Question: How do you make sure that every single component of your supply chain is ethically sourced?
The answer: You don't.
At least, that has been the answer since global supply chains became a thing.
But this could be changing.
Not because you and I and 5 billion others have had some sort of epiphany about how we should shop.
History shows that this type of collective individualism is unlikely.
Indeed, ever since 1606 when the Dutch East India Company went public, large listed entities have succeeded without fear of consequences from unethical sourcing.
The Dutch East India Company directly profited from exploiting workers and participating in the slave trade.
And although we believe we now live in a better, more liberal and educated time, where the likelihood of the privileged benefiting from the subjugation of the many has fallen away, think again.
Our modern-day plc's are regularly shown to be doing bad things and we keep buying.
In the 90s, it was Nike that was exposed for using sweatshop labour in Asia.
In the 2010's it was Apple's turn to be challenged over poor working conditions in china.
And in 2013 it was H&M's who faced scrutiny when they were accused of benefiting from child labour.
The list goes on. Walmart. Amazon. Zara. Patagonia.
In fact, the most recent report I've read shows that 23 of the US's top companies are now tainted for relying on forced labour from China's Uyghur population, and this includes every major car producer...
Bad as this is, what shocked me is how the situation seems worse now than at the peak of the slave trade.
Conisider these two statements;
Child labour is estimated at 160 million (unicef), and
50 million adults are estimated to be living in slavery (ilo).
Compare that to the estimate of around 15 million Africans that were enslaved over a period of 400 years from the 16th to 19th century (UN).
So how have we ended up in a situation where the unethical use of humans-as-a-resource, appears to be increasing, despite the fact slavery was officially abolished in 1948, the UN's sustainable development goals were signed in 2015 and many countries have introduced similar legislation to the UK's Modern Slavery Act.
Well, one answer is that the population has increased 16 fold since the Dutch East India Company made it's first ocean crossing.
And 8 billion people will drive pernacious demand for all manner of goods and services.
But thats not the whole story.
The size and complexity of global supply chains has ballooned by many many mullitples over the last decades, allowing an ever dizzying array of goods to be created to cater to our individual whims.
A typical major retailer will have thousands of suppliers, who in turn could have thousands of suppliers who in turn could have....you get the idea.
Walmart alone is estimated to have over 100K direct suppliers, meaning that their supply chain is literally touched by the input of tens of millions of people.
These supply chains are really systems to behold and something we as a species should be incredibly proud of.
The modern day supply chain deserves to be credited in the same way we talk about the agricultural, the industrial and the computing revolutions as it has been a primary cause for driving global productivity, which in general is still assumed to be a good thing.
But like all revolutions someone always gets hurt.
And unsurprisingly, in this case that's the poorest in society.
Reported by By Lipy Mary Rodrigues, World Vision Bangladesh.
So against this backdrop what hope should we have that the future is changing?
Well for one thing friction in ethical supply chain management is being removed.
Meaning that it's becoming more compelling for CEO's to invest in ethical sourcing systems and processes to find quality products, as it's easier, cheaper and faster to do so.
The transformation we are all looking for, including corporate leaders, can only be driven when it's economic to do so.
What is the magic key to transform global business in this space?
Trasparent, accurate data that accurately reflects the quality of what is being sourced, from raw material to finished product.
This has historically has been a herculean task, so what is changing that should give us hope for radical transformation over the next decade?
If anyone knows, it will be Justin Dillon.
He's an author, film director (call + Response - trailer 👇) and social entrepreneur who's dedicated a large part of his life to tackling this issue.
And his latest endeavour FRDM, a supply chain software solution, appears to be having some success.
So why not join me and Justin on wed 19th at 17:00 to learn more about ethical sourcing and how companies are seeing the direct benefits in their bottom line from doing the right thing.
I'll ask him what changes he's seen over the last decade and what we can expect in the next.
I'll also ask him to talk about how he hopes his latest collaboration with Standard Bank could open up opportunities for improving ethical sourcing across the African continent.
So whether you are interested in supply-chain-management, sustainable development goals or how financial services can be pivotal in driving more ethical sourcing, I hope you can join the convo.
And even if these dates don't work for you, sign up anyway so I can email you a summary of everything I learn on the call.
Oh..., and if you want to find out what the SB/Justin collaboration entails, you'll have to join the call to find out!
See you soon,
p.s. I almost forgot - the ai generated banner image from Dreamstudio was created with the following prompt:
"children in a factory wiring electronics to make a mobile phone. it should paint a picture of subjugation and be similar to the worst practises of the manufacturing era even though the product is technologically advanced"