Thursday 3 March 2016

Sedex: Simple Sustainability

Once upon a time, things were simple. You made or produced something: wool, milk, maybe a jumper. Then you took it to market and you sold it. For your customer, the supply chain was clear, transparent and easy to understand. Nowadays, unless you shop exclusively at farmer's markets, that simplicity has vanished. These days products have their raw materials sourced in one country, the assembly in another, the finishing in a third, before being shipped around the world. Keeping track of all the processes and people involved is like juggling an egg, a three-legged stool and an angry cat.

Is it even possible to assure sustainability and ethical standards in such a complex system? When even high street chains that make a big deal about their sustainable standards trip up, it's easy to see how hard it is.

If a company is serious about an ethical supply chain, they need to talk to Sedex. This not-for profit membership organisation has ultimately, one goal: the creation of a set of standards and frameworks to help a company set up and maintain a social and environmentally responsible profile. It sounds complex, and that's because it is. But now is the time for a new rigour in sustainability reporting.

The head of Sedex, Jonathan Ivelaw-Chapman spoke recently to Pioneers Post, and laid out the need for organisations like Sedex. He said:

"The last few years have seen turbulent times for businesses and their supply chains – from the tragic Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, to the horsemeat scandal in Europe, to human trafficking in Thai fishing industry and worker deaths associated with construction projects for the Qatar World Cup.

All these events make it clear that greater transparency in global supply chains is urgently needed, and I’ve certainly seen this being acknowledged more and more within the wider business community since I joined Sedex. For any company which is part of a global supply chain, the risks of not knowing your lines of supply can be enormous, so it’s a positive development that we are seeing more and more examples of how companies are being proactive."

These kinds of scandal are terrible for a company's reputation, which has knock-on effects on its bottom line. It's not surprising that a simple appeal to a company's finances can make even the the most hard-nosed CEO think again about ethical standards. No-one wants to be seen as a monster boss condoning slavery in their factories. Well, not unless they can get away with it...

The major point is in understanding how human values can be tied into increased profitability. In simple terms, a happy workforce is a more productive workforce. A company that does not have to spend time dodging fines and bad press can concentrate on their core business. Technology can make the whole process much simpler and less bewildering.

Simplicity is a key topic in the 2016 Sedex Conference, which enters its final day today. In fact, the whole gathering is entitled "Simplifying Supply Chain Sustainability". The aim is to give brands, suppliers and organisations the tools they need to make significant and lasting change that will benefit their workers, the planet and their bottom line.

Sounds pretty simple to me...

For more on the 2016 Sedex Conference, go to

To read more about Sedex's mission, the Pioneers Post article quoted from above is a great start. Go to


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