„The Journey of a thousand miles begins with one step“. This quote by Lao Tzu was echoed by the six member companies of AIM-PROGRESS co-hosting the organisation’s latest supplier training event in Bangkok on 5 October, in urging the 360+ attending suppliers (representing 150 companies) to define their own steps in implementing responsible sourcing in Thailand.
The AIM-PROGRESS Responsible Sourcing Journey, a roadmap for brands and suppliers towards establishing robust programs for socially, ethically and environmentally sustainable supply chains, will help companies on their path.
A selection of host companies presented key features of their responsible sourcing programmes showing that ethical supply chains and certified commodity sourcing are becoming the norm in the FMCG brands sector. Two NGOs – CARE and OXFAM -, as well as BSR, highlighted the need for companies to engage with workers, especially women; to make public commitments to improving supply chain conditions and to show they are making progress.
Whilst the morning session provided a rationale for why responsible sourcing is part of doing business with brands, the afternoon was an opportunity for a practical deep dive into four high priority issues to help suppliers define their own next steps:
· Forced and migrant labour, which has been very much in the news in the Thai fishing industry lately. About half of Thailand’s 3.25 million foreign workers have an irregular status and are therefore particularly prone to labour exploitation, already starting at recruitment, depriving them of freedom of movement and withholding payment.
· Overtime working hours, which lead to absenteeism, accidents at work, high workforce turnover, with recommendations on how to reduce occurrence.
· Grievance mechanisms: 54% of companies in the conference said they still on the anonymity of suggestion boxes, not nessecarily very effective though.
· Discrimination, where it occurs, the legal context and how to remedy incidences of discrimination.
In workshops, run with the help of audit house SGS, participants could discuss in more detail the problems which are plaguing supply chains in the Thai labour market, and to identify their own relevant actions.
David Lawrence, Executive Director of AIM-PROGRESS, expressed his delight at seeing “so many suppliers to major brands eager to engage and find collaborative solutions to these issues”.
AIM-PROGRESS organizes regular supplier events across the globe in markets where member companies see a need for addressing responsible sourcing. This event was co-hosted by ABF, Coca-Cola, McDonalds, PepsiCo, SC Johnson and Unilever.
The next event is scheduled for 1 November in Sao Paolo, Brazil, and will be co-hosted by Britvic, Heineken and Reckitt Benckiser.