Top lessons on how to Engage Suppliers and Build Supply Chain Partnerships

Sarah Ng, Manager, Corporate Communications, ICTI Ethical Toy Program Stakeholder engagement is key to creating synergies, since many businesses have diversified their global supply chains in recent years, the need to look for effective methods to build sustainable relationships with their suppliers is more important than ever.IETP has been increasing our engagement with the community of over 1,000 factory members in our ethical certification program around the world. A performance review we have recently conducted has shown that our program engagement rate is as high as 91%. This article will examine how IETP engages with manufacturing businesses to develop fruitful relationships and partnerships. Taking a transparent and helpful approach Suppliers value their business relationship with you, clear communication on expectations and opportunities to share thoughts helps to build a strong foundation to achieve shared goals.The IETP team is committed to being transparent in our operations. The full audit checklist that is used for ethical certification in our unannounced factory audits is available to download from our official website. The checklist clearly outlines the expectations, i.e.: the grade of each checkpoint with guidance text to explain the requirements, so that suppliers are informed in advance of what they will be measured against. By going into the process with full transparency over what is expected from factories, this eliminates feelings of uncertainty. Also, to encourage suppliers to be transparent when they face challenges, we provide continuous support if suppliers are committed to rectifying issues. The team hosts online and in-person capacity-building activities, creates content with FAQ’s to build awareness via various channels, and offers 1-on-1 consultations to share best practices that address suppliers’ challenges. These kinds of helpful actions build greater trust between IETP and factories in the certification program, and as a result, we are finding that factory management are increasingly sharing feedback on their needs as well as what they like about being part of the IETP community. Acknowledging and empower suppliers Recognize the time and efforts of your team and your suppliers. It energizes and keeps people improving when milestones, no matter big or small, are acknowledged. And when a supplier is doing exceptionally well, celebrate with them, and empower them to be recognized as subject-matter experts. For example, if a supplier is doing well managing lead times, create an opportunity for them to share insights about production planning. It will motivate them to become better, and the insights they share might also help others in your supply chain. In the example of the IETP Family-Friendly Spaces Program, IETP launched the program in 2016 as a pilot with two factories to evaluate the benefits a factory-based child-care facility could bring to parent-workers, children, and the suppliers themselves. Apart from seeing concrete benefits from the initiative, these two suppliers overcame a lot of challenges and learned a lot about their employees. At the end of that summer, IETP joined the closing ceremony to celebrate the success of this initiative, and invited these factories to share their insights and experiences via webinars with buyers, and other factories, and to share their stories via social media. IETP not only fosters a stronger partnership with these factories, but they have also become recognized subject-matter experts in achieving positive impact with Corporate Social Responsibility Initiatives. Supply chain management is complex, and achieving sustainable relationships with suppliers, and a secure supply chain, also involves:Supply chain mapping and initial risk assessmentsMonitoring and management of risks Management of non-compliances and issuesEngagement and capability buildingConsideration of new suppliers For support to help you advance your ESG (Environment, Social, Governance) objectives, achieve supply chain sustainability, or seek ideas on how to invest for positive social impact, contact and find out how we can support your goals.