Not all superheroes wear capes. Some compose excel spreadsheets and identify process bottlenecks!
An exaggeration, no doubt, but the truth is that those overseeing supply chains can and do have a massive impact on countless lives. Too often, we boil down the massively complex world of procurement to dollars and cents. Whose product is cheapest? Where are the biggest savings? What corners can I cut and still get the job done?
But supply chains have far-reaching consequences, and the easy path often leads to the misery of those we’ll never come face to face with – and that’s no exaggeration.
Supply Chain Mission 1: Eliminate Slavery
Yes, slavery exists in 2019, and we’re not just talking about sex trafficking, though the horrors of that industry cannot be understated. Believe it or not, slavery is most prevalent in the same area it has been for the last two centuries: the supply chain.
It can be hard to detect, too. It’s not as simple as someone ‘owning’ another human being. The slavery we battle today takes the form of indentured labour, which includes parents selling their children to garment factories to work the loom or workers having the bulk of their wages garnished to pay off debts. These workers may not be owned by the companies, but many of them cannot leave voluntarily.
It’s an ugly reality, and one which affects us all. Cocoa, cotton, fishing, fashion, to name a few, are massive global industries benefiting from the misery of modern slavery. We’ve taken a deeper look at this in a previous piece: Modern Slavery: Is your supply chain benefiting from slavery?.
Insidious as it is, there are still ways to fight it. It is incumbent upon procurement professionals to take stock of their supply chains and do their utmost to eliminate, or at least minimise, slave labour. Where we feel powerless against injustices we know about, we must speak out. Business leaders have a powerful voice here. Information is out there, as are organisations dedicated to ridding the world of slavery. We need to reach out and listen. And act.
Supply Chain Mission 2: Fight Poverty with Honesty and Respect
Poverty is a complex issue and, yes, supply chains play their part. We want our supply chains to produce as much as possible for as little as possible, and this often means reduced labour costs. Sending work to one area can lift a group of people out of poverty, and unfortunately plunge others somewhere else into destitution.
Including small landholders and producers from impoverished areas in our supply chains is a valuable and worthwhile decision. But often these producers have little access to the information necessary to effectively negotiate on price and quantity, and no way of accessing global information on markets and where they stand accordingly. They are easily manipulated and exploited. Including them in our supply chains isn’t enough; we need to treat them with honesty and respect.
Supply Chain Mission 3: Rid the World of Abhorrent Waste
Here’s a stat to give you pause: a third of all food produced globally is lost or wasted, most often before it even reaches consumers. Horrifying, no doubt, but also an opportunity. Eliminating waste from the supply chain isn’t just good corporate social responsibility; it can also bolster the bottom line.
Of course, it won’t be easy. This Business Reporter article argues something we’d all agree with: supply chain management has become tougher than ever. Market conditions for manufacturers and retailers are posing increasing challenges, compounded by unpredictable consumer behaviour. Input costs like raw materials, fuel and transportation are climbing, while competition and regulation are both increasing.
But hurdles only make superheroes jump higher. Reducing waste has benefits that echo all the way through the supply chain. To do so effectively, we have to look beyond our own supply chain and see the world for what it is, an interconnected ecosystem. System thinking will help you see beyond the idea of simply reducing costs and help you save the world from abhorrent levels of waste.
To the telephone booth!
In the long term, an inefficient supply chain is no good to anyone. As procurement professionals, sometimes all we can do is ensure our decision-making is fair, and accept the fact that we can’t be heroes to all.
But that’s no reason not to try. You think Clark Kent still works at the Daily Planet? No way. He’s exactly where he needs to be to save the world: in procurement!
We’re a Marvel
At Comprara, we’re a marvel at working with you to make our world a better place for everybody. Why not give us a call when you’re facing your next impossible supply chain challenge.