCA world – Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous. Avedis Seferian, President and CEO, WRAP reiterated the point that “You do not fatten a pig by weighing it”…, the suggestion that audit and measurement alone would not make the change required, which was a statement that resonated with the rest of the panel and delegates alike. The panel also went into detail to debate the evolution of compliance, with frank input from Marco Baren, of Philips, about stopping auditing completely.
The debate on ‘Whose responsibility is it to go beyond compliance’ argued the statement: ‘This house believes that better compliance alone is insufficient and we are all responsible for going beyond compliance’. A panel agreed that whilst there is a time and a place for audits and certifications (compliance), they are limited in scope. We must go beyond compliance by embedding these ethical values in a holistic way through a company’s entire way of doing business. Further challenges discussed included, ensuring that organisations understand ‘beyond compliance’ cannot be achieved if they have yet to reach compliance,
as well as the importance of companies maintaining standards once compliance has been achieved. Some speakers challenged the standard compliance processes, and discussed how they are implementing new practices, which includes replacing traditional audit reliance with great engagement with suppliers and greater attention on Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQs), with real, tangible results. Experts focused on how companies can use the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a guide to go beyond compliance. Speakers reiterated the importance of viewing the goals alongside each other and emphasised that learning from and communicating with other businesses is also key to improving your own sustainability policies. Modern slavery was also a point of discussion and attraction for participants. Warner Ten Kate, the Dutch National Public Prosecutor for Trafficking in Human Beings and People Smuggling, discussed modern slavery occurrences and legal implications in the Netherlands and beyond, and the various ways authorities and corporations can tackle such issues. Session on ‘Modern Slavery – turning talk into action’ focused on what businesses and legislators can do to combat slavery, including the delivery of schemes for victim support, investment in training and capability of suppliers, education awareness programmes and increased Governmental support in this area.
Discussion on ‘Beyond Health and Safety, addressing worker wellbeing’ focused on the more detailed way in which worker health and safety should be addressed. This included re-assessing the use of only ‘voluntary’ assessments, as well as the ways to look beyond the physical security of workers to understand their true ‘well-being’. Panellist agreed that regarding ‘Transforming supplier training and capacity building’, collaboration was key and that the sharing of expertise and understanding was integral to achieve real improvements. Interestingly, alternative routes of communication were discussed, with the suggestions of buyers’ first building relationships with suppliers before actioning audits, as these can often be viewed negatively.
Keren Pybus, Co-Founder and
CEO, Ethical Apparel Africa discussed changes in the apparel manufacturing industry in Africa, alongside videos of Linda Ampah, Founder and CEO, KAD Manufacturing Limited who offered real-life stories of how her employees’ lives have changed for the better, through the training offered by Ethical Apparel Africa. Making the most from worker voice technologies, the speakers covered the various solutions the companies have been using to gather data from workers around the world and explained how this technology allows businesses to reach parts of the supply chain that are traditionally harder to audit, such as small suppliers and labour providers. However, they also agreed that direct worker reporting is another tool, rather than an answer to all risk management requirements. Whilst companies can use this to gain worker trust and engagement, which gives greater insight into their working lives and a greater ability to effect change in the workplace, it cannot replace the validation of information that comes through audits.
Session on ‘Modern Slavery – turning talk into action’ focused
on what businesses and legislators can do to combat slavery, including the delivery of schemes
for victim support, investment in training and capability of
Sedex member companies include more than 25 various industries, most of which are clothing (12.25%) and textile segment (2.33%). Overall, 928 companies from India (from all segments) are members of Sedex.