Tesco is one of 30 companies working on an initiative to establish global standards for ethical sourcing.
The Global Social Compliance Programme (GSCP) has been set up by the Consumer Goods Forum to define a clear and consistent message on fair labour conditions to suppliers by building consensus on existing best practices.
Speaking at the Consumer Goods Forum’s Food Safety Conference in early February 2010, Terry Babbs, Tesco group ethical trading director, highlighted the scale of the problem facing companies in international supply chains.
There are, he said:
1,000 codes of conduct and implementation systems (World Bank 2004)
158m children aged five to 14 in work today (UNICEF 2009)
614m people working excessively long hours (ILO 2007)
Babbs, whose role is to underpin the company’s responsible trading policies, said Tesco needs to demonstrate it is delivering on its public commitments to ethical sourcing as well delivering growth.
“We’re only as good as our suppliers,” he said, adding Tesco wants to form lasting relationships with suppliers who share the company’s values.
According to Babbs, the goal is for a genuine partnership rather than a purely transactional relationship.
Faced with widespread global complexity, the GSCP aims to unravel many intertwined compliance systems and initiatives and promote convergence.
Today suppliers have to deal with as many as 30 or 40 audits in one year, a situation Babbs described as “a nonsense”.
GSCP is building a set of reference tools, which will enable existing systems and initiatives to benchmark themselves and draw upon agreed best practice.
The programme’s ultimate goal is to concentrate on fixing the problems through remediation. This must be based on the solid foundations of commonly-accepted standards to enable stronger collaborative efforts in training and capacity building.