Has Supply Chain Policing Gone Too Far?

Is Dodd-Frank really necessary (and if it was wouldn’t it have been implemented yet)? Why do most of the most successful supplier diversity programs we can point to have little focus on adhering to requirements for government contracting and more on doing what is right by customers and growth market segments?

And perhaps most serious of all, why does China care about REACH/ROHS and even clean energy when they can’t police their state-owned companies? Nor can they go after suppliers that these organizations purchase from for behavior that would be aberrant in more civilized countries – labor practices, counterfeit and often dangerous materials/substances, theft of IP and other trade secrets, and just about any other supply chain risk infraction you can point to in recent news headlines.

All of this begs the question: has supply chain policing gone too far? And are sources like Spend Matters and MetalMiner complacent in only reporting and analyzing requirements (and solutions to meeting requirements) rather than helping shape better policy in the first place? Perhaps. In a recent – outstanding, I might add – column in Sourcing Journal Online, Stephan Lamar, who serves as executive vice president at the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA), put forth a number of convincing arguments on the topic.

He frames his discussion in a very succinct manner, starting with the notion that “traditional supply chains used to be simply about how to get your product from point A to point B.” But “now, these same supply chains are being asked to encourage (or discourage) various behaviors relating to labor rights, human rights, environmental concerns, and other social objectives. Moreover, the supply chains are being asked to reach further and further back upstream, to the raw materials in some cases; to disclose to various public and private stakeholders how they are performing with these social tasks; and to do so in an increasingly transparent manner.”

Many of the arguments he makes are those that will have significant resonance outside the apparel and footwear industry alone. Stay tuned!

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