By Frank Treanor Best Practice Business Strategy 28th November 2016

Why you can’t outsource everything

The recent Panorama exposé about Syrian refugee children working in Turkish factories for less than a pound an hour, to supply British shoppers, is hardly news anymore. It is, of course, shockingly newsworthy and those behind this disgusting practice need to be exposed and stopped; but it is not unexpected. Shocking – but not Surprising!

The fact that it was clothing headed for the High Street in stores like Marks and Spencer and Next; and online with retail giants like ASOS, just brought the story a little closer to home this time. The fact is that on the odd occasion when these stories come to light, we are all kidding ourselves if we think that it is any less than the tip of the iceberg. The perpetrators are, undoubtedly, the shady middlemen doing deals in dark corners, passing cash, favours and threats; without a moment’s concern for human kindness or dignity. No shopper here would willingly be party to these affronts, any more than the professional buyer sitting in their comfortable City office sipping their £2.75 latte with extra cream.

There is no smoke without fire!

It sounds obvious, but without the demand or opportunity, there would be no fuel to fire up the supply. It is the invisible, untouchable, almost unimaginable bad men who do the deed, yes: but it is us who give them the opportunity. It is all too easy to turn a blind eye and assume everything is OK in our supply chains – but how can you be sure? Do you really believe that Marks and Spencer ‘knowingly’ let this happen to them?

How can YOU be sure? 

I wrote about this back in May here, with particular reference to the new Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015, which was made law in February of this year. This ruling made it even more important than ever for companies to be certain about the full extent of their supply chains: not just their immediate first tier partners.

All of the retail brands mentioned in the Panorama documentary claimed that they were unaware and committed to increasing their efforts to eliminate the abuse of slave labour. But what can they actually do? Nick Beighton, the CEO of ASOS, said “It’s with unapproved outsourcing to factories we don’t know about. This will continue to be a problem until we know where every garment is made and however difficult, that’s what ultimately we’ve got to achieve.” In other words, they admit that there is a problem and don’t know how to solve it. The answer has to be to find a way to enhance and, where possible, failsafe a company’s quality assurance and auditing throughout its supply chain.

This is our moral, corporate and social responsibility

This is not a sales pitch; it is an appeal to the moral, corporate and social conscience of anyone who reads this post. If you work in procurement, or you have connections within your organisation to the procurement department, please tell them about Geneus. Visibility and purchasing behaviour are key to this and currently the most common challenges faced by organisations. It is possible to take control and ensure a single approach with appropriate checks in place; not just at the outset of a supply agreement, but throughout its entire life.  You can interrogate supply chains, audit trails (including second and third line factories), product testing and supplier credentials, from the comfort of your office. You can sleep well at night, knowing that others are not suffering at the cost of negated responsibility, ignorance is not bliss!

Clearly, the subject of the Panorama programme was clothing retailers and sweatshops in countries like Turkey, but the issue itself is far bigger. Category managers and procurement departments in all industries and markets are equally vulnerable to falling foul of opening the door to human rights violations, simply because they are not sure.

Please don’t outsource your responsibility: pass this post around.


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