This is the last in my series of interviews with leading sustainability practitioners which I carried out to gain examples and pithy insights from the front line for my latest publication, Building A Sustainable Supply Chain.
Sedex is a not-for profit ethical supply chain management service with about 29,000 members in 156 countries. As Director of Insight and Planning at Sedex, Tom Smith lives, eats and breathes supply chain sustainability and he is uniquely placed to give vital insights into this most important issue.
Where did the idea for Sedex come from?
We were founded by a group of UK retailers back in 2004. They had gone off in the mid-90s to set up their individual ethical trading programmes – each with their own audits, questionnaires, certifications, processes etc. By 2000 they had come across two big challenges:
1. There was a huge amount of duplication in questionnaires between different companies and suppliers were spending more time responding to questionnaires than actually fixing the problems. There was also huge duplication in ethical audits and the expense incurred;
2. The sheer volume of data. As ethical trade became more complex and covered more issues right down the supply chain, the volume of data that could be managed by Excel and people’s inboxes became limiting.
So the retailers said, we may all interpret and prioritise data in a different way, but the data we are looking for is the same. So this group, companies like Marks & Spencer, Tesco and the John Lewis Partnership, decided to create an on-line platform where any supplier of goods and services can complete a common set of questions, upload anything they’ve got onto one place – all their questionnaires, audit reports and certifications etc and share that out with multiple customers.
Are suppliers obliged to use the service?
It was created to be a bottom up supplier driven service, not just first tier suppliers, but factories, farms, mines etc - the whole works - and to capture information at a site level, not the top line corporate reporting level.
So in 2004 it was launched as a not-for-profit member organisation to help drive practical ethical trading, not talking about the why, but about the how and helping the CSR managers view the data and make decisions, rather than spending 95% of their time collecting it. Read the rest of this entry »