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Getting started on the journey to responsible sourcing is challenging. In most cases, the first step is gaining greater visibility and a better understanding of your supply chain.

Understanding your own organization’s specific needs is a process. It will require in-depth reflection and discussion around the risks, requirements, regulations, and recent events impacting your business. Examining each of these pillars in detail and determining your highest priorities will help you pinpoint an area of focus, such as a certain group of suppliers, set of products, or product market.

Some organizations may find that a basic compliance-based program is a necessary first step to help meet regulatory requirements. Other organizations may have a more ambitious target in mind, such as corporate CSR commitments or sustainability-related risks, and are ready to address longer-term sustainability and responsible sourcing concerns.

Your company’s specific goals play a major role in determining your starting point. Here are a few to consider:

Existing or future claims and sustainability commitments

What commitments has your company made in terms of responsible sourcing? What timelines have been established to meet these commitments? More immediate goals may merit more immediate attention, while longer-term commitments can be addressed in stages.

For example, consumer goods manufacturer Procter & Gamble has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50% across operations by 2025, and food and beverage giant Danone is investing in efforts to connect with their farmers and implement regenerative agriculture farming methods.

Marketing initiatives and impact

What have your consumers been asking for? What products or commodities do consumers care about? Ensuring responsible sourcing for goods that consumers connect with can boost the perception of your business and support the case for additional programs.

For example, French retailer Intermarché mapped their private label organic products down to over 1,500 farms to ensure compliance with organic requirements and share product journeys with consumers.

Key risks

What issues pose the highest compliance and CSR risks to your supply chains? Examples include product safety (pesticide use, chemicals), environmental sustainability (water usage, deforestation), labor issues (farmer income, working conditions), animal welfare (breeding conditions, slaughtering), resilience, and more. Key risks can vary greatly depending on industry and consumer demand.

Procurement impact

What impact will this program have on procurement? What data can be collected to help procurement departments choose suppliers with more sustainable practices and gain a more complete picture of existing suppliers? Responsible sourcing programs can ultimately help procurement determine if relationships with high-performing suppliers can be extended, as well as make more well-informed decisions about which suppliers to work with.

Overall business impact

How can this program benefit other areas of the business and make the biggest impact? A responsible sourcing program should provide value to departments beyond sustainability—such as Marketing, Finance, and Purchasing—to secure internal buy-in, generate momentum, and develop a sense of company-wide ownership. This internal support will ultimately increase the likelihood of the program’s success and even expansion.

To learn more about the different approaches to responsible sourcing, read our blog post: What’s the best approach to responsible sourcing?

Want to learn more? Download our white paper Achieving Responsible Sourcing: 3 Steps for Success, where we provide a detailed roadmap for companies looking to ensure more transparent and sustainable supply chains.

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