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Friday, 19 July 2019
Markets & companies, Raw materials market

An ethical supply chain

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Supply chains are often a neglected aspect with regard to sustainability. We spoke to Barbara Eschke, responsible for sustainability management at Worlée, about how the company has integrated sustainable supply chains.

The supply chain is an important aspect regarding sustainability. Image source: Sergey Nivens- Fotolia

The supply chain is an important aspect regarding sustainability. Image source: Sergey Nivens- Fotolia

Why is sustainability in the supply chain a key element of sustainability management?

Barbara Eschke: Companies have to comply with increasingly more complex and demanding global requirements imposed by regulatory authorities, customers and other interest groups as well as be more transparent in their long-term corporate management as regards compliance with human rights and environmental and social standards. For example, the German government has published a National Action Plan (NAP) which obligates companies to exercise their corporate responsibility in respect of human rights. These expressly apply along the supply chains too. 

Small and medium-sized companies with fewer than 500 employees are not officially required to report on their level compliance as yet. However, companies should start incorporating this issue into their corporate management in order to fulfil their entrepreneurial duty of care, to help the NAP reach its goals and thus ultimately to ensure their own competitiveness in the future.

Where does the focus of sustainable supply chain management lie and how has Worlée approached the project?


Barbara Eschke


Eschke: Any analysis of sustainability performance along the supply chain is grounded in the three pillars of sustainability:
1. Social issues, in particular human rights, such as the abolition of child and forced labour, the abolition of discrimination, freedom of association, as well as labour standards, such as health and safety at work, fair pay and working hours

2. Ecology, in the guise of energy use, emissions, resource conservation, land and water use, and handling of waste and waste water

3. Economy, in the guise of anti-corruption, compliance, plant, product and transport safety.

"Chemistry³”, the sustainability initiative which has been adopted by the German chemical industry and of which Worlée Chemie has been an active and committed member since early 2014, did a pilot project entitled "sustainability in the supply chain”. Part of the project consisted in devising a guideline to assist primarily small and medium-sized enterprises with setting up a practical supply chain management system.

We gladly availed of the opportunity to act as a pilot company for the project because it also enabled us to develop practical ways of safeguarding the social and ecological configuration of our supply chains for ourselves.

In the initial stages of the project, we identified one supply chain that is particularly important for us from a sustainability perspective and asked these suppliers to undergo an Ecovadis assessment.

The ensuing very positive outcome encouraged us to continue along this path. Further suppliers were subsequently prioritised and one by one they are having their sustainability performance reliably analysed by this globally recognized sustainability platform.

Worlée has drawn up a supplier code of conduct. What does it entail?

Eschke: Our code of conduct is based on international principles, such as the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 10 principles of the UN Global Compact and the ILO Basic Principles and Core Labour Standards. It contains provisions on compliance, anti-corruption, anti-cartel legislation, data protection, environmental protection, occupational safety and social conditions.     

We draw our suppliers' attention to the importance of integrity, fairness, responsibility and transparency as the basis for a trusting business relationship and we expect them to comply with our basic principles and to ensure these are implemented in their supply chains too.

How have the suppliers responded?

Eschke: Across the board, they have responded very positively by allowing us to look at their environmental, social and ethical performance and signing up to our basic principles. Many of those suppliers which are committed to sustainable corporate management already operate their own codes of conduct which echo the requirements described in our own one.

We were very pleased that, in this first step, all the suppliers we contacted were willing to participate in the assessments and we are confident that, together with our business partners, we will keep doing our bit to raise levels of transparency and sustainability.

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