By Charlotte Davis, Companies Relations Manager, CAF
CAF’s Advisory and Consultancy service can help companies with their international CSR strategy to help enhance their reputation globally. For more details visit our website.
Responsible supply chains don’t just avoid scandals; they promote fairness for producers and customers.
The news has been dominated by stories of the horse meat scandal and has shocked those who were under the belief that, while tucking in to the traditional beef you would expect to find in a lasagne, they were in fact chomping on a piece of pony. However, the issue here is not the sensitivities involved around eating horse meat, it’s about the irresponsible behaviour of those companies who have been caught up in the scandal and do not have a thorough oversight of their own supply chains. This is unacceptable and is not only harmful to the unsuspecting customers who buy such products, but can also have consequences for communities throughout the world who supply products and commodities to large multi-national companies.
This is not the first time household brands who we know and trust have been exposed as having very little idea about where the products they sell to us actually came from. Over the years there have been numerous exposés of companies who have apparently been unaware of the true providence of their products and the labour used to produce them. From fashion retailers accused of using child labour and sweatshop conditions to produce their garments, to technology companies facing issues of suicide amongst employees working within their supply chains. It is an issue for a number of sectors, and something that in today’s globalised world they must begin to get a better handle on.
Budget vs British
In addition, the operations of supply chains themselves seem confusing and make little sense. For example, why does the supply chain for budget British meat go through France, Cyprus, Holland and Romania before the food ends up on our plates? Some retailers shout loudly about providing ‘local’ and ‘British’ meat from ‘approved suppliers’ as part of their marketing campaigns. However buying meat marked as ‘British’ can be seen as a luxury and sometimes comes with a higher price tag. If the word ‘budget’ is applied it seems any sense of whether the product is what is says it is and where it was produced seems to go out the window.
Endorsing the right suppliers
When I buy food I want to know where it came from, how it was produced, how were the people who produced it treated? In the past few years we have seen an increasing number of companies keen to endorse a variety of excellent organisations who champion responsible supply chains including Red Tractor, Fair Trade, the Marine Stewardship Council and the Rainforest Alliance. These are steps in the right directions to ensure that producers at the bottom of the supply chain get a fair deal as well as reassurance for the public who buy the products, but may be viewed as a small token in light of the recent scandal.
Retailers and food manufacturers have a long way to go to restore the public’s trust and must take action and accept accountability.
Perhaps it is time that they look to the likes of Nike and BP which following very public scandals, took responsibility and used CSR to repair at least some of the damage.
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