Assessing Suppliers

While brands and manufacturers endeavor to understand sustainability performance on the ground, they may also be interested in how individual direct suppliers contribute to that performance through their policies and programs upstream. How does a brand assess what suppliers are doing in producing regions to improve conditions on the ground and support the brand’s overall sustainability objectives? Keurig Green Mountain led a discussion based on their pilot of a Supplier Engagement Self-Assessment, which complements compliance verification and the company’s field level monitoring guidelines for direct investments, to evaluate supply chain sustainability of Tier 1 suppliers. The discussion included retail companies and other branded manufacturers, development NGOs and trading houses. Key points included:

  • Supplier surveys can incentivize supplier behavior, especially if linked to favorable contract terms. Be clear about the desired outcomes. “Do you really want coffee importers to have farmer programs or is it rather than you want progress happening at farm level? Importer led programs might not be the best pathway to achieve this and if you ask them, they will create those programs over time.”
  • Sustainability criteria as a component of long term supplier relationships is critical, so auditing supplier programs is also important. Keep the level of auditing fit to the desired outcome.
  • Different supplier survey formats can create duplication of efforts. Initiatives like Sedex and others help to monitor basic criteria like code of conducts, etc. Use these multi-actor platforms when possible.

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