Purchasers urged to take ethical stand

15 March 2001
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15 March 2001 | Mark Whitehead

Child labour, the right to union representation and low pay are among the important issues highlighted in a new set of hard-hitting ethical guidelines aimed at purchasing and supply professionals.

In a major policy document, which builds on a code of personal ethics published two years ago by CIPS, the institute says purchasers should be aware of the "social responsibility" that companies have towards their suppliers' employees.

The institute opposes the use of child labour and says suppliers should be encouraged to make sure children go to school. The policy, which is certain to provoke controversy among purchasing and supply staff, adds that no one under the age of 18 should be made to work at night or in dangerous conditions.

Ethical Business Practices in Purchasing and Supply Management covers areas including freedom of association, working hours, conditions and health and safety. Workers' wages and benefits should at least meet industry norms and national minimum requirements, and suppliers should not prevent or discourage employees from joining trade unions.

Peter Smith, chair of CIPS's board of management and director of procurement services at management consultancy Shreeveport, headed the group that drew up the policy. "We recognise that child labour can't be abolished overnight without causing all sorts of social problems," he said. "But purchasing and supply chain professionals have a responsibility to make sure it is phased out. This is not just a moral issue, it is also hard-headed business sense."

The policy offers guidance on buyer-supplier relations. "Reciprocal trading" - where a buyer makes being a customer of an organisation a condition of being a supplier - is bad practice, it says, unless both parties agree and it is mutually beneficial.

The CIPS policy is published at the same time as a report on corporate social responsibility by the government this month. It is expected to lend support to the institute's argument that companies should make sure suppliers operate ethically.

• Copies of Ethical Business Practices in Purchasing and Supply Management are available free from CIPS on 01780 756777.

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