Sustainable supply chains: dealing with dilemma’s

19th of October 2023

Companies, by nature, are focused on continued growth and a good financial result. Making sure that safe and secure products and/or services are delivered in line with the expectations of their customers already required interaction with suppliers. Audits and certification are common compliance instruments to get insights of the status of suppliers until “last stage of production”.

With sustainability the majority of sustainability issues are in companies supply chains: beyond the first tier and beyond the contractual control of buying companies. Issues like deforestation in commodity supply chains, illegal use of (undocumented) migrant workers that execute seasonal work in the agricultural sector etc. Issues that are often linked to deep rooted poverty, cultural and local circumstances. Good suppliers might be located in countries in which the respective governments fail their duty to protect human rights under their jurisdiction. But even in developed countries individual cases of Human rights issues are found.

The new LkSG in Germany, upcoming EU laws, NGOs and other public actors hold companies legally responsible for their suppliers’ (and, in the case of the EU CSDDD, sub-suppliers’) human rights abuses. It causes stiff opposition by those politicians, stakeholders and other commentators that stress the moral dubiousness of making a company responsible for the actions of their suppliers. But how to deal with a situation when the human rights issue found is beyond their control?

In a market economy prices are important, competition is fierce and communication about human rights issues to consumers avoided. Working on positive impact can come with considerable costs that can’t be transferred to the consumer. Companies who started executing a risk analysis on their suppliers and identify a real sustainability issue in the supply chain of their suppliers, find themselves confronted with dilemmas. The company must assess the negative impacts on people and or the environment versus their possibilities to positively impact the issue found. And that can come with a price which directly impacts profit and which can mean a competitive disadvantage  compared to competitors that are (morally) more unscrupulous.

ImpactBuying is organizing a yearly conference around these challenges for professionals who are responsible for the implementation and reporting of their supply chain due diligence actions.

Sustainable supply chains: dealing with dilemmas
Making money and doing good must and can go together: but how?!

Learn how International retail and sustainability leaders find a balance between growing their business and dealing with sustainability requirements for their suppliers. Get updated about the latest news on the upcoming EU Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence directive and the relation to the LkSG. Listen to leading EU policy makers and standard setters that set the rules for integrated reporting on due diligence. Learn about the reality of severe human rights issues in supply chains and the (audit) tools you have to find them. Child or forced labor, illegal migrants that are involved in the harvest of products in your supply chain: what to do? And what is the view from the migrant workers themselves? The EU deforestation act is coming while getting data from soy traders is a challenge. German, Dutch, Belgian and UK retailers have made commitments on closing living wage gaps for workers. Normally this requires a long term commitment with suppliers but how can companies make a voluntary contribution to workers if the basis is a one-year contract? Inspiring speakers will answer those and further questions and share their experience and expertise with the audience.

ImpactBuying GmbH is part of the International operating ImpactBuying group. A B-corporation that, for 14 years, supports retailers and companies around Europe with supply chain risk management. On product/food safety, animal welfare, human rights and environmental issues. With practical IT tools, hands-on collection and verification of risk related supply chain and product data, deep knowledge of complex International supply chains and training programs. ImpactBuying acts as a dedicated partner for customers that need to demonstrate supply chain compliance and would like to create positive impact.

Program Highlights

Shaping a one-day program with learnings, inspiration and support for executives and professionals from organizations that are at the forefront of sustainable supply chains.

Some presentations will be in English and some in German but a simultaneous translation will be available.

The 2023 edition will take place on the 19th of October in  Maritim Hotel Düsseldorf, Maritim-Platz 1, 40474 Düsseldorf

Plenary program: 9.00 until 17:00 o’clock

Who is it for?

  • EExecutive board members
  • EProcurement professionals
  • EQuality and risk managers
  • ESustainability professionals
  • EAuditors & communication departments resonsible for integrated reporting
  • ELegal advisors
9.00-9.30 Opening and setting the scene by the moderators

Marjan de Bock-Smit: Co-CEO at ImpactBuying group
Stephan Tromp: Deputy Chief Executive at the German Retail Association (HDE)

9.30-10:00 Holding companies responsible for tackling human rights risks

Dr. Johannes Graf Keyserlingk: Head of CSR at the Handelsverband Deutschland – HDE – e.V. Leiter CSR 

In the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP), the due diligence processes that a company is supposed to carry out in order to avert risks of getting involved with a third party’s abuses of human rights are framed as part of the duty to respect. However, little is said on why exactly it is – ethically speaking – that a company should be regarded as neglecting its duty to respect when it is merely related to a third party’s violation of human rights. In his presentation, Dr. Keyserlingk will discuss the possible ethical grounds for a company to assume responsibility across its supply chain. Against this theoretical backdrop, the practical challenges of the LkSG and the CSDDD will be assessed, it will be pointed out how companies can play a constructive role in this context, and it will be pointed out what the HDE does to support its member in view of such new regulatory realities.

10:00-10:30 Sourcing & buying: choose between head, heart & action

Wil van der Heuvel: Responsible buying leader

As a buying director for the HEMA in the far-east for many years, Wil van der Heuvel had to deal with ethical dilemmas on a daily basis. She had to find a balance between trust and control & proof to make sure that HEMA had the goods where available against a good price. The continuous battle between decreasing prices and focus on margins versus sustainability improvements and long term supply chain commitments is a balancing act. As a buying director you sometimes have to choose between the head an the heart. What to do when you find child labor in your factory and you know that the alternative is child slavery and no food? How to deal with these challenges? How to make sure that companies can still effort the sustainability journey?

10:30-11:00 Coffee break - Sharing experiences and solutions
11:00-11:30 Doing the right things for the right reasons

Tom Rose: Operations director at Spar International

Doing good business is linked to profitability. It is often heard: solving sustainability issues is against the pure nature of trade and buying. How to find the right balance in a changing World where legislators demand transparency? How can technology and Global Initiatives help?

11:30-12:00 Dealing with compliance tasks in daily practice

Prof. Dr. Horst Lang: Leitung Qualitätssicherung, Arbeitssicherheit, Umwelt  at Globus Markthallen

Compliance tasks are important in daily practice to ensure that a business or organization follows the relevant laws, regulations, and policies. They are essential to avoid legal and financial penalties, reputational damages, and other negative consequences that can result from non-compliance. Many compliance tasks can arise in daily practice. Depending on the industry and organization, there may be more or less compliance requirements that need to be met. It is important to understand and comply with all relevant laws, regulations, and policies to ensure the smooth operation and success of the organization. How to do that in a pragmatic way and how to integrate the LkSG requirements in the daily operation of an International operating Retail organization?

12:00 - 13:00 Delegates lunch and networking
13:00-13:30 Dealing with issues beyond the span of control

Sebastian Rünz: Salary Partner and specialist LkSG at Taylor Wessing Partnerschaftsgesellschaft mbB

Both the German and the upcoming EU laws expect companies to understand the risks in their supply chains. What can companies do when the issue found is beyond their sphere of influence? How to deal with contractual penalties, guarantees and indemnification? What is the value of a code of conduct when the human rights issues found are beyond the contractual supplier? How to deal with the topic in relation of the reporting requested by the BAFA?

13.30-14.00 Dealing with human rights issues found in supply chains

Markus Löning: Managing Director at Löning GmbH
Marjan de Bock-Smit: Founder and Co-CEO at ImpactBuying

In the due diligence cycle, performing an impact assessment is a way to investigate if a perceived risk is an actual risk on the ground. How to deal with issues found? How to work with local stakeholders on sustainability issues that are deeply rooted in a local culture? How to monitor that the corrective actions are effective? Are Human Rights Impact Assessment the silver bullet to track impacts of human rights due diligence efforts on people?

14.00-14.30 Voluntary contribution to support workers

IDH/GIZ-speaker to be confirmed

Many European retailers made a commitment to close the living wage gap: a step by step process that often takes several years to build up. Working in close collaboration with the supplier to make sure that workers earn enough money to have a decent living with a work week of 48 hours. The reality however in many sectors is that trade agreements are based on 1 year contracts. What are the options for companies that are serious in providing extra financial support to workers but are not in the position to provide a long-term commitment?

14:30-15:00 Coffee break - Sharing experiences and solutions
15.00-15.30 The undocumented migrant workers in Italy: What is their reality?

Milou Rientjes: Researcher

For years we hear the news about refugees that migrate to safer countries where there is more chance on protection and where they can find better economic possibilities. Many of these refugees end up doing work in International supply chains. Many journalists have been reporting about the human rights issues with undocumented migrant workers. Milou Reintjes decided to live close to a group of migrant workers in Italy and was allowed to do a series of interviews with them. What is their reality? What tools do companies have to detect these issues in their supply chains?

15.30-16.00 ESG reporting requirements and capital markets

Veronika Pountcheva: Board Member at International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB)

The intention is for the ISSB to deliver a comprehensive global baseline of sustainability-related disclosure standards that provide investors and other capital market participants with information about companies’ sustainability-related risks and opportunities to help them make informed decisions. This development is strongly supported by the strengthened EU Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive but also linked to the draft EU Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive. Veronika Pountcheva will give a pragmatic view on the sustainability-related disclosure standards and how it is interlinked with the growing number of directives. How to start with reporting even if the data quality is poor.

16:00-16:30 Panel discussion: Can doing good and making money go together?

Under guidance of the moderators industry experts are going to dive into existing examples and sustainable business cases. Responsible sourcing is the key to create more sustainable products and supply chains. Retailers and brands have a moral obligation to use their buying power for good. Are there companies and solutions that prove it is possible to do good while doing good business? The biggest positive impact can often be made in the first mile. How do we transform supply chains and move to long term supply chain commitments and sustainable margins for all actors?

16:30-17:00 - Closing remarks and end of conference