Make sure your ethics are all sewn up

This month, a reader asked how they could ensure the ethics of their supplier of t-shirts, which is based in China. Alan McClay offers some further advice on what they should do.

The fact that you pose the question suggests your company is not already a member of a voluntary initiative which can help you manage your ethical sourcing.

Perhaps this is a one-off purchase for a promotional exercise? Whatever the context, you need to show you have exerted due diligence in managing risks.

Take the following steps to verify the supplier’s social credentials and narrow down the grey areas:

• Any abnormally low pricing by your supplier could be a sign of risk
• Can the supplier show references from brands or other companies you know?
• Do they hold any certificates such as WRAP or SA 8000?
• Have they been audited under BSCI, Sedex, FLA or any other scheme, and can you see the audit reports?
• If feasible, organise a site visit or find out if any have been made by your intermediary if you are going through one
• Make sure sub-contracting is not permissible contractually, unless it is through a certified or trusted supplier

Ultimately these steps should be put in place before entering into any commercial arrangements, for example by integrating a process of risk management into purchasing practices, and prior to selecting the supplier.

Alan McClay is managing director of Arran Strategy, a member of the network

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