I Want To Be A Superhero -- What About You?

July 06, 2016 | Christine Ferrusi Ross

Superhero movies have been particularly popular over the past several years, but long before then they’ve been a staple of our culture. We love the hero coming to save the day, helping fellow citizens and making the world better. In the movies (and in real life) there are superheroes who save countless people from human trafficking, sweat shops, and other dangerous conditions. I want to be a superhero and do these things too. And guess what? I’m going to do it. How? By helping companies buy IT products and services ethically and by helping suppliers create new opportunities for themselves and their people.

Will you be a superhero with me? Here’s what we can work on together to make our world a better place:

Buyers, make it your mission to use sourcing for the good of your company and all workers/locations touched by a deal.

  1. Source ethically. Searching for the lowest cost labor (and then negotiating even lower rates) often can lead to firms ignoring warning signs of poor ethical labor practices. Don’t be one of the companies that will choose the lowest price over a supplier that treats it workers fairly and gives them good working conditions.
  2. Don’t rush through compliance and treat it as a “check the box” activity. Use compliance and regulatory requirements to shine a light on where your value chain can be improved. Try to exceed regulations on supplier ethics and work practices.
  3. Monitor, test, and remediate on supplier compliance obligations. It’s expensive, annoying, and time consuming to audit whether suppliers were telling you the truth on their security, compliance, and other obligations. Do it anyway. It’s important for your legal and regulatory obligations. It’s also important for you as you try to make the world better. Hold your suppliers accountable – make them fix what’s wrong or pick different suppliers.

Suppliers, use new technology to create opportunities. Don’t just settle for doing the same thing with fewer people or for less money.

  1. Use automation to find new ways to employ your talent and spend more on retraining before choosing staff reductions. HfS’ latest research shows automation taking away about 1.4 million jobs. Will you just take those jobs (and people!) out of your company, or will you find new things for them to do, new places to invest, new frontiers to explore? Don’t get lazy and settle for doing the same thing faster and cheaper. Find new things to do and create more opportunities for your people and your clients’ people.
  2. Show clients your worker conditions and how you’re making the world better for your people and the communities where they live. Clients need to know you’re following legal and ethical practices. Go beyond that to proactively showcase the programs you have in place to enhance the lives of your workers. Turn corporate social responsibility into a differentiator.
  3. Follow compliance guidelines in practice, not just on paper. Just like buyers need to make sure they’re not just “checking boxes,” suppliers need to make sure they follow the spirit of these regulations and use them to drive business and worker improvements. 

Influencers (analysts, deal advisors, self-proclaimed evangelists,) Find and expose areas where the market is hurting workers and communities, and talking about ways to fix those areas.

  1. Educate the market on opportunities coming from new technologies and service models. Many of us in this space are automatically attracted to new things and shiny objects, so this one might not seem difficult. But as you look at these new areas, get beyond the sunshine and roses to discuss downsides and how to avoid them or to balance those negatives by positives in other areas. Explain to buyers why ethical sourcing is important for their specific engagement and for the market.
  2. Help buyers find suppliers who can collaborate on the superhero-mindset of the market instead of road-blocking it. Clients that want to find suppliers who are legitimately invested in avoiding issues like poor worker conditions need help from advisors who feel the same way. Make worker conditions, people issues, and other similar areas a more explicit part of selection criteria and educate buyers on how to validate supplier responses to those criteria.
  3. Guide suppliers to find ways to deliver services that treat employees fairly, serve market needs, and create growth opportunities for both suppliers and clients. Just as suppliers should find ways to expand the market as new technologies emerge, influencers should work with them to discuss how suppliers can operationalize their ideals.

With no physical danger to ourselves, we can help stop poor working conditions, human trafficking, and a host of other challenges affecting the world right now. We only need to do our existing jobs well. I want to do that. I want to be a superhero. What about you?

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