SUPPLIER SUSTAINABILITY AUDITS: HOW TO ALLEVIATE THE BURDEN FOR SUPPLIERS

If you are in a sustainability department, supply chain management or procurement, you’ve probably seen it happen: when asked to pass a sustainability audit, some suppliers do whatever they can to stall the process, often delaying the audit for a couple of months or even avoiding it altogether. With a few simple measures, you can greatly improve the success of your audit program.

As a provider of sustainability audits, we observe it all the time: Companies design a responsible sourcing program, code of conduct and audit program for their supply chain, but find that the planning of the audits takes forever. Some suppliers flat out refuse to have another sustainability audit, some go silent hoping the request will go away, whereas others request a postponement.

If those symptoms sound familiar, it is because the problem is a familiar one as well: audit fatigue. Despite all initiatives towards common supplier standards, the audit pressure on suppliers has never been higher than it is today.

How can we do better?

The issue of audit fatigue is something to be aware of when setting up a responsible sourcing program for your supply chain. With a few relatively simple measures, you can improve the effectiveness of the audit program and reduce the strain on your suppliers.

Measure #1: Refer to existing standards in your Supplier Code of Conduct

99 % of all supplier codes of conduct are exactly the same. This means there is no need to reinvent the wheel: it is very likely that standards and initiatives such as Sedex SMETASA 8000 and BSCI already cover the requirements outlined in the code of conduct of your company. Instead of developing a custom-made audit program based on your code of conduct, we recommend looking at existing standards: they bundle years of best auditing practices.

If you have any particular requirements that go beyond existing standards, you can add these to the audit protocol.

Measure #2: Consider what your suppliers have already achieved

Before requesting your suppliers to pass an audit, consider what they already have: it is unlikely that you are the first client to request a sustainability audit. If a supplier already has a valid certificate or audit report from a trusted third party, is it necessary to audit the same aspects again? Compare your supplier code of conduct to existing standards and only audit those aspects that have not been sufficiently assessed yet.

Measure #3: Consider a risk-based approach

Instead of deploying a supply chain-wide audit requirement, balance the risk and the level of assurance you require. Several providers provide risk assessment tools that can help you determine auditing priorities. These tools typically distinguish:

  • inherent risk for regions and industry sectors (economic situation, wage structure, worker population, …)
  • particular risk levels of individual suppliers, e.g. based on previous audit findings and questionnaires

Measure #4: Focus on improvement

If suppliers are reluctant to have a sustainability audit, it may be because they worry about the consequences of a bad audit result. To allay these fears, offer support and guidance to suppliers – both for the preparation as well as for the follow-up. Avoid a “pass or fail”-approach, but rather help suppliers improve their sustainability performance.

Measure #5: Reward good performance with Business

Many companies have implemented an award scheme for their supply chain: winning the award gives the supplier something to be proud of. However, what matters more than a trophy is the bottom line: if suppliers with an excellent sustainability performance get a return on investment from you in the form of additional sales, they will need no further motivation to continue improving.

The above article sourcing from DQS CFS website (https://dqs-cfs.com/2018/06/supplier-sustainability-audits-how-to-alleviate-the-burden-for-suppliers/). For more information, please send email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

PREVENTING PRODUCT FRAUD: IFS PUBLISHES PRACTICAL GUIDE

In the past few years, almost every standard for food and consumer goods safety has incorporated additional requirements for combatting product fraud. This has left certified sites with many questions about the implementation of a product fraud mitigation plan. The new guideline published by IFS is a practical guide that will help companies implement the requirements of the various IFS Standards.

Although many people still associate product fraud with the food industry, and therefore the IFS Food Standard, product fraud can occur at any point within the supply chain and can involve fraud with packaging materials as well. With this in mind, the newly published IFS Guide focuses on the correct implementation of IFS Food Version 6.1, IFS PACsecure 1.1 and IFS Logistics 2.2.

The Guide is available from the IFS website free of charge – click here to download your copy.

Understanding the Requirements

The guide itself does not provide any additional requirements for certification – rather, it explains and illustrates the requirements of the above-named standards. In essence, the standards require certified sites to do three things:

  • To conduct a vulnerability assessment in order to assess the risk of product fraud
  • To implement a product fraud mitigation plan, which puts the necessary controls in place
  • To review the assessment and the mitigation plan as needed to ensure their effectiveness

However, the standards themselves do not describe how a vulnerability assessment needs to be done. They also do not specify mandatory content for a product fraud mitigation plan.

The new guide outlines how a vulnerability assessment can be conducted, distinguishing between a product vulnerability assessment and a supplier vulnerability assessment. It also illustrates how a mitigation plan can be made, based on the risk level of products and suppliers.

Don’t forget the Appendices

If you are tempted to skip the appendices, don’t: Appendix 1 and 2 provide a very useful example of how to apply the measures in practice. Appendix 3 is helpful in prepraring the certification audit: it gives an overview of the questions an auditor can ask in relation to product fraud, as well as the documents you will need to be able to provide the auditor with.

The above article sourcing from DQS CFS website (http://dqs-cfs.com/2018/05/preventing-product-fraud-ifs-publishes-practical-guide/). For more information, please send email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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