Why codes of conduct need more attention
Updated: Jun 11
Codes of Conducts are often imposed on companies. Companies receive them from their clients or they use the codes of conducts that are offered to them through initiatives, such as amfori BSCI or Sedex. These codes are often passed along to suppliers and social audits are conducted based on them.
I believe that in order to really build better more responsible supply chains, in order to tackle issues such as child labor, forced labor or discrimination, we need to really understand what these terms mean.
Is a 12-year old kid that is working on the farm helping his parents considered child labor? Do we need to prevent it? And what about workers that are working the legal amount of 50 hours per week, but our code of conduct says they are only allowed to work 48 hours? Are we even allowed to impose our request?
This and more topics are not discussed enough in my opinion. We often rush into audits and use a black and white system to rate suppliers, where we should rather understand more about the issues and be more humble.
When I started working as a CSR-manager for a German retailer in my first job, I didn't have all that knowledge. For me child labor under the age of 15 was considered bad and should be avoided. That is also what I communicated to the buyers and the buyers communicated that to the supplier. Did any worker suffer because of our “incompetence” to really understand what we put into the code? Maybe somebody did.
I came to realize that it is paramount to understand codes of conduct properly. To know the law in the different countries that you work with or if you have trouble obtaining that knowledge to obtain that expertise externally.
When CSR-managers are better equipped to understand the different points of codes of conducts, they can pass the knowledge to the buying department and the buying department can make more informed and confident choices.
Have you ever trained your staff on the code of conduct? If not, maybe this is something you can do. So that you can really start building responsible supply chains for your company and the communities where you source.
We have developed a self-paced online training for buyers and quality managers to create such an offer. For more information, visit the course page on our website: https://www.etika.io/csr-courses