Building an ethical supply chain is a marathon, not a sprint.
As with a marathon, you have to prepare before you head for the starting line—familiarizing yourself with the landscape, learning the ground rules, and designing a program to help you go the distance.
The Accountability Framework provides companies with the guidance they need to complete the ethical supply chain journey successfully. While each company’s plans must be tailored to its own context and operations, the Framework directs all users to a common destination: supply chains that are free from deforestation, ecosystem destruction, and human rights abuses—and the business risk that accompanies them.
Of course, your journey won’t be as linear as a road race—you may have already covered some of this ground before, and you’re probably going to return to your goals more than once to make the kinds of adjustments that promote continuous improvement—but here are a few tips to help you run smart.
Get Your Bearings
What’s the ultimate destination, and what kind of terrain will you encounter along the way? To understand the Framework’s consensus-based expectations for ethical supply chain commitments and policies, start by reading Core Principles 1-3: protection of forests and other natural ecosystems, respect for human rights, and specification of commitments. (Of course, it’s a good idea to read all 12 Core Principles, but the first three offer a solid foundation for those that follow.)
Just getting warmed up? The Framework’s “Ethical Supply Chain Journey” interactive tool can be useful in determining which activities are relevant to your company.
If you’re ready for a more advanced workout, take a look at the Framework’s detailed guidance on crucial components of robust commitments, such as appropriate cutoff dates for ecosystem conversion and the essential rights of indigenous peoples and local communities.
Understand the Ground Rules
You’ve read the Core Principles, and you know you want to eliminate deforestation from your supply chain, but can you explain the difference between “deforestation-free” and “zero-net deforestation”? What about the definition of a “living wage”? As the product of consensus among a coalition of widely respected conservation and human rights NGOs, the Framework provides you with common definitions of the concepts that will shape your route.
To master the language, browse the Framework’s Terms and Definitions. The information is organized according to topic—such as supplier management, ecosystem protection, and assessment of supply chain risks—but if there’s a specific word or phrase you want to find, use the “Search” function. Don’t worry about remembering or understanding all of it perfectly on the first pass; this section will always be there, one click away, whenever you need to refer to it.
Another great resource is the Framework’s Operational Guidance on How to Apply Definitions Related to Deforestation, Conversion, and Protection of Ecosystems. This Q&A and its accompanying examples will clarify how the terms and definitions work in various contexts.
Assess Your Fitness Level
As you establish new goals or refresh existing policies, you may be concerned about how well they stack up against those of your peers, or those expected by buyers, investors, or civil society. For example: Does your policy on protecting workers’ rights specify what types of staff (e.g., part-time, full-time, seasonal, etc.) are included? Does it have a cutoff date after which conversion of natural ecosystems is no longer allowed anywhere in your supply chain? The Framework addresses these and many other questions that are likely to arise.
The Commitment Assessment Tool can help you determine the elements that should be included, by comparing your proposed goals against the Framework to assess alignment and identify potential gaps. The tool presents Core Principles 1-3 in checklist form to provide a systematic approach to setting new goals or reviewing existing policies. Down the road, after you’ve aligned your commitments with the Framework, the tool will help you to substantiate and communicate your commitments to buyers, investors, and stakeholders.
You’ve got your plan, made your preparations, and now you’re ready to run. Head over to the Ethical Supply Chain Journey for a guide to the next stage—taking action to achieve your goals. And be sure to subscribe to our newsletter for more useful resources to help you hit your stride.