Demanding an ethical African supply chain
Africa is a continent rich in raw materials, arable land, minerals and oil. And, as consumers begin to demand more ethically sourced products, supply chains are facing increased public scrutiny.
Sadly products are sourced often unintentionally from unethical sources: evictions, forced labour and environmental destruction have accompanied all too many products bound for the international market.
“In the US and Europe there is a growing demand for supply chain transparency and responsible companies.” said Patricia Chin-Sweeney, senior partner at advisory firm I-DEV International.
While the trend is moving in the right direction, supply chain managers need to become more involved with their sources, extending scrutiny beyond the middlemen directly to the sources themselves.
“That means they are a little bit less familiar with what is actually happening on the ground, and that is a risk. Many times companies didn’t realise that these things were happening because they relied on middleman” Chin-Sweeney added.
MORE ON ETHICAL PROCUREMENT FROM SCD:
Why your supply chain may not be as ethical as you think
CIPS & Walk Free Foundation's ethical procurement guide
She also recognised how the continent faced a more basic challenge than more developed supply chains. She said: “One of the concerns for sourcing in Africa is getting things delivered in general, getting things delivered in time, and then a sense for the quality control.”
Companies should also invest in educational and development programs to ensure that producers can meet global supply chain standards and regulations.
Chin-Sweeny concluded by saying: “A lot of suppliers are dependent on big buyers. They won’t have a business if no one is buying from them. So companies can start with addressing what they can, and be very transparent about trying to move their industry in the right direction.”
African countries have started to adapt global regulations (the AGOA agreement is perhaps the best example of this) but when it comes to ethics, it is clear that much more work is needed from both sides of the supply chain.
While African suppliers can do a lot themselves to make their practices more ethical, Western consumers and supply chain managers can provide a critical economic reason for doing so.
Pandora and IBM digitise jewellery supply chain
Pandora has overhauled its global supply chain in partnership with IBM amid an ecommerce sales boom for its hand-finished jewellery.
The company found international success offering customisable charm bracelets and other personalised jewellery though its chain of bricks and mortar retail destinations. But in 2020, as the COVID-19 outbreak forced physical stores to close, Pandora strengthened its omnichannel operations and doubled online sales.
A focus on customer experience included deploying IBM’s Sterling Order Management, increasing supply chain resiliency and safeguarding against disruption across the global value chain.
Pandora leverages IBM Sterling Order Management as the backbone it its omnichannel fulfilment, with Salesforce Commerce Cloud powering its ecommerce. Greater automation across its channels has boosted the jeweller’s sustainability credentials, IBM said, streamlining processes for more efficient delivery. It has also given in-store staff and virtual customer service representatives superior end-to-end visibility to better meet consumer needs.
Jim Cruickshank, VP of Digital Development & Retail Technology, Pandora, said the digital transformation journey has brought “digital and store technology closer together and closer to the customer”, highlighting how important the customer journey remains, even during unprecedented disruption.
"Our mission is about creating a personal experience and we've instituted massive platform changes with IBM Sterling and Salesforce to enable new digital-first capabilities that are much more individualised, localised and connected across channels and markets,” he added.
Pandora’s pivot to digital
The pandemic forced the doors closed at most of Pandora’s 2,700 retail locations. To remain competitive, it pivoted to online retail. Virtual queuing for stores and virtual product trials via augmented reality (AR) technology went someway to emulating the in-store experience and retail theatre that is the brand’s hallmark. Meanwhile digital investments in supply chain efficiency was central to delivering on consumer demand.
“Consumer behaviour has significantly shifted and will continue to evolve with businesses needing to quickly adapt to new preferences and needs,” said Kareem Yusuf, General Manager, AI Applications and Blockchain, IBM. “To address this shift, leading retailers like Pandora rely on innovation to increase their business agility by enabling and scaling sustainable supply chain operations using AI and cloud.”
Yusuf said Pandora’s success was indicative of how to remain competitive by “finding new ways to create differentiated customer experiences that protect their enterprises from disruptions to help mitigate risk and accelerate growth”.