Transparency. This word gets thrown around a lot, but what are we actually saying when we say we want more transparency? It means we need open and honest dialogue. We need to have access to genuine information, information that is unmodified and untainted, that provides a clear picture of what works, what does not work, and where we need to improve.
In any effort to implement, evaluate and gauge the success of an endeavor, transparency is vital.
Transparency in supply chains is a very sticky topic, often demanded but rarely understood. Falsification of documents and lab reports, bribery, hiding undocumented workers- all of these methods to block transparency impact a company's ability to be effective when applying a sustainability and/or code of conduct program. Getting more transparency in your supply chain often means uncovering more complex challenges and unexpected issues.
Are you prepared to deal with a supplier who has been presenting falsified wage documents to auditors for the last ten years you have worked together? Are you ready to uncover undocumented migrant workers have been trafficked by an illegal labor contractor? How will you prepare your in-country staff and sourcing vendors for the possibility that bribery may occur, and if it does what will be your plan of action? Even more basic, do you know where your product was made? What about the components and materials that came from your second or third tier factories?
Having candid conversations with suppliers, internal teams, CEOs and consumers about what transparency really means is also an important component of this journey. We cannot build meaningful solutions to problems if we do not understand every aspect of what is driving those problems in the first place.
Fundamentally, I believe that every strategy, tool, communication device and/or engagement must take into consideration how it will impact and support transparency in the relationship.
I work with companies to build transparency at all levels of their operations. Some examples of this include:
- Analysis of information sharing practices and protocol (external and internal)
- Protocol development for managing falsified payroll and timecards
- Traceability of manufacturing cycle
- Information channels to and from workers in outsourced factories/farms
- Consumer engagement on transparency issues (i.e. communicating supply chain compliance issues candidly and publicly)