For most companies, the challenge of tackling ethics in the supply chain is a daunting task. It is one thing to manage business ethics internally, but where do you start in dealing with all your suppliers, and their suppliers, and so on? Even companies with lots of experience in one area of supply chain ethics may lack expertise in important new areas such as supply chain sustainability. Suppliers too need help in developing ethical relationships with their corporate customers. Increasing demands for improved supply chain ethics have led to the emergence of numerous online practical resources to help managers get to grips with some of these challenges. The Portal for Responsible Supply Chain Management, for example, was developed by a consortium of businesses and support organizations including Hewlett Packard, Titan, Volkswagen, and L’Oréal to provide hands-on tools and information to both producers and buyers. The site features advice on the key steps in developing responsible supply chain management from either side of the exchange relationship and includes various resources in the form of company guidelines, sourcing standards, and other reference materials. Another site with lots of practical advice and guidance is provided by Business and the Community under their Marketplace programme on responsible supply chains. A notable feature of this site is the interesting assortment of case studies of successful company initiatives from British American Tobacco’s work with tobacco growers, the office equipment company Ricoh’s green procurement initiative, and Sainsbury’s programme to develop sustainable fish sourcing for its UK supermarket business. Of course, if you are a manager looking for practical help with supply chain ethics then you are probably already convinced that your company needs to take the issue seriously. But what about other people in the organization— the marketing, purchasing, or operations staff who remain uncommitted to ethical practices—or the suppliers or customers that will need to come on board to make any new initiatives successful? The Ethical Trading Initiative site provides resources for managers facing these challenges, with fact sheets, leaflets, DVDs, and video clips that lay out the case for ethical trade, and how to secure buy-in from key stakeholders. The site also offers access to codes of conduct, workbooks, guidelines, and other useful materials for practitioners. Another major challenge faced by companies in implementing ethical sourcing is finding out credible information on the practices of current or potential suppliers, and of course the time and expense involved in auditing and monitoring them. Sedex, the Supplier Ethical Data Exchange, is a nonprofit organization that enables firms to share such information through a secure, confidential online portal. Sedex also provides a valuable service to suppliers because it enables them to complete one self-assessment questionnaire that they can then share with multiple purchasing companies rather than going through the process of individual assessments one by one. Online resources such as these offer managers—and students of business ethics— plenty of insight into the practicalities of ethical supply chain management. And for those looking for further support and assistance, they also offer consultancy, membership, advisory services, and conferences along with the freely available materials. After all, the organizations behind the websites are also potential suppliers (and we might hope ethical ones) of business services for the corporate community.


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