Engaging companies across the supply chain on human rights

Food supply chains can be very complex, and sometimes involve several tiers of production before the final product arrives on the shelf.  It is essential that when companies are delivering their human rights due diligence, to understand the businesses in their specific supply chains, their actual risks, roadblocks and opportunities in order to improve working conditions.   How can companies, especially those far-removed from their supply base do this successfully?

In a recent FNET skills share session, attendees shared insights and experience on how to engage with companies in their supply chain. Perhaps the main lesson shared was that building trusting and personal relationships was the key element in communicating expectations and inspiring individuals to explore solutions.  Good relationships can foster genuine understanding of the operating context of the business and goes beyond audits to bring meaningful dialogue on how to drive-up standards in sometimes challenging circumstances.  To build this trust it is key to focus on the ‘why’ and the ‘how’, including sharing the business case for action as well as the practical implementation tools. Just like Food Network for Ethical Trade creating safe spaces for honest conversations is essential for a two way dialogue to understand the root cause of issues and co-create realistic action plans for systemic change.

It might be important to tailor your style of communicate to work effectively with colleagues in a company, or different section of that company using their “language” in addition to translation to another language.  Peer networks between different types of food supplier/producer can also assist in sharing best practice and learning from individuals and companies on different stages on their journey to embed good working conditions in practice.  Where suppliers are many tiers down supply chains, it can make sense to work with certification bodies to facilitate this peer-to-peer learning or raw material specific initiatives who have more leverage to influence best practice uptake.
To take part in this conversation contact FNET about joining the network.

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