It is becoming increasingly clear that large consumer-facing companies are under pressure to “open the kimono” and are taking steps toward transparency.
Three trends are pushing them in that direction.
Trend one: a gradual change in culture in Europe and North America
People are getting used to seeing publicly-available information on the internet. In their majority, they are happy to share news and photos/videos of themselves on social networks. There are limits, though, as the NSA scandal showed recently.
It seems like this trend is here to stay. Read the science-fiction novel The Circle and you will have a good idea of where companies like Google are taking us, one step at a time.
This is already impacting the China sourcing world. Some small American importers are happy to share their supplier names on Tradesparq.com. It will be interesting to see if this trend catches on.
Trend two: a few high-visibility pioneers
I recently discovered that two major apparel brands disclosed their supplier lists (down to some sub-suppliers):
- Patagonia – http://www.patagonia.com/us/footprint/
- H&M – http://sustainability.hm.com/en/sustainability/downloads-resources/resources/supplier-list.html
This is clearly putting pressure on other consumer-facing brands, which are often suspected of using hideous workshops.
Remember, too, that Apple disclosed their supplier list after all the bad press created by the suicides at Foxconn.
Trend three: industry standards
In the food industry, unannounced and semi-announced audits are very common. The ISO 22000 series (related to food safety) includes clauses to regulate subcontracting. And I bet this type of requirement will appear in many other industry-specific standards, as they get developed over time.
Do you agree that this trend is here to stay? And how should importers & sourcing agencies adapt their strategies?