- Underestimating The Commitment Required
Successful responsible sourcing programs require complete commitment from all stakeholders. Not only must suppliers and service providers be fully engaged but brands and retailers also. Omega has seen companies, new to responsible sourcing, appoint their service provider then disengage believing their involvement has ended. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is important that companies assign senior personnel to manage their program, following up with suppliers, services providers, as well as internal divisions, such as sourcing, on an ongoing basis.
- Failing to Make Strategic Decisions from the Outset
It is important that all strategic decisions are made in advance of the program launching. One such question is ‘what is the procedure for suppliers who refuse to accommodate an onsite audit?’ Omega recommends that any uncooperative suppliers are referred to sourcing who, leveraging business relationships, follow-up with them immediately. If they are unable to secure their cooperation, termination of business should be the final outcome. While this scenario is undesirable, this consequence needs to be established and, importantly, have full support from senior management and communicated effectively.
Omega has witnessed many organizations launch their responsible sourcing program before addressing this question then attempt to change course midstream. This is particularly a problem with supplier-paid programs where resistance is more common. The end result being confused messages, both internally and externally, widespread disorganization and, ultimately, wasted resources.
- Failing to Utilize Accurate Data
One common mistake companies make is basing their responsible sourcing program on inaccurate data. Before determining which factories should undergo assessments it is crucial that companies have accurate shipment data down to factory level. There is little purpose in auditing a factory which hasn’t received a PO for 6 months or one which will soon be discontinued. It is also important that companies make the distinction between vendors, where their PO is placed, and the actual site where their merchandise is manufactured. It is common for organizations to mistakenly assign audits to a vendor showroom in Hong Kong, for example, or even a buying agent in New York.
To prevent these scenarios companies should liaise with sourcing divisions and/or buying agents to create a complete, accurate picture of their supply base before determining how to proceed.
- Expecting Immediate Results
After shining a light on their workplace conditions for the first time, organizations are often shocked by what they discover. Companies often panic before requiring their suppliers to resolve all issues, regardless of their complexity, in an arbitrary period of, say, 3 months. Instead of driving progress, these blanket requirements often force issues underground exacerbating the problems of falsified records and even unauthorized subcontracting.
For a multitude of reasons the reality is that workplace conditions, across global supply chains, are usually substandard. That said, responsible sourcing is a long game. A practical approach to the issues, coupled with patience and firm internal support, can drive real results. Omega recommends speaking with your service providers beforehand on what to expect from the audits, and, importantly, how to address findings as they emerge. If possible, companies should also shadow the onsite audits so they have a better understanding of the real conditions on the ground.
Omega has vast experience in developing and managing social compliance audits programs across global supply chains. Should you wish to learn more about our services please contact us.