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Food Safety

How Food Supply Chain Professionals Can Promote Ethical Choices

Abe Eshkenazi, CSCP, CPA, CAE

Chief Executive Officer, Association for Supply Chain Management

Food manufacturers, processors, packagers, distributors, retailers, and others face serious blind spots with regards to transparency and traceability, making corporate social responsibility a strategic imperative for the industry.

Fortunately, a recent survey by the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM), Supply Chain Management Review, and Loyola University reveals that most supply chain professionals acknowledge this, with 83 percent of respondents considering supply chain ethics either extremely important or very important. However, there is a disconnect between understanding and action.

Food supply chain professionals must alter the way they operate while educating and empowering people to make better buying choices. Indeed, too few consumers are aware of the implications associated with the food they eat every day. Here’s how to start.

Monitor suppliers

Beyond increasing organizational alignment, food manufacturers must take real action to improve their supply chain practices and consistently communicate results. Do this by first implementing a clear code of conduct for your suppliers. These principles can include meeting certification codes; local regulations; environment, health, and safety policies; and sustainable practices.

Then, look to standards and frameworks from reporting organizations such as the United Nations Global Compact, which encourages businesses to adopt and report on socially responsible policies, and the Global Reporting Initiative, which helps companies understand and communicate about their impacts on a wide range of economic, environmental and social issues.

Gain visibility

Only 43 percent of survey respondents said they have an initiative in place to better understand how their suppliers function, and just 47 percent are using software to monitor compliance. With deeper insight into operations throughout every tier of your food supply chain, it’s possible to ensure accountability and ethical policies.

Implement standard frameworks

Chief supply chain officers and other C-suite leaders must coordinate across business functions to continuously uphold supply chain ethics.

Educate consumers

Heighten your supply chain’s transparency and arm people with the information they need to make the best possible choices in the grocery aisle. Provide clear information on both ingredients and sourcing. Make it simple for consumers to use a batch number to identify suppliers, area of origination, and other important details. This is also a wonderful way to build trust.

Establishing ethical food supply chains isn’t just a requirement; it’s an opportunity. When businesses and consumers come together around a shared concern about the impacts of the choices they make, both people and planet will benefit.

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