As we conclude one turbulent year and prepare to begin another, I thought that — instead of complaining — it’s time that I make a few confessions. Why the confession? This year compliance, safety and ethical sourcing have become hot mainstream issues. And even though the global economy continues to struggle, buyers are holding back on placing orders, asking for inspections to be made and documents verified so they can sell themselves to their clients as socially responsible companies.
Well, as a sourcing executive I must confess that:
– We all need to do a better job in understanding what compliance really entails, and not just as a matter of pro forma procedure.
– We need to be more proactive in times of crisis and ensure that compliance isn’t hijacked by special interest opportunists.
– We also have to recognize, despite all the grandstanding, that producing apparel in developing countries is one of the most effective ways to lift them out of poverty. Also, it often especially advantages women, who gain respectable employment that would be otherwise elusive. Before we sanctimoniously consider pulling our business from a country like Bangladesh or Cambodia, we should remember that real people depend upon the jobs that business generates.
– Effective vigilance requires boots on the ground, and so let’s collectively commit to actually visiting the factories we use, inspecting them in person, interrogating the owners and finding local accommodations to acclimate ourselves to foreign cultures.
– We simply have to accept that real compliance carries real costs. Maybe we should financially reward those who distinguish themselves as truly responsible at every link of the supply chain.
– At the conclusion of every year, we should take stock of our progress (or lack thereof) in a way that is measurable.
– Let us all say a prayer for those who passed away this year when we celebrate our holidays.
Munir Mashooqullah is the founder and president of Synergies Worldwide, an apparel supply chain management firm with over 20 offices in more than 10 countries. An industry evangelist and frequent speaker at trade shows and conferences such as the Sourcing Journal Sourcing Summit, Mr. Mashooqullah is often sought out by peers to share his unique insights.