When measuring supplier performance and evaluating supplier sustainability practices, words such as “avoid controversial” and “increase certified sources” lack the same bite as “mandate” or “require.” But these are the very phrases that Avery Dennison uses in its supplier guidebook to describe its paper/pulp/wood purchasing and sourcing when noting that it will “avoid [using] controversial fiber sources and increase certified/recycled sources.” Further, such practices will “avoid fiber from high-risk areas that engage in controversial sourcing practices.”
At least Avery Dennison does provide some definition around what “controversial sourcing” is. But non-sustainable procurement practices are not necessarily like one Supreme Court Justice’s statement on pornography, if you catch our drift. One NGO, government or company’s definition of “controversial” could differ from that of another organization. One could argue the challenge in this particular supply chain is that there is not an overarching standards organization when it comes to sustainable forestry practices.
But just as Achilles, a for-profit, succeeded in creating consortia-based standards in the utilities, energy and related markets for shared supplier onboarding, auditing and supply chain risk practices, so too could a common alliance emerge in the private sector for wood/paper products. Until then, it’s likely that the best possible means that Avery Dennison could use to avoid “controversy” in its sourcing practices would be to use the services of news search/gathering products such as LexisNexis with sentiment analysis and tie these into a scorecard mechanism for suppliers based on positive/negative mentions of practices (or practices in known geographies for which suppliers have production or usage rights).
By creating KPIs based on the validation of soft metrics and tying these into a scorecard with more easily quantifiable aspects (e.g., third-party audit results, annual certifications/scores), it’s possible to gain a better picture of overall supplier practices and compliance. But let’s not confuse a goal to “avoid controversy” with measured and quantified programs focused on compliance and sustainability assurance.