Tool 2

Communicating Decent Work to Suppliers

Gathering Feedback on Buying Practices

Every company’s purchasing practices have an impact on workers along its supply chains.

Sometimes there are negative impacts as a result of delays in issuing contracts and payments, changes in order schedules, size or in design requirements, etc. To understand the impact of their purchasing practices on both suppliers and the workers they employ, and can tackle the underlying root causes, companies should have open discussions with their suppliers. When your suppliers are able to give feedback to you about such impacts, your company is made aware and can explore ways to rectify them.

A better understanding of how your company’s purchasing practices impact workers ensures that you can support your company to keep the commitments to workers, consumers and stakeholders, ensure ethical business objectives are met and help achieve decent work in your supply chains.

What impacts decent work in your supply chain?

The diagram below shows the downstream impact of buying decisions and practices on suppliers, workers and the labour market as a whole. Going full circle, they also have an impact on your brand, your company’s reputation and the reliability of supply.

Decent Work in the Supply Chain

How to encourage and enable supplier feedback?

  • Establish trust. Trust is key in this process. Suppliers will only collaborate and provide useful feedback when they believe that it will not affect the business relationship.
  • Request feedback in person. Requesting feedback from suppliers to understand the impact your buying practices have on their operations. Do this face to face, at a meeting or visit. You could also use a technology/software solution to reach more suppliers, including in your deeper supply chain.
  • Request anonymous feedback. Anonymous feedback mechanisms for supplier employees can be a way of identifying issues around a lack of decent working conditions. Another option could be by engaging a third party in collecting this feedback.
  • Use tested communication strategies. Refer back to section one of this tool for techniques to use in this conversation. You want suppliers to be open with you, so you need to make sure they understand that it is a shared responsibility and they feel safe and that you are not putting your commercial relationship at risk.
  • Close the feedback loop. Let them know what will happen with their feedback. If they take the time to provide feedback to you, it’s important for them to know that you are listening and responding.

Consider developing an annual Supplier Feedback Survey. Ask suppliers for feedback on your purchasing practices, reassuring them that negative feedback will be seen as constructive and will not result in them being penalized. You can consider including questions on, for example, their relationship with the buying team, stress at the production facility, or how your purchasing practices have affected their workers’ working hours and pay.

The Better Buying supplier feedback questionnaire is a practical example of a feedback questionnaire to inspire your own supplier survey.