What are the key factors that drive businesses to adopt responsible sourcing practices in their supply chains?

The key factor that drives businesses to adopt responsible sourcing practices is commercial risk management, protecting companies from fluctuating costs, ensuring continuous, predictable supply and protection of brand reputation. Responsible supply chains are built on a foundation of comprehensive supply chain knowledge, which highlights highest risk areas, fosters stronger stakeholder relationships and allows for informed sourcing and investment decisions. Building on this foundation, businesses and suppliers can then manage risk and build resilience into their supply chains through the implementation of responsible sourcing practices.

Pressure from business stakeholders is another key factor. This pressure may come from a wide variety of actors, including; consumers who have increasing expectations of the sustainability of the products they buy, competitors who may use their sustainability credentials as a competitive advantage and investors who wish to ensure their money is invested ethically. Consumer pressure is particularly prevalent in agricultural supply chains due to society’s increasing recognition of the impact of food production. An example is the Greenpeace led campaign against ‘dirty’ palm oil, which resulted brands being named and shamed and 1.3 million consumers calling for them to take action.

An often-overlooked factor in the implementation of responsible supply chains is ego, and the desire for business leadership to ensure they look good. This is often an excellent area for leveraging entire businesses to change their sourcing patterns. An example is the Mars’ family aspiration to leave a positive legacy, paving way for their Sustainable In A Generation Plan that manages environmental impacts in their supply chain using the planetary boundaries framework.

Finally, other business drivers are attraction of talent, motivation of employees to deliver something meaningful, a sense of community and driver for innovation.

There are many tools available to businesses to adopt responsible supply chains, such as certification schemes (Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance etc) and guidelines from intergovernmental organisations, such as the OECD FAO Guidance for Responsible Agricultural Supply Chains.