P2.1: Supply Chain Policies and Codes
Building a Sustainable Supply Chain
In the modern economy, supply chains stretch across the globe, creating both efficiencies and risks. Severe weather spurred by climate change, human rights abuses, worker health and safety, or environmental degradation – any of these can trigger disruption and financial losses for corporations and their investors. A supply chain is only as strong as its weakest link. In the 21st century global economy, we can – and should – do better. Some companies are already trying.
More than twenty years ago, Levi Strauss & Co. was one of the first companies to adopt a supplier code of conduct. In April 2012, after a Ceres-led dialogue with labor and human rights groups, NGOs, suppliers and other companies, Levi Strauss released a new blueprint for supply chain engagement that promises deeper efforts to improve the lives and well-being of its supply chain workers, and challenges other companies to do the same.
The Ceres and Levi-Strauss authored white paper, Improving Worker’s Well-Being: A New Approach to Supply Chain Engagement, signals a shift away from a one-dimensional, compliance-driven model in which companies periodically police supplier factories to see if they are adhering to minimal standards. Instead, this new effort involves workers, suppliers and companies as active partners in efforts to improve child and maternal health, promote gender equality and empower women, combat disease, strengthen local communities and protect the environment wherever they do business.
It’s a profoundly ambitious goal, and its large-scale success requires the collective commitment of major companies, NGOs, suppliers, workers and local governments. For Levi Strauss, the road to success begins with listening to workers to identify their needs and aspirations at five pilot locations, in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Egypt, Haiti and Pakistan.
“We believe a focus on worker well-being will not only benefit individual workers and their families, but strengthen the factories in which they work; improving efficiency and productivity, and ultimately Levi Strauss & Co.’s bottom line,” chief supply chain officer David Love wrote in the blueprint. “It will create the enabling environment for business success.”
In today’s highly integrated global economy, no company can afford a “hear-no-evil, see-no-evil” approach to problems in its supply chain. Levi Strauss should be applauded for its approaching corporate sustainability with its eyes wide open. Other firms now must join them at the vanguard.
For more examples on sustainable supply chains, click here.