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Sustainable supply chains – only feasible for large companies?

Aktualisiert: 18. Juni 2020

Many companies are engaging in making their global supply chains more sustainable. Some companies are multinational, some are more known at a national level, some are known rather at regional level, others are small family businesses with maybe five or ten employees.

Despite the negative impact of Covid-19 on many people and organizations the interest in increasing sustainable practices in the supply chain is keeping its momentum. Last week, I have been talking to a number of representatives from small companies. They have asked how they could do more in order to improve working conditions at their business partners’ factories. Very often, we came across the question “But how to achieve this as my company is only small and I don’t have the same resources like a large company”.

Businesses work thoroughly to improve production circumstances that do not comply with their moral standards:

We spoke about the close relationships this small importing company in Germany has with their 20 suppliers in China and India. We spoke about the regular visits of the companies’ quality manager and sometimes the owner at the factories. “Yes, there is a trust relationship among us”, underlines the representative of the importer. “We talk about new orders, a new design, upcoming quality criteria imposed by European legislation and by other clients of the factory.” he tells me. We actually realized that there is an interaction between the German importer and the factories every month. Not just emails – but through a chat on Wechat and Skype. Yes, talking about working conditions and criteria of a Code of Conduct is an additional item for these discussions.

We concluded that having this close relationship with the factories will make it easier to talk about what legislation, Codes of Conduct and stakeholders request from supply chains – from importers and their suppliers alike. During the next virtual chat with the factory, the importer will raise awareness about the importance of women for global textile supply chains – and how much we all depend on women and their wellbeing. We want to know more how the factories take this into account in their daily work. They will also talk about fire exits and many other things.

Step by step – aside from social audits but as a complementary path to speak with each other, to exchange thoughts and also expectations. We have the trust relation, and we have the technical means to speak regularly to each other. And since Covid-19, we are so used now to use these means to supplement (or even replace) personal visits.

And it works – at least more many things, maybe not all. So at the end of our discussion we concluded that the important elements, the infrastructure to really speak to each other, to listen to each other, are there. Despite it is a small importing company. Isn’t this what actually many companies are missing to make it work? Does it really has to do with the size of the company?

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1 Comment

Julian Wu
Julian Wu
Jul 06, 2020


I have to say I am shocked by this video, although it was made 2 years ago. I had visited over 100 dyeing/printing factories in the last five years, but no one is in such pool conditions....

Well, regard to the problem of the importing company you mentioned, I had faced exactly the same situation before in GP, fortunately I found out a solution, which I also implemented it very soon with success. My suggestion is need to get beyond the trust, since trust is a base of cooperation but sometimes also the reason of failure (the second name of trust is called comfort zone). It sounds hardcore but it is actually very easy, only in 2 steps.…

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