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From the Small Actions Directory

Responsible Sourcing
Small Action Category: Business Integrity | Procurement

Review your process for identifying and selecting products and supplies for your business and adopt responsible sourcing practices.

What is responsible sourcing?

The decision to consciously select suppliers and products based on various considerations, including:

  1. Ethical Sourcing: Choosing products produced and sourced in a manner that respects and upholds human rights, fair labor practices, and worker welfare. This includes working with suppliers who provide safe working conditions, fair wages, and reasonable working hours and prohibit practices such as child labor and forced labor.
  2. Environmental Sustainability: Selecting products that minimize negative environmental impacts associated with production, sourcing, and transportation. This involves working with suppliers to prioritize sustainable practices, such as reducing carbon emissions, conserving resources, using renewable energy, managing waste, and implementing pollution control measures.
  3. Local or Small Business Sourcing: Supporting local economies and communities by procuring products made with local supplies and/or products made by fellow small business owners. This helps foster community growth, reduce carbon emissions from long-distance transportation, and contribute to local economic development.
  4. Fair Trade: Opting for products that ensure fair compensation is paid to producers, particularly in developing countries. Fairtrade products promote better trading conditions and sustainable farming practices and support social development projects within producer communities.
  5. Conflict-Free Sourcing: Choosing products unrelated to armed conflict, human rights abuses, or unethical practices. This involves conducting due diligence to ensure suppliers and materials do not contribute to conflicts or human rights violations.
  6. Animal Welfare: Supporting suppliers who prioritize the humane treatment of animals, ensuring they are not subjected to cruelty, abuse, or exploitation in the production, sourcing, or testing of products. This includes products certified as cruelty-free or adhering to rigorous animal welfare standards.
  7. Diverse Sourcing: Promoting inclusivity and equal opportunities by sourcing products from underrepresented groups. This can include businesses owned by minorities, women, people with disabilities, or other marginalized communities, contributing to a more diverse and inclusive supply chain.

Why is responsible sourcing a socially responsible action?

Responsibly sourcing products is a socially responsible action because it demonstrates a commitment to ethical, environmental, and social values, including:

  • Human Rights and Fair Labor: Ensures that workers in the supply chain are treated ethically, receive fair wages, and work in safe conditions. This promotes human rights, fair labor practices, and overall worker welfare.
  • Environmental Protection: Reduces the environmental footprint of production and transportation, helping mitigate climate change, conserve natural resources, and protect ecosystems.
  • Community Support: Supports local and small businesses by increasing local sales and therefore creating jobs and bolstering local economies.
  • Global Equity: Addresses global inequities by ensuring fair compensation for producers in developing countries and avoiding the perpetuation of conflicts and human rights violations.
  • Animal Welfare: Priorities humane treatment of animals in sourcing aligns with ethical values and promotes animal welfare.
  • Diversity and Inclusion: Contributes to a more inclusive and equitable society by supporting underrepresented groups in the business world.

How can responsible sourcing help your business?

Responsible sourcing can benefit your business in several ways:

  • Enhanced Reputation: Committing to responsible sourcing can improve your company's reputation and brand image, appealing to socially conscious customers and employees. 
  • Employee Engagement: Employees take pride in working for socially responsible companies, which can boost engagement and morale and attract top talent.
  • Market Access: Many consumers and retailers increasingly seek responsibly sourced products, opening new markets and business opportunities.
  • Cost Savings: Sustainable practices in responsible sourcing, such as energy efficiency and waste reduction, can lead to cost savings in the long run.

How can you get started?

To start implementing responsible sourcing for your business locations (this is just a simple list; see the articles below for more help):

  1. Review the potential responsible sourcing categories list and decide which you want to focus on (this may be one or many, depending on your interest and your business.)
  2. Evaluate your existing suppliers and identify areas where responsible sourcing practices can be integrated. 
  3. Make changes to your procurement process to incorporate these changes. 
  4. Clearly label and communicate about your responsibly sourced products to inform consumers about the responsible sourcing practices behind them. 
  5. Continuously assess your responsible sourcing efforts.  

*And remember… don't just “do” an action. Make that action effective. Learn more about what it means to make your actions effective in our related blog post.

Interested in learning more?

Articles about the action:

More detailed ideas for getting started:

About Small Actions

Small Actions are steps that you can take to do more social good through your Small Business.

They are organized into 4 categories as part of the Small Actions Framework, a unique approach to Small Business Social Responsibility.

A complete list of the categories, and subcategories, is maintained as a blog on this site.

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