3 Easy Ways to Make Your Organization an Ethical Sourcing Powerhouse

The products and services you source represent a major opportunity for reducing impacts and creating benefits. For many goods, looking upstream to the early phases of the lifecycle will reveal surprising trade-offs for organizations looking to manage risk. That is why sourcing or "procurement" as it's called in government agencies, needs to be a part of your sustainability efforts.

Ethical sourcing represents a tremendous nexus of opportunities for minimizing environmental impacts and creating benefits for people and our planet.

Lots of organizations know that improving the quality and sustainability of their supply chains is important. But as someone who has worked on ethical sourcing for years, it sure can be challenging! It doesn't help that one of your first steps, gathering information from suppliers, is often incredibly time consuming. Even if you spend the time to collect the info, you likely will get tremendous variation in the quality and accuracy of data.

We can help you get a handle on major sources of sustainability risks and opportunities in your supply chains.  

But before you even start collecting data, it's helpful to build your understanding of potential sustainability issues associated with your supply chain. For example, are there health concerns associated with some kinds of raw materials? Where and how are those materials harvested? How do manufacturers manage waste streams? Do some digging into what advocacy organizations are talking about in your industry when it comes to supply chains. For example, responsible palm oil has been a hot issue for a number of years now. 

1. Request standard supplier disclosures.

Lots of companies require their current or new potential suppliers to provide information on a wide variety of sustainability topics like chemical ingredients, waste, water usage, greenhouse gas emissions, working conditions, and occupational health & safety, among others.

As anyone who has tried to collect information from suppliers and sales reps can tell you, it takes lots of patience and persistence. Sometimes they'll just try to wait you out. Once you have reliable information, you can start to understand where there are risks and opportunities in your supply chain.

Examples: Environmental Product Declarations, Kaiser Permanente Product Sustainability Scorecard

2. Identify priorities and establish goals.

It's likely that you're going find some immediate risks and some exciting opportunities to make major progress. Are you a brand that is focused on ingredient safety? Well, finding out that your raw ingredients are routinely contaminated can be a big risk for your reputation. Understanding the issues and deciding on a timeline and goals for addressing those issues is a way to manage risk and take advantage of emerging opportunities.

Example: Target Responsible Sourcing Aspirations for 2020 

3. Don’t reinvent the wheel.

There are already tons of resources out there for organizations that want to take their ethical sourcing to the next level. Also, Colin Price Consulting brings years of expertise and a robust network that can jumpstart your ethical sourcing and sustainable procurement efforts. We’ve worked with state and local governments, advocacy nonprofits, Fortune 500 companies, and start-ups in a variety of industries to help build their leadership in supply chain sustainability and social impact. We can provide in-depth technical expertise on how to improve the sourcing process, assist you with building a leading-edge policy, and effectively engaging key stakeholders to ensure strong buy-in, among other things.

Examples: Sustainable Procurement Leadership in Oregon, Healthier Buildings Guide