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Give and take

Annie Delaney discusses effective communication with networks (particularly supply chains) in order to successfully achieve lasting sustainable result
Building alliances with key players in your network helps build sustainability in your own business. As you build sustainability in your business, you’re also building sustainability in your supply chains. This doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and considerable effort. And while it can definitely be challenging, it can also be very rewarding. Ultimately, it’s all about give and take. Screening your supply chain can help reduce risk and, at the same time, can add value for suppliers and make businesses even more efficient and profitable. There are numerous ways that you can work with your suppliers to develop a more sustainable supply chain.
The key is to think about your entire supply chain with an overriding purpose in mind, to select and purchase goods and services that have the least possible environmental impact through every phase of the life cycle. For example, if you want a supplier to stop using harsh chemicals, you’ll need to invest in exploring what it means for them to change their practises. How can such big shifts in the way they are doing things be changed? This kind of change takes time, patience, and a willingness to invest in developing the knowledge of employees and suppliers. This may require a collaboration with other industry business, for example, where you share suppliers to have more influence and impact in achieving sustainable goals.
Take a look at your business’s supply chain. Dissect it. Pull it apart. And truly look at it from the perspective of sustainability. When you do this, you will begin to see the ways in which it can be improved and made sustainable, which in turn will lead to improved sustainability in your business.

We talked about the importance of collaboration and of creating alliances within your network in order to achieve effective, wide ranging and long lasting sustainable results. In thinking about the specific collaborative solution you will adopt, it is important to bear in mind that collaborative arrangements need to be promptly established with as many key people as possible; your colleagues, customers, social partners, suppliers, and even competitors. Amongst them, working with your supply chain is likely to be the most effective collaboration.

Greening your suppliers altogether may result in a rather challenging action and it is unlikely to happen overnight. It will take time and smart actions. To this end, ‘give and take’ is the quickest way to effectively work with your suppliers. It involves asking their help to reach your goals. Working with your suppliers towards your sustainable efforts, and asking their help, develops a reciprocal learning process and sharing of information. In this way, your supply chain will feel actively involved and engaged, and will try to find the best ways to obtain a competitive position. Your supply chain will actively create innovative products or services able to satisfy what customers want, but in more sustainable ways.

Establishing effective communication with your supply chain and being able to communicate your expectations to them is crucial. One way to do this is to develop a code of conduct that sets out the ethical standards the business expects suppliers to meet. Keep in mind that greening the supply chain is a journey, not a destination.

The fashion industry relies on outsourcing and subcontracting production. Fashion brands are being challenged to start thinking more comprehensively about sustainability, and to ensure this filters down throughout the whole supply chain.

What HR practices and functions would be useful to help implement a sustainable Supplier Code of Conduct for a fashion shoe business?
Post your thoughts in the Comments area below.
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Business Futures: Sustainable Business Through Green HR

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