Development & collaboration at the Sedex China Conference

The 2016 Sedex China Responsible Supply Chain Conference, held in Shanghai on June 23, was a great success. The conference focused on “sustainable supply chains and collaboration” in the current international and Chinese context.

It attracted over 250 participants, including international brands and buyers, traders, suppliers, audit organisations, consulting firms, industry associations and standard organisations. Participants included local companies and organisations from China, and also those from Japan, India, UK, France, US and Chile, etc. The industries represented included apparel, footwear and headwear, electronic products, packaging and printing, toy and gift, processing, fast moving consumer goods, media advertising, and air traffic.

During the one-day conference, participants were updated on the latest developments and best practices in industries. More importantly, the conference also provided an ideal opportunity for exchanges, discussion and sharing with other parties in the same industry. The participants joined hands and worked together to promote sustainable development of the whole supply chain. This is what Sedex has been committed to: “making it simpler to do business that’s good for everyone”.

There were four sessions in the conference:

  1. Special address from Sedex and UN Global Compact
  2. Better relationship & greater support for the win-win sustainable business
  3. Sustainable operation and development for our business
  4. Sustainable business for service providers and global trends in sustainability

The conference began with an address from Jonathan Ivelaw-Chapman, CEO of Sedex. He briefly reviewed the past and present of Sedex, and shared the latest sustainable development updates in China and the rest of the world. This included the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the upcoming G20 Summit in Hangzhou China, and China’s 13th Five-Year Plan. Meanwhile, he also elaborated on the next stage of Sedex’s development; to go beyond the traditional audit, and focus on sustainable and continual improvement. In this way Sedex will provide more support to companies developing a sustainable value chain. Jonathan also shared Sedex’s blueprint for future technological development, and some upcoming services, such as the Sedex Stakeholder Forum (SSF) and value-added services for suppliers.

Following Jonathan’s speech, Guowei Zhao from UN Global Compact Network China spoke on the Global Compact’s work in China and shared case studies from its members who are developing sustainable supply chains. He pointed out that in the traditional model, buyers played a leading role, while suppliers passively followed, and economic and social benefits were considered contradictory. He advocated that this model should be replaced by a new ecological model, which encourages equal cooperation and fair sharing, to promote sustainable development.

Next, speakers from leading buyers – Coca-Cola, H&M and Kingfisher – shared with participants their best practices and latest developments in sustainable supply chains. The speaker from Coca-Cola elaborated on Coca-Cola’s way to sustainable development from three perspectives: “me”, “we” and “the world”. “Me” is to respect human rights and focus more on health; “we” is to buildup strong communities; and “the world” is to protect the environment. The speaker from H&M advocated “conscious actions”. He explained H&M’s commitments to seven aspects, including eco-friendly design, selection of and incentives for responsible partners, reuse and recycling, and the proactive actions taken. Discussing sustainability projects for supplier improvement and performance enhancement, the speaker encouraged suppliers to start self-reporting. This would reduce audits, increase transparency and help disclose their information. Kingfisher put forward a brand new “net positive” business model, which prioritises investment in four areas closely linked to business: timber, energy, innovation and communities. The model is designed to reduce the negative impact on social resources and the environment, and increase positive impacts.

Suppliers and industry associations, as integral actors in the supply chain, also shared their practices for sustainable supply chains. The speaker from the Office for Social Responsibility, CNTAC (China National Textile & Apparel Council), shared its work in promoting employees’ rights and interests throughout the industry. This includes “Belt and Road” investment, the responsibility strategy of the textile industry, living wage survey and the impact of social security reform on decent work. The speaker also introduced their three tools used in the practices of environmental responsibility: the transparency tool, traceability tool and innovation tool.

The speaker from Shanghai Young Sun Printing Co., Ltd. shared the company’s philosophy and practices around sustainable development in areas like employees’ welfare, green printing, lean design and recycling of packaging. The speaker from AAC Technologies Holding Inc., a representative of the electronic industry, elaborated on the importance of environmental management in the supply chain by explaining how the company promoted the recycling of construction materials. He stated that a sound management mechanism should be established, and environmental management should be approached throughout the product lifecycle, so as to realise long-term sustainable development.

Following this, the speaker from Leverage Limited – representing service providers for sustainable supply chains – reviewed the current situation of the audit industry. He explained the status quo and discussed the difficulties of the social audit and the changing relationship between audit organisations and stakeholders. He proposed that service providers take advantage of their strengths to construct transparent communication platforms. This would enhance the communication between clients and factories, and provide factories with more support.

Justin Bettey, Head of Content & Stakeholder Relations at Sedex, analysed the current and future trends in sustainable supply chains by explaining the shifts in focus over the recent decade. In particular, he mentioned the areas that brand and retailers currently focus on and relevant new measures for sustainable supply chains in Europe and America, providing recommended suggestions for suppliers.

In addition to these speakers, the conference also included two panel sessions. Panellists had heated and in-depth discussions on issues including:

  • Suppliers’ collaboration in responsible supply chains
  • The challenges and opportunities of sustainable development for suppliers’ operations and development
  • The possibility of dialogue and collaboration between suppliers on sustainable development
  • Similarities and differences in the performance of suppliers in China and Southeast Asia in sustainable development.

At the end of the panel sessions, one panellist held high a “ding”, a traditional Chinese vessel symbolising credibility and collaboration. This closed the discussion on a high point, receiving warm applause from the audience.

The conference finished with Jonathan Ivelaw-Chapman, CEO of Sedex, thanking all the participants for their attendance and contribution. After taking photos in the conference hall, the participants departed with the message that “tomorrow will be better”, feeling engaged and hopeful.

To view the video of the highlights of the Sedex China Conference, see here.

Editor’s Note

“Development and collaboration” are not only the issues that every enterprise and organisation is concerned about. But they are the direction that every industry, every country and even the international community are moving in. Development requires companies to operate in a moral and responsible manner; collaboration requires companies to foster and establish mutual trust and confidence. As a global, multi-stakeholder membership organisation committed to sustainable supply chains, Sedex has recognised the importance of “development and collaboration” since day one. We have incorporated the philosophy into our relevant products and services, to help our members and stakeholders to collaborate and jointly advance the sustainable development of supply chains.


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