Last week Nestle, the giant food and beverage company, discovered forced labor in its supply chain after a yearlong investigation into labor practices in Thailand’s food sectors. The company immediately tackled the issue of supply chain slavery by beginning work on developing a system to clean up its supply chain. Nestle has been commended for its quick action into ameliorating this situation.
As supply chain managers, we are responsible for the fair treatment of workers around the world. It can be daunting to take on that responsibility, but ensuring the safety and well-fare of supply chain workers boils down to one simple idea: transparency. Being transparent is essential to the success of a supply chain, and in today’s world it is easier than ever to accomplish.
The first step to creating transparent supply chains is to define your specific supply chain. Do you know what your supply chain landscape currently looks like? Do you have a clear picture of the different levels within your supply chain, from the point of origin of materials to the end product? If not, you need to begin by fully understanding your strategic partners, such as vendors, contractors and other suppliers, and then developing a positive relationship with these partners to ensure open and effective communication between yourself and those you depend on.
Once you have defined your supply chain and developed relationships with strategic partners, you then need to uphold your supply chain. Just as consumers demand that their products are safe and ethically produced, you should also demand this of the materials and services that go into the production of goods. The positive relationships you’ve established with vendors, contractors and other suppliers make it much easier for you to audit these businesses and uphold them to the necessary standards.
Now that you know what your supply chain landscape looks like and you have audited the components of your supply chain up to acceptable standards, it’s important to utilize technologies to continue to track and assess the processes across the supply chain. For example, technology, like barcoding or tagging, allows for tracing materials from their point of origins to the manufacturer. This provides a full picture of the path of materials in a product. Evolving technology makes it easier and easier to create transparency in the supply chain.
Finally, when your supply chain is transparent and clear of any and all corruption, you want to share this information with the right audiences, such an audience usually includes your stakeholders, employees, consumers and the media. Also, just as you want vendors, suppliers, and contractors to be open with you, give this same courtesy to your target audience. Mistakes will happen, but owning up to them and righting them immediately is the best way to avoid a catastrophe. We can all learn a lot from Nestle’s example.