How can you ensure you’re purchasing ethically sourced products?

Both business owners and their consumers want to know that the products they purchase have been produced ethically, and make a positive impact on the people and communities who create them. For this to happen, business owners need to take action to eliminate forced labour, unsafe working conditions and unfair compensation – issues that have existed for as long as trade itself.

But, how can you lead with transparency and know for sure that the products you put on the market have been produced with humanity and our planet in mind? Here are three ways you can ensure you’re purchasing ethically sourced products as a business owner.

Supplier audits

Conducting regular, thorough audits of your suppliers is key to ensuring that they’re meeting industry regulations and ethical standards. A supplier audit will usually involve an assessment of working conditions and worker wages, as well as the environmental impact of your product.

It’s always possible that there will be issues that an audit fails to pick up on. To make sure you’re in the know, you’ll want to lead with open communication in order to identify any specific areas of complaint, conduct industry research, and familiarise yourself with each company’s past audits and performance reports. This is the best way to identify any gaps and areas of improvement, and to ensure you’re doing all you can to tackle common ethical trade issues within your industry.

Traceability systems

When you have a traceability system in place, the processes throughout your supply chain become more transparent. Essentially, such a system allows you to receive information about your product throughout the production, processing and distribution stages. This can be a huge help when it comes to identifying where and when things have gone wrong, should you uncover any issues. Plus, you can work to proactively identify and eliminate risks moving forward.

The ability to track and trace your product can encourage the companies in your supply chain to act ethically and responsibly, as it reduces blind spots and helps to hold each company accountable for their individual contribution to your product.

Certifications

Looking out for manufacturing certifications can help you discern which suppliers are doing their bit to trade ethically. While being certified is a good sign that a company is following regulations, greenwashing does exist. So, you’ll need to be mindful of any areas in which a company is lacking, or not performing to your idea of ethical standards.

Of all the certified companies, there will be some that share in your unwavering commitment to ethical trading, and others that perhaps fall short – as the standards they need to meet to get these certifications may not always be consistent with your own ideals. However, a company without any certification whatsoever is much more likely to be participating in unethical trade practices, and while that’s not guaranteed, they’re best steered clear of for the sake of transparency.

A transparent supply chain

Some materials have a history of unethical practices associated with them, and it’s important to remember that just because a particular company or location is an established source of a commodity, it doesn’t mean that ethical sourcing always occurs there. This is particularly true of gold and precious metals, unregulated materials such as palm oil and timber, and textiles like cotton and silk that are often associated with forced labour.

Luckily, you don’t have to forgo the use of these materials altogether. As long as you understand exactly where your supply is coming from, you can ensure that the materials you use to build your products are sourced ethically.

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