What Does Your Ethical Footprint Say About You?

Do you know the size of your ethical footprint? Are you working to reduce it? We explore the idea of an ethical footprint and ask what it says about you. 

Procurement is right at the forefront of industry’s transformation towards a responsible, sustainable future. Within it, lays a focus on the ethical footprint left behind by both corporations and the individuals within them. The pressure is well and truly on from all angles for businesses to reduce the opacity of their supply chains and in the process unmask those that aren’t playing their part.

Increasingly, we as procurement professionals need to hold ourselves accountable and ensure the right decisions are being made. We can do this in plenty of ways given the unique powers we possess within global supply chains. Stakeholder groups including employees, suppliers, customers, investors and the wider community depend on it.

Paying lip service is one thing. Carrying out actionable strategies and making real change is quite another. 

When it comes to business continuity, how can we be sure that we are on the right track? While there is no definitive answer to this million-dollar question just yet, our research with Avetta sheds some light on exactly where we are and, more importantly, where we are heading. 

What Exactly is an ‘Ethical Footprint’?

When we discuss ideas surrounding the ethical impact of our practices as procurement professionals we often refer to the way in which we source products. More specifically, ensuring that parts and materials are only sourced from responsible, sustainable suppliers. That means ones that treat workers fairly while minimising any negative impact on the environment or wider society.

This idea of ethical sourcing is key when it comes to thinking of our own ethical footprints. If you hold power within your category, however minimal, using it to good effect is key to moulding a positive ethical footprint.

According to the Ethical Trading Initiative’s globally recognised code, there are 9 ways ethical practices can be defined. These cover; employment being freely chosen and not forced upon anyone, freedom of association and the right of collective bargaining, safe working conditions, no use of child labour, living wages are paid, working hours comply with local law, a zero-tolerance stance of discrimination, no inhumane or harsh treatment of workers and work being carried out on the basis of a recognised employment relationship.

All of these factors, combined with approaches taken to our supply chains, form an overarching picture (or footprint) depicting our current impact. Making sure this impact is positive has huge ramifications both up and down the chain with improved customer satisfaction a proven benefit. 

Who is Responsible for Improving Ethical Footprints?

This can often become a sticking point. Who exactly is responsible for the ethical footprint of a business? Traditionally, this would have fallen under the remit of senior executives who may be more focused on performance and profitability rather than ethics and sustainability. 

However, this landscape is changing. Fast. There is a growing trend for appointing Chief Sustainability Officers whose role centres around the promotion of sustainable business practices. In smaller companies too, ethical footprints are being moved further and further up the priority list as consumers become increasingly aware of the stakes. 

But while senior management is sitting up and taking note, the responsibility for reducing ethical footprints lies with all of us. Regardless of how much (or how little) decision making power you have, being aware of the importance of ethical practices and consciously feeding them into your day to day work is vital.

Things like ensuring an ethically robust supply chain code of conduct is in place, monitoring specific KPIs and inserting tailored questions into the tendering process are all great ways we as procurement professionals can start making a difference.    

How Can I Work Out the Size of my Current Footprint? 

Depending on the size of your organisation and your role within it, you may be a little unsure about your company’s current ethical credentials. As a key focus of ethical sourcing is transparency, seeking clarification here is a great place to begin. There are also a number of key areas to examine that can provide insight as well as opportunities for improvement.

  1. Up to date tech 

Have you or your company been properly investing in the latest technology? Our sustainable procurement report from 2021 highlighted the importance of technology when it comes to ethical sourcing. Things like incorporating blockchain into the supply chain and harnessing the power of A.I. are crucial to the promotion of transparency at each tier.

  1. Your legal team are happy

This speaks for itself. If your ethical credentials have been scrutinised and all is well, there is a good chance you’re on the right track. Ignorance is no longer a valid excuse for poor ethical practices so companies have been rightly forced to tighten up their operations.

  1. Customer feedback   

Are your customers happy? Increasingly, green credentials are expected rather than preferred. Customers want to be able to pass on ethical authority to their stakeholders – if they can do so with confidence, you’re in a good place. 

If you’re reading any of these points and thinking more needs to be done, a great way to have an impact is through starting conversations. Find out why you haven’t been investing in the latest tech or what customer gripes are about – you may be able to make tangible changes.

What Your Ethical Footprint Says About You

So what does your footprint say about you? Well to start, the fact you recognise its importance means it’s well on its way to being reduced. There are some of us who will be able to confidently say their footprint is minimal and while this is ideal, the road to sustainability is not the same for everyone! 

Although I’m sure we’d all love to work in supply chains at the cutting edge of sustainable initiatives, this simply isn’t always the case. And that’s fine – so long as we recognise this and start having those important conversations. 

We want to hear your thoughts! Join in the conversation about ethical sourcing below and make sure to sign up for our upcoming Big Ideas Summit 2022 on March the 16th.

Spaces are filling up fast and you don’t want to miss out on this incredible event. Register now!