The Courage to Choose Ethical Sourcing

January 26, 2024 Procurement

Many businesses are unaware that their products might be linked to modern slavery. The complexity of multinational supply chains can obscure this harsh reality. This article will help you recognize warning signs in your suppliers' practices, especially in areas and industries where the risk is higher. Read on to find out how your sourcing decisions can make a difference.


Global supply chains are so complex that they mask the sad, uncomfortable truth that, even today, slavery exists in some countries.

Where modern slavery is most prevalent

The statistics are staggering: Over 50 million people still live in situations of modern slavery, the majority of them being women, children, and migrants.

Modern slavery occurs everywhere, but it is a significant concern in the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industries because they often source building materials like steel and timber from countries with the highest occurrence of modern slavery.

Refuse to be complicit

Where you source your materials and products matters because you could be, unknowingly, supporting modern slavery.

You have the power to change this. Start by looking closely at your supply chain to better understand where your materials really come from.


Here are some simple steps to prioritize ethical practices.

Much-needed awareness

First, do your homework. Some companies are simply not aware of how pervasive this issue is.

This lack of awareness about the use of forced labour in the AEC industry is what led Sharon Prince, CEO and Founder of Grace Farms Foundation, to formally launch Design for Freedom (DFF) in 2020, an initiative aimed at removing forced and child labour from the building materials supply chain.

As the movement gains momentum, more companies want to know how they can educate their team and prioritize ethical procurement.

Setting the standard for ethical sourcing

Regardless of your industry, you can start by establishing clear criteria for what constitutes ethical and compliant practices.

This should include factors like labour standards, environmental impact, and adherence to laws like the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015.

Take a close look at your suppliers’ practices

Then, assess your current suppliers. It’s not enough to just send them a questionnaire about their labour policies.

Arrange for an on-site visit to observe working conditions firsthand and their production’s environmental impact. Pay particular attention to health and safety standards and practices to reduce waste, energy, and water use.

The B Corp advantage

Some certifications, however, speak for themselves.

In particular, the B Corp certification is awarded to companies that meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance while also maintaining a high level of public transparency and legal accountability.

After three years, B Corps are required to complete the B Impact assessment again. This regular re-certification process ensures that certified companies remain focused on continuous improvement.

Digitally map your supply chain

You need to know who your suppliers are, where they’re located, and if they adhere to your ethical standards. But it doesn’t stop there; you should look at the extended chain. However, it can be difficult to gather information about your suppliers’ suppliers (second-tier) and even further down the chain (third-tier and beyond).

That’s where supply chain mapping tools come in. They help you gain transparency at every level, identifying all the participants involved in your supply chains and assessing whether they comply with your ethical sourcing objectives.

You’re in it together

When a vendor falls short in certain areas, work with them to make improvements. Provide guidance and support to help them meet your standards.

This approach not only ensures legal compliance but also aligns with the growing consumer demand for socially responsible practices.


Choosing ethical sourcing does more than just give you peace of mind. It's a smart business

Speak up loud and clear against modern slavery

Think about how it will enhance your company’s image and reputation.

Today's consumers and investors value corporate responsibility. At some point, they will ask your company for this level of transparency. You may as well anticipate this and prepare for their tough questions. Following the lead of companies like Amazon, you could even consider issuing a modern slavery statement.

Such a statement not only demonstrates a commitment to ethical practices but also positions your company as a transparent and responsible leader in the eyes of stakeholders.

The importance of shared values

Your ethical sourcing decisions also create a ripple effect. You’re essentially leading by example.

This is likely to attract clients and partners who share your values, setting up your business for future success.

In a 2023 interview, Nora Rizzo, Ethical Materials Director at Grace Farms, explained that generally speaking, the AEC industry is simply not aware how widespread forced and child labour is. As soon as people recognize the true toll of “cheap” materials, they diligently research and choose suppliers committed to providing good working conditions, usually at a higher cost. But it’s well worth it to run an ethical business.

So, if this article has achieved nothing else, let’s hope it has convinced you that ethical sourcing matters. Every decision you make brings us closer to, or further from, a more humane future without forced and child labour.

At Vicone, what we do best is design, produce and optimize rubber parts. We have been supporting our customers since 2004, from concept to volume production.

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