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  • On 10 December, we observed Human Rights Day, which celebrates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights from the United Nations General Assembly. The declaration is a milestone document that protects the inalienable rights that everyone is entitled to as a human being. As we all celebrate Human Rights Day, it’s a good time for charities to look at their own supply chain to ensure that you’re buying from companies who stand up for these rights through ethical credentials and practices. In this post, we identify few questions you should be asking of your suppliers to ensure you’re adhering to ethical trading standards and putting values behind your merchandising purchases.

    How committed are they to ethical trading?

    The reputation of your charity is ultimately an extension of the reputation of your suppliers. How committed are they to ethical practices? Do they adhere to the latest policies involving ethical sourcing and trading.

    One of the best ways to protect your organisation’s reputation is to get to know your suppliers. Ask them directly about their ethical credentials and to provide transparency into their own supply chains. Suppliers who are truly committed to ethical trading will be able to provide you with detailed documentation on their policies. For example, here at Rocket Charities, we have our own strict ethical code of practise, which we have worked hard to establish with all of our suppliers. By working with suppliers that you know and trust, you can take the worry out of using unethical suppliers, and focus on the finer details of your campaign.

    What are their ethical trading credentials?

    When suppliers are truly committed, they should want to show it! One way to confirm a supplier’s commitment is to check its website for featured accreditations and certifications, like Sedex, which means the company follows the Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audit (SMETA), a widely used ethical audit format. Sedex member companies have access to responsible sourcing data to ensure an ethical supply chain and to make more informed decisions about labour rights, health, safety, the environment, and business ethics.

    This is also true for the quality of materials. A good way to ensure that you’re getting the highest quality product is to make sure it meets certain quality assurances, like ISO 9001 Quality Management from the International Organisation for Standarisation. As with ethical credentials like Sedex, look for an ISO 9001 logo on the website of the company you are considering.  Many companies also tout quality assurance standards through press releases and the media.

    Another accreditation to look for is UKAS, the UK’s national accreditation body responsible for evaluating and approving the technical competence and integrity of organisations and suppliers against internationally-recognised standards. Look for this icon or search for UKAS accredited organisations.

    Do they provide a modern slavery statement?

    Companies around the world have made statements under the UK Modern Slavery Act, designed to tackle slavery in the UK. But what’s included in these statements? What should you look for? And what happens if a supplier doesn’t meet your charity’s expectations?

    Let’s use Rocket Charities’ own modern slavery statement as an example. First, your supplier should have a clear and bold statement. In our statement, we write that: modern slavery is an unquestionable and indefensible violation of an individual’s basic human rights and that we have a moral and social responsibility to take a zero-tolerance approach to modern slavery in all forms.

    The modern slavery statement should discuss the company’s activities and actions to ensure due diligence, as well as general policies for its own suppliers, staff and working conditions. The statement might also include an “assessment of effectiveness” that discusses how a supplier reviews and assesses its ethical efficacy. Lastly, check to see if your potential supplier has a channel for enquiries for additional questions you may have.

    Do they pay a real living wage?

    On the surface, this sounds like a very difficult question to answer! How would you know the wages a supplier pays to its workers? The good news is, there are agencies that can help you. The Living Wage Foundation is one example. The foundation recognises and celebrates living wage employers across the UK, and of its core activities is accreditation. To become accredited as a Living Wage Employer, a company must pay staff a living wage based on actual living costs. You can search a database of Living Wage companies or look for this icon on a company’s website, which will make it easier for you to identify suppliers who adhere to this important value.

    If you’re ever unsure of a company’s ethics or values, be clear! Tell them what your priorities are, ask questions, and make sure they can meet your expectations. When it comes to selecting products or merchandise for your charity, you have many options, which is a good thing. But if you keep the above principles in mind when selecting a vendor, you can ensure that you’re buying from the most socially responsible supplier.  You’ll be making a real difference for real people and it’s a strong, important statement that will resonate with your supporters and donors.


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