LRQA is exhibiting at the Sedex (Supplier Ethical Data Exchange) Conference in London. This year’s theme is “Impact through Leadership. Defining ‘Beyond Compliance’ in Responsible Sourcing’ and LRQA is a member of Sedex.
The conference, which has an audience from 43 countries, with over 650 delegates, provides the opportunity to network with other like-minded industry peers.
Here, Vincent Doumeizel, Vice President of Food, Beverage and Sustainability at LRQA reviews the first day’s proceedings and talks about the role of SMETA - an audit procedure developed by Sedex - to support businesses that are committed to continuously improving the ethical performance within their supply chains.
The event theme is “Impact through Leadership. Defining ‘Beyond Compliance’ in Responsible Sourcing.” What does this mean to you?
Beyond compliance means that we need to meet the new expectations of the Millennials which goes much further than just compliance but is now more focused on being exemplary; setting an example for a better world. Any purchasing decision from this generation is driven on the impact that this may have on the world and SEDEX as well as LRQA are tools to identify and assess what that impact will be. It is important that we focus on continual improvement; we want to move from just compliance through to performance but that performance needs to be sustainable and ethical. SEDEX is a reporting tool to measure how well organisations are performing and where they may need to focus on areas of improvement, which combined with the traditional assessment process delivers value in terms of stakeholder trust and engagement. Increasingly, the larger brands are driven by their own customers’ expectations and as a result they are benchmarking the sustainability performance of their supply chain and selecting the best performing ones to drive best practice globally. So in terms of leadership, it is important that there is senior level leadership to drive internal employee engagement.
What value does LRQA being a member of Sedex deliver to our clients?
LRQA is committed to finding improvements to drive supply chain sustainability which is often delivered through a combination of new services and technologies. We take a holistic approach and an independent viewpoint to give fresh insight on areas that may need additional focus. We can also combine SMETA audits with a range of other assessments - from quality, health and safety, environmental through to food safety and customised assurance - thereby saving the client both time, money and hassle.
Are SMETA audits purely for the food sector or can they apply across sectors?
SMETA audits go far beyond the food sector. Here today in London at the Sedex Conference, delegates are from a wide range of industries from manufacturing, textiles and electronics to name but a few. They all have a common goal, to deliver ethically sourced products and services from a sustainable supply chain. Our expertise and deep sector specific insight goes a long way in adding additional value to those clients that we deliver SMETA audits to.
Whose responsibility is it to go beyond compliance?
It is a global responsibility. It is clear that there is far greater collaboration between many of the larger brands who are seeking to resolve supply chain issues in order to deliver stakeholder transparency. Compliance is the starting point, the benchmark from which you can further improve your supply chain performance and practices. Going beyond compliance ensures that there is an ongoing focus on continual improvement. This focus is against the backdrop of a media savvy generation that is all too aware of the consequences should we fail to act.
In the opening session this morning, there was a lot of talk from Sedex about their strategic focus on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); what’s your viewpoint on this?
During the conference, there was a clear statement from Sedex that the SDGs should be the guiding principle upon which we base our commitment to driving ethical sourcing and sustainable supply chains. Looking at the food sector alone, there has been a clear statement from the UN that food is a human right; this is a game changer. What this means in real terms is that we need to be able to produce enough food in an ethical way to ensure that there is enough to feed the expanding global population - irrespective of wherever they are in the world. As a result there is a groundswell in terms of organisations of all sizes looking at how their supply chains are delivering against the overarching principles of sustainability and ethical sourcing. In addition, the new version of SMETA 6.0 looks at the requirements relating to human rights and the UN guiding principles are about demonstrating an awareness of human rights and their impacts. Organisations will need to consider direct and indirect human rights impacts in the workplace for workers and beyond that - looking at the wider picture for the community. As a consequence, this - along with other key areas of focus - is driving a surge in demand for SMETA audits and customised assurance services.
From a Brexit point of view, do we perceive that there could be any impact around sustainability?
LRQA has a clear position on Brexit which can be read here. What is important to note is that we are closely monitoring developments and we continue to keep our stakeholders informed via our normal channels. Rest assured that LRQA will provide seamless support to clients throughout and after Brexit negotiations.
What role does technical innovation play in driving sustainability and responsible sourcing?
It is absolutely essential as it enables new solutions including Blockchain, IoT and Predictive Analytics to name but a few which moves assurance from a retrospective insight of what went wrong to real-time monitoring and reporting and being able to identify and deal with supply chain issues before they become a problem. We are also delivering new and innovative services to meet the needs of consumers who are clever and discerning; they want independent assurance that the food they are eating is safe and free from genetic modification, is sustainably sourced and is exactly as it claims to be on the packaging. Consumer assurance is LRQA's brand promise; our range of services from product authentication through to being assured as non-GMO - all underpinned by the latest technology from Clear Labs and DNA1, means that we can drive consumer trust in brands, whilst reducing the risk of costly recalls for manufacturers.
What have been your key takeaways from the first day of the Sedex conference and what would you like to see over the remaining days?
It is clear that there is an enormous amount of progress; whilst issues such as modern slavery is still very high, clearly it is decreasing and strategies are being put in place to address this further and SMETA audits can help deliver on the collective goals of organisations worldwide. As we head into the second and final day of the conference, I am looking forward to hearing first hand on how organisations are delivering on their commitment to ensure ethical sourcing and supply chain sustainability.