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Should I Leave My Supplier? Handling Supplier Code of Conduct Breaches

In the dynamic landscape of business, encountering a supplier's breach of your Code of Conduct can unleash a storm of challenges. Picture this: a Monday morning marked by an urgent email with the subject line "Supplier X has breached our Code – what should we do???" What follows is a coordinated crisis response from the Procurement, ESG, Legal, and Sales departments, all racing to find a resolution.


Before we delve into the intricate steps of handling a supplier breach, it's crucial to weigh the unintended consequences of severing ties. Departing from a supplier may not always guarantee a resolution to the problem. There's a risk that the supplier, if left unchecked, might continue their practices with a less scrupulous client. Striking the right balance between ethical considerations and practical solutions is paramount in navigating these complex situations.

 


breaking rope symbolising breaking relationship with supplier


 

Step 1 – Do Your Homework


The first crucial step is to conduct a rapid but thorough investigation. Delve into the supplier's background, leverage the data that you have already gathered (audits’ results, self-assessment questionnaires, certifications) and understand the problem at stake through your own information channels or adverse media.


Scrutinise also the contractual obligations and meticulously understand your responsibilities in this complex scenario. Have you always paid a fair price to this supplier? Are you enabling a living wage in your supply chain?


As time is of the essence, these activities should be conducted in parallel with the organisation of step 2.

 


 

Step 2 – Meet with Your Supplier


Initiate an open and candid dialogue with the supplier. Seek their perspective on the issue at hand, inquire about the steps taken to rectify the situation, and assess their comprehensive plan for remediation.


Be attuned to indicators of dishonesty, lack of transparency, or overly optimistic assurances. Consider employing third-party mediators to ensure an unbiased assessment.

 


 

Following this meeting, there are two possibilities:


Step 3a – Supplier Expresses Willingness to Improve


In scenarios where the supplier acknowledges the breach and expresses a genuine commitment to improvement, collaborate on a detailed corrective action plan. Establish stringent deadlines, schedule official reviews, and introduce surprise audits to verify the effectiveness of implemented improvements. Simultaneously, prepare alternative solutions to mitigate potential risks during the remediation process.


Work closely with the supplier to integrate ethical considerations into their business processes. Facilitate workshops and training sessions to raise awareness and instil a culture of compliance. Create a robust monitoring system to track progress and address any deviations promptly.

 

Step 3b – Supplier is Uncooperative or the Breach is Severe


When a supplier exhibits reluctance to remediate, engages in dishonest practices, or the breach involves severe issues such as Human Rights violations, the decision to sever ties becomes imperative. Prioritise the termination of relations, and if applicable, extend support to any victims affected by the breach. Collaborate with legal experts to ensure a smooth and legally sound disengagement.

 


 

Step 0 – Anticipate


Prevention is the cornerstone of effective supply chain management. Anticipate potential issues by proactively assessing your supply chain for risks. Implement measures such as regular questionnaires, audits, and the development of alternative solutions to create a robust framework that minimises the likelihood of future breaches.

 


 

Navigating the decision to leave a supplier due to a Supplier Code of Conduct breach demands a structured and comprehensive approach. By meticulously conducting investigations, engaging in transparent conversations, and taking strategic actions based on the supplier's response, businesses can adeptly navigate these challenging situations. Anticipation and proactive risk mitigation emerge as essential components of a resilient and ethically sound supply chain.


At BeeAware Consulting, our commitment to ethical sourcing and supply chain integrity is unwavering. Should you require assistance in managing supplier breaches or developing robust risk mitigation strategies, feel free to contact us at info@beeaware-consulting.com.

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