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  • Writer's pictureJuli Lassow

New World Order of Transparency

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Building transparency into your supplier matrix is not for the faint of heart. It takes time, it takes effort, and it takes dialogue. But it’s also worth it. Just ask Apple, circa 2009.

In his amazing TEDx Talk Start with Why,” Simon Sinek explains why we don’t think twice about buying a phone from a computer company. Simply put, Apple’s consumers have bought into the company’s WHY—that is, challenging the status quo—so they happily purchase the WHAT: beautifully designed, powerful, easy-to-use products.

But not long after Sinek’s presentation, Apple gave its customers the opportunity to consider a new “why,” when exposés about the working conditions at one of their major contractors, Foxconn, came to light.

Apple has always prided itself on its close partnerships with suppliers. But even if the iPhone giant didn’t know about the specific policies that contributed to the deplorable working conditions at Foxconn, Apple’s customers, as well as the general public, held the company accountable for the workers’ misery.

Not surprisingly then, Apple made a commitment to help turn things around at Foxconn.

Unfortunately, the incident with Apple and Foxconn wasn’t isolated. Just ask Kathie Lee Gifford what happened in 1996 or again in 2000.  Or have Ivanka Trump tell you about events in the run-up to last year’s election.

Today, customers demand accountability from the brands and businesses that make products.

Transparency and responsible sourcing are must-haves. And the good news is, many brands are rising to the challenge.

Burberry bought its primary leather supplier, in part to control costs, but also to increase transparency for a raw material that’s in short supply and is highly scrutinized for potential abuses. This move was not only good for mitigating risk, but also for driving Burberry’s growth.

And brands and retailers such as Target, Gap, Adidas, and Levi’s have joined the Green Supply Chain Map, born out of a partnership between the Chinese and US non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to track environmental performance at factory locations.

The moral of these stories? Reduce the risk and reap the rewards. Learn more about where your materials are sourced and share that with your customers.

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