Sedex’s Mark Robertson says that making supply chain data more open will level the sustainability playing field for millions of small companies.
The last few years have seen turbulent times for responsible sourcing. From the tragic collapse of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh to the Horsemeat Scandal in Europe, allegations of Bribery in China to worker deaths associated with construction projects for the Qatar 2022 world cup, it’s clear that greater transparency in global supply chains is urgently needed.
The list of existing reporting frameworks and initiatives to drive transparency on corporate sustainability is long. There are many millions of companies around the world of all shapes and sizes, but while larger companies are increasingly well engaged on transparency and sustainability, the reality is that a vast chunk of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are not.
Data openness provides multiple sustainability and supply chain benefits and efficiencies. The European Parliament adopted the directive on disclosure of non-financial and diversity information on April 15, 2014. This means many EU companies will need to disclose information on policies, risks and outcomes linked to environmental performance, social and employee-related aspects, respect for human rights, anti-corruption practices, bribery issues, and diversity.
While this public policy response to the surging demand for corporate transparency is timely, currently there is no common mechanism for the private sector to openly share such information, and there is a widening gap between companies that have the knowledge, capacity and funds to afford open and collaborative behaviours, and those that do not.
To help close gaps in the availability and visibility of responsible supply chain data, Sedex Global and OpenCorporates are partnering with the World Bank Institute to create the Open Supply Chain Platform: a free, open-to-everyone global platform for companies to upload and share core information on environmental, social and governance and business ethics issues.
Developed as part of the World Bank Institute’s Open Data Initiative, the Open Supply Chain Platform will help those suppliers that are new to sustainability understand where they are at in terms of their performance, and will provide guidance on areas of weakness. For buyers, the platform will provide more information to inform sourcing decisions, particularly when buying from SMEs which previously might not have been able to provide detailed sustainability information.
As such, the Open Supply Chain Platform is intended to create a more level playing field for companies by offering a range of functionalities companies of all shapes and sizes can use to drive sustainability performance in global supply chains.
The platform is primarily intended as a supply chain resource, but it will also serve as a resource for other stakeholders interested in corporate transparency on sustainability issues. It is not intended to replace Sedex or other responsible supply chain initiatives. It is designed as an initial step to complement these, providing a first tier of information to help companies understand their level of maturity on sustainability issues.
There are more than 20 million SMEs in Europe alone. Once fully launched later this year, it is hoped that the Open Supply Chain Platform will enable millions more companies to better understand their performance and increase sustainability and diversity – generating shared values in responsible sourcing and delivering a step-change in supply chain transparency.
Mark Robertson is Head of Communications at Sedex Global.