Ethical Sourcing Forum 2015 – NYC (Overview)

Excuse the MIA but during the time I haven’t been around, I had the privilege (and opportunity) to attend the Ethical Sourcing Forum hosted by Intertek (leading provider of quality and safety solution to a variety of industries) in New York City. Their 15th year in the making and to think back to where I was 15 years ago…I won’t go there. Overall, it was almost a life changing trip/experience.

The forum was a 1.5 day event full of networking but mainly different industries, organizations, groups and individuals coming together to discuss “best practices” in an open/safe environment. Although people can argue, “what don’t you know already?” I can say, after this forum, there are a lot of issues out there that require tackling. The concern becomes the numerous amount of issues in the world and the need to find a solution to each one. The main theme appeared to be human trafficking – Did you know it’s the 2nd largest issue in the world with 1st being Narcotics and before the 3rd issue of arms trafficking?! The grand scheme is to “Be Part of the Solution”. No one group can ever tackle global issues but by working together can we bring our own personal experience and practices to be shared to bring some peace.

Story-telling was the most effective means of sharing information. We had individuals who conduct field work and can first hand tell you the concept that one size does not fit all (in other words, one solution cannot solve all problems). From a business point of view, there’s a lot of hidden supply chain risks to consider. Business is not as simple nowadays with global trades and sourcing. How much do you know about your suppliers’ supplier (the indirect supplier that you probably have no visibility to)?

Another key takeaway: any issues that may come up, always try to find the root cause of it. Root-Cause – simple concept but can result in the longest chain of roadblocks. One speaker spoke heavily on not just trying to “fix and fix” a problem but “find, fix and prevent” it from happening. If you understand what is driving the issue to happen and tackle it then, you can find long term solutions.

Lastly, transparency – not an easy thing to obtain, as much as a consumer would sometimes care to know. There’s many risks involved with a company revealing too much information on where products come from – not saying that they shouldn’t. Proper execution would be needed to align the needs of the consumer while maintaining the brand/risk reputation of a company. There are roadblocks/difficulties for companies that do source more than one type of industry goods because they are stretching themselves thin, resulting in being further away from the actual source.

Overall, I’ve learned to have hope and to keep raising awareness, educate and make small changes. To know there are groups and forums out there who try to bring everyone together in tackling a common overarching problem and proactively trying to expand their own knowledge is a wonderful feeling. I wish there was a quick way to resolve all of the mentioned issues but I recognize that this is immaturity in my mind. Lives are affected daily and hasty decisions would only result in the worst outcomes for those that you “try” to protect. Not all businesses are perfect and those who try to do something should be recognized. Those who have been “doing something” for a while, should take the next step instead of lingering around the “do enough to get by”.

Photo Source: Self-taken @ NYC Central Park – Desire Lines by TatianaTrouvé

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