Supply Chains. What can companies do to increase data accuracy and transparency?

Supply Chains. What can companies do to increase data accuracy and transparency?


According to the 2016 Global Slavery Index 45.8 million people in the world today are victims of modern slavery and forced labour. It’s therefore no surprise that one of the key hot topics within the sustainability reporting and CSR world is supply chains. This article aims to highlight what businesses can do in order to increase transparency in their supply chains to help tackle modern slavery and forced labour related practises across the world.

The Global Slavery Index states that “over half of the 45.8 million people living in modern slavery are in five countries: India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Uzbekistan” (The Guardian). These same countries are key locations for many  Western businesses’ manufacturing plants and provide much of the raw material we rely on.  The vast distances between the corporate offices and the production centres makes it really hard for CEOs and managers to be sure about the real conditions in which their products are made and their supplier’s employees are working.  Tracking and managing this kind of information is one of the hardest challenges for sustainability and CSR professionals. Despite this discouraging scenario, lots of work can be done to improve the situation.

What can governments and companies do to tackle modern slavery and increase transparency?

Governments can help improve the situation with relevant, well thought out laws and regulations. Almost a year ago the UK introduced the Modern Slavery Act 2015, an act that aims to directly tackle modern slavery, forced labour and human trafficking related practices. This is a very important official stance on the need to be effective in containing and battling enslavement practises, and more and more governments should align themselves to these types of regulations.

But legislation is just a start: the ball has to be passed to those businesses and companies that manufacture goods and source their materials outside their well-regulated home countries.

Building relationships with your suppliers

With thousands of suppliers and complicated professional and business networks across the world, the first obstacle for corporations is to identify and understand their suppliers’ motivations and challenges. In order to do so, it’s vital to build an on-going conversation focusing on:

-          Addressing the key threats the suppliers face

-          Communicating  their own strategy and goals along with the reasoning behind them

Bear in mind that suppliers might not see the value in the company goals; taking a collaborative approach is vital to engender supplier’s support and to work towards sharing the same views and aims. Communication needs to be clear and constant with the aim of creating engagement rather than simply giving orders. This definitely requires a much greater effort at the beginning but will bring additional benefits to the whole operation.

How can we increase supply chain data accuracy and reliability?

The best way to get suppliers to deliver accurate data is to engage them in the process. Companies should prioritize cooperative techniques, building a framework that suppliers feel comfortable and engaged with and that they can effectively use. It is important to set up programs and policies that will work for suppliers, asking questions they are able to answer and making their life as easy as possible.

The challenge is to have end to end visibility across the supply chain; companies need to ensure they get timely, accurate data from everyone from the furthest flung manufacturers to more local distributors. This is no small challenge and requires huge effort, supported by the ability to motivate the suppliers and get them involved in the process.

To get accurate and reliable data from across their entire supply chain, businesses should:

-          Develop strong  collaborative relationships with their suppliers, understanding their motivations and challenges

-          Share an engaging vision of success

-          Simplify data submission

-          Provide visibility back to the suppliers in terms of metrics and benchmark data so they understand how they are doing


Supply Chain Software can help

So what can companies do to help with the challenges of building engagement, agreeing strategies and policies and simplifying data submission processes? With many people and organisations involved in one supply chain network, using a supply chain software system, rather than just spreadsheets, can help successfully manage hundreds of users and significant amounts of data.

Whilst many companies still rely on spreadsheets they are very often all too aware of the inherent limitations when it comes to speed, user access and versioning, data size restrictions and the ever present risk of data corruption. 

The next step for any company wanting to improve their supply chain management is to consider switching to a purpose built solution. Having a powerful and interactive tool that will support their own staff and their data needs, whilst engaging and supporting users from across their supply chains will vastly improve the quality, speed and visibility of data; in truth the only real way to improve supply chain management. Additionally supply chain software adds value by improving data visibility with a wide range of reporting options, from dashboards displaying motivating benchmark data for the end users, right up to reports for the board.  

At last count over 100 software companies have supply chain solutions on offer. With an overwhelming number of technical features and capabilities to help you manage your data, there is a lot to think about.  We help companies define their needs and find the right solution that meets those needs.  To support this we’ve built a free to use independent software comparison tool The comparison service is totally free to use, and once you’ve got a list of potential matches we will provide help arranging demos and seeing the software in action. Want to improve your supply chain data? Get started here!

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