Ethical sourcing

Making your business more ethical is no longer just a moral pioneer for business owners - it's also a strong selling point, as consumers become increasingly concerned about where their produce and products are coming from. That means whether you feel ethically responsible or not, it could be a big business advantage to source ethically. This guide introduces you to:

  • What is ethical sourcing?
  • The pros of being ethical
  • The cons
  • Who to consult

What is ethical sourcing?

Sourcing ethically means making sure that decent labour standards are met during the manufacturing of products, including sourcing materials. That means making sure that everyone involved at any stage of your products' development is paid a fair wage, is working is safe and hygienic conditions, reasonable hours, is not subject to discrimination and is of decent working age - typically 16 or over. It doesn't concern the environment.

  • Providing workers at all stages of products' developments with decent labour standards

The pros of being ethical

Above just having a clear conscience, ethical sourcing gives you a strong selling and marketing point, a possibly a USP over competitors - and it can be used for PR. Being transparent about your business happenings helps build trust in your brand. Ethical produce is a growing market, so can help attract investors. Sourcing ethically also helps motivate staff and promote loyalty, and you may save future upheaval if you act now, as it doesn't look like this issue is going away.

  • Strong selling and marketing point and builds trust in brand
  • Can help attract investors and motivate staff
  • May save you future upheaval by acting now

The cons

Finding ethical suppliers and enforcing strict regulations about decent conditions can be time-consuming, difficult to manage and costly. You may need to employ extra staff just to supervise this aspect of the business. Paying decent wages and maintaining hygiene is also likely to push up the price of production - you need to strike a careful balance between profit margins and what the consumer is prepared to pay for ethical products.

  • Can be time-consuming, difficult to manage and costly - may require extra staff
  • Production costs likely to be pushed up
  • Need to balance profit margins with what consumers are prepared to pay

Who to consult

Much of ethical sourcing is common sense - make regular and thorough inspections of places you're using or considering for production, and treat all your workers fairly. Read up on the UN Global Compact and follow its guidelines. Talk to Oxfam and fair-trade organisations - although fair-trade is slightly different from ethical sourcing, there is overlap. If a switch to ethical seems daunting, start with small changes and build up from there.

  • Make regular inspections and treat workers fairly
  • Read up on the UN Global Compact and talk to Oxfam and fair-trade organisations
  • Start with small changes to make things more manageable

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