How to maintain ethical sourcing standards

Over the last decade, this word – ethical – has become a more commonly used term in every industry. The consumer is looking for sustainable and they want something that is not just reliable, but also ethical. They are not just looking at the product itself and how it is environmentally responsible, but the consumer is starting to realize they have a bigger role in the supply chain. Their single purchase could help stop child labor, empower a woman or raise wage standards in developing countries. It has been a process, but the people are starting to realize they can be the change in many industries for social, ethical and environmental sustainable growth. Trust me, companies are going to listen and they are going to follow their ideal customers’ needs and cater to them.

Be empowered today and know your purchase truly matters.

There are also many of us here that not only represent the conscious consumer, but also, run businesses and want to ensure we can meet the demand of our customer. We also are finding it important that our values and ethics are being met throughout the supply chain.

So, is ethical sourcing and sustainability even that important?
86% of fortune 500 companies in 2019 issued sustainability reports. Trust me, it is important and it is not going away.

As the founder of Imani Collective – who strives to holistically run an ethical workshop, I truly understand what it takes to keep standards and I encourage you to dig a bit deeper because it will only make your company stronger and more viable.

Let us start with the obvious question:

What is ethical sourcing?
Ethical sourcing is the process of ensuring the products being sourced are obtained in a responsible and sustainable way, that the workers involved in making them are safe and treated fairly and that environmental and social impacts are taken into consideration during the sourcing process. (Definition retrieved from: https://spendmatters.com/2016/02/15/ethical-
sourcing-do-consumers-and-companies-really-care/)

Every week – I will focus on a variety of areas that encompass this word “ethical” because I truly believe this one word/many phrases have layers upon layers of meaning, but today we will focus on sourcing and the supply chain involved.

The real question for you today – is how can you keep up ethical sourcing standards? This might seem a bit challenging considering you may live in Texas, United States and source from Uganda or you may be in London and are sourcing from Taiwan. Where ever you are and whomever you are sourcing from, here are 5 practical tips to keep up ethical sourcing standards.

1. Set your standards and values
Ask yourself: What are your values? Who do you want to align yourself with? Just as your consumer has the power to purchase from your company – you also, have the power to source in a way that is ethical, sustainable and life giving. Allow time to set your standards and values for your company. At Imani Collective, we have our values and we also have a list of guiding principles. Learn what makes your soul at ease and you at peace and then align yourself with the appropriate suppliers that have the same heartbeat as you.

2. Technology
There are many technologies that can help you track the supply chain processes. There are track and trace technologies along with blockchain processes that anyone can look into. Technology is an innovation we have today that can be used in a way that keeps everyone accountable. By using these various forms of monitoring it allows you as the buyer to track ethical standards through environmental, social and quality guidelines they have in place to monitor the supply chain processes. Not everyone needs this – but if you are rapidly growing and starting to source in high volumes then this might be the way to go.

3. Visit the sites
This is my favorite one. It takes a bit of time, preparation and financial investment, but if you can go visit your suppliers – then go. Also, make sure it is unannounced. A surprise visit is always the best/necessary visit to make sure your standards are being met, always. Anyone can change up a workshop for a day when they know visitors are arriving. Keep in mind, that you should put something in your initial contracts with your suppliers that spontaneous checks and audits may occur then you also are covered legally by having the right to check in at any time. This will allow for your suppliers to hold higher standards as they have the knowledge they are being continuously monitored in their processes and ethics.

4. Create a community of accountability
I am all about collaboration. This ethical world and space is a community rather than competition, so look at people who are doing it right and reach out to them! Build a community around you that can help you through trouble points and give you advice. It is always better to do this together, rather than alone. So, find your ethical tribe!

5. Learn every step of the chain
This is probably the hardest of all my ‘tips’ for today as it takes a bit of digging a little deeper into the processes. You might have a main supplier or manufacturer you work with, but do you know where they source their cotton, wool, machines, etc.? Do you know their overall business ethics or recruitment processes of their workers? Do you know the wages of the workers or their livelihoods?

You do not need to know everything, but let me give you a practical sample at Imani Collective. One of the items we produce daily is woven saddle blankets made of natural wool for one of our customers – Sukwa Saddle Blankets. When we started regularly sourcing wool from Northern regions of Kenya, I personally went and visited the farmers, watch the hand shearing process, met families, and more. I wanted to ensure the sheep and farmers were being cared for just as much as I know the women of Imani Collective are cared for. If you have time, find out the process, so you can be even more transparent with your customers. Knowledge is power and if you are seeing something that is not right in the supply chain process – you have more power than you realize to influence ethical change.

You can maintain ethical sourcing, I promise. It just takes one small change at a time.
Is it the easiest? Not really. Is the most affordable option? Most likely not.
But, by making these small improvements to how we decide to run our business then we are making a positive change for our company, customers and world.

Truly, what ethical sourcing is all about, is changing the way the world operates.
Together – we have the power to do that.

From the lover all things ethical,

If you are interested in Imani Collective and our impact, you can view more here:
https://imanicollective.com/pages/our-impact

If you want to see the entire process from sheep to loom for a Sukwa Saddle Blanket, then you
can view the process here: https://youtu.be/gpng9XyyKxM

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