THOUGHT LEADERSHIP 

The rise of the ‘Conscious Consumer’

The relationship between global brands and consumers is changing...

As consumers, the buying choices we make are increasingly influenced by environmental and ethical considerations as we seek assurance about what we purchase, from the sourcing of raw materials through manufacturing to the point of sale where we receive and benefit from the goods or services. This increasing ‘social’ conscience is transforming what citizens expect of the brands they support and the products they buy.

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The Response
With a number of different supplier audit schemes and approaches resulting in a lack of uniformity (in audit approach, requirements, auditor competencies and outcomes), and resultant confusion amongst buyers, BRCGS has recognised the need for consistent, rigorous Ethical Trade and Responsible Sourcing standards that are directly targeted to address the consumer’s ethical sourcing concerns.  Working with the global Consumer Goods Forum, and its Sustainable Supply Chain Initiative, BRCGS have developed two universally applicable, linked products to help brands and their suppliers make sure that the goods they sell are produced ethically from materials that have been sourced responsibly.  A Risk Assessment and Core Standard, the requirements of both are based on universally applicable conventions from the International Labour Organisation and core principles of the Ethical Trading Initiatives’ Base Code:

  • The Risk Assessment supports a business to undertake a ‘Health check’ based on senior management ethical commitment, labour standards, health & safety arrangements, corporate governance, and respect for human rights.  The process is quick (circa 4 hours) and efficient and provides a set of metrics and indicators to an organization identifying any areas where there may be elevated risk or where improvement is needed.

  • The Core Standard is a full ethical assurance audit that involves extensive worker engagement and on-site evaluation to evidence and determine the level of compliance of an organization against the principles and requirements of the BRCGS Ethical Trade and Responsible Sourcing Standard.  It is a two-step audit process, internationally accredited to ISO/IEC 17021-1, a globally recognised framework, and covers manufacturing (Food and non-Food products) and secondary processing or packing sites. It is also applicable to the services provided to manufacturing facilities, such as agents and brokers, storage and distribution, and the provision of labour, cleaning, and pest control.

Ethical Trade & Responsible Sourcing - the requirements

Senior Management Commitment

Senior Management is commited to to implementing and upholding the key principles and practices associated with Ethical trade & Responsible Sourcing

Labour Standards

Fair labour standards are observed and that workers are treated fairly and equally

Health & Safety

Workers have an environment that is safe, healthy and hygienic; has the necessary safeguards and precautions in place and that workers are provided with the necessary training and equipment to protect them from harm

Respecting Human Rights 

Workers are treated with dignity and respect and their basic Human Rights are upheld

Corporate Governance

Commitment to the highest standards of ethical conduct and integrity and takes necessary measures to ensure these are observed by its s

The Business Case

There are several key differentiators between the BRCGS Ethical Trade and Responsible Sourcing Standard and other Social Audit schemes to enhance the assurance given to buyers.  The Audit Protocol sets rigorous competency requirements for all auditors, site visits occur unannounced within a 28-day audit window, and the scheme ensures that all non-conformities are identified and corrected to drive improvement prior to any certification. The evaluation mechanism means that sites can be graded, providing a useful benchmark; improving brand confidence, transparency and supporting continuous improvement.

The Core Standard is in the process of being benchmarked to the Sustainable Supply Chain Initiative requirements set by the Consumer Goods Forum.

The OECD predicts the global middle class will rise to 4.9 billion by 2030.  These consumers are more aware of issues like the quality, efficacy, and safety of products, where they might have come from, who might have made them and how workers might have been treated during their manufacture – it is a generation of individuals raised with ethics and climate change as key drivers that will shape their purchasing decisions. 

The BRCGS Risk Assessment and Core Standards are designed to provide a robust, universally relevant, cross cutting, ethical and responsible sourcing benchmark that will give consumers the reassurance they seek and workers the protection they are entitled to.  Companies seeking to benefit from this seismic change in consumer attitude have a window of opportunity.

The BRCGS Risk Assessment and Core Standards are designed to provide a robust, universally relevant, cross cutting, ethical and responsible sourcing benchmark that will give consumers the reassurance they seek and workers the protection they are entitled to.  Companies seeking to benefit from this seismic change in consumer attitude have a window of opportunity.

As supply chains become increasingly global, so accountability becomes more transparent through the influence of social media, and reputations become more fragile as consumers seek a higher level of assurance regarding a products source, with particular focus on safety, sustainability, legality, and its efficacy.

Many do not want to be inadvertently buying into systems of human exploitation and environmental destruction – people want to know that what they are purchasing has been sourced ethically, and this includes the treatment of those workers involved in the process. Some food for thought….

  • 152 million children are in child labour, almost half of which are involved in hazardous work (ILO 2016).

  • 40.3 million people were victims of modern slavery in 2016 (ILO 2016).

  • 77% of companies believe there is a likelihood of modern slavery occurring in their supply chains. (ETI 2017).

 

Look at that last statistic.  Walk around your home.  Consider how many of your belongings potentially involved someone enslaved in their supply chain.  It is an uncomfortable thought.

There is a very real imperative for these issues to be confronted and for systems of assurance and certification to play a leading role in their identification, prevention, and remediation.  We as conscious consumers increasingly demand transparent, accountable assurance.

MSS Global have been selected as part of the first international pilot for the BRCGS ETRS scheme, get in touch to find out how we can support the certification process across your sites.