This is an extract from Ragtrader's September edition. For more in-depth industry interviews, subscribe here.
David Jones ethical sourcing manager Jaana Quaintance-James reveals a journey into better supply practices. A highlight? When 32% of David Jones' AW17 classic collection held a sustainability attribute.
When did the ethical sourcing journey start for David Jones?
David Jones first developed its Supplier Code of Conduct in 2013, setting out our expectations of vendors in relation to labour standards, environment, animal welfare and bribery and corruption. We stepped up our work significantly in 2015 with the establishment of a dedicated Ethical Sourcing function and have been undertaking substantive work across our whole supply chain since then.
What were the core objectives around supply chains?
Overall our intent is to take a leadership position in ethical sourcing by driving positive change on environmental, social and ethical standards along our supply chain. In practice this means that we are implement initiatives which enable us to:
1. Be the ethical choice for consumers
2. Engage our supply chain partners to understand and improve performance
3. Support wellbeing for people along our supply chain
4. Engage with industry and the NGO community
5. Build internal awareness, capacity and accountability
6. Develop policies and systems to support an efficient and effective ethical sourcing program
What was achieved in the first year?
In our first year we focussed on foundational activities such as updating the Supplier code of Conduct and issuing it to all suppliers for countersigning, developing new policies such as the Guiding Principles for Harmful Substances, developing a questionnaire process to engage all our vendors including our brands, getting full traceability of our first tier private label supply chain and updating our web presence to enable us to share more information with key stakeholders. Stakeholder and in particular non-government organisation engagement is a critical principle in our program and we used their feedback to inform the development of our first five year Ethical Sourcing Stagey which was also completed in 2015.
What has been achieved now?
In the last 18 months the program has further evolved, including fully rolling out a third party audit program across our entire private label supply chain. We use the Supplier Ethical Data Exchange (SEDEX) to collect and monitor data on factory conditions and work hard to engage with our vendors to assist them in understanding the issues and resolving any gaps. In parallel the majority of our branded vendors have completed the questionnaire process, providing a rich set of data on our supply chain performance in relation to ethical sourcing and a clear set of priorities for further engagement. We believe we can play a pivotal role in influencing industry change and supporting our brands along in their journey is a key part of that.
The past 12 months has also seen the launch of a systems solution for product sustainability attributes, enabling us to better collect data and track uptake of sustainability at a product level in both branded and private label ranges. There are too many brands with sustainability attributes to mention here but two notable ranges are the recently re-launched David Jones Beauty range, which is now accredited as cruelty free by the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the David Jones’ Classic Collection, 32% of which last season held an attribute such as being made with Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) or recycled polyester.
We have also focussed heavily on internal engagement, providing our merchandise team with Ethical Sourcing Awareness Training. The aim of this program is to improve awareness of ethical sourcing issues, ensure that all buyers understand the policies and procedures David Jones has in place in relation to ethical sourcing, and the role that buyers can make in ensuring they make “mindful” decisions. A category-specific resource library has also been developed for the merchandise team to recap on training content and to support them in engaging vendors on the issues and opportunities associated with ethical sourcing.
The training program also inspired the establishment of two Good Business Journey Champions groups have been developed with almost 30 team members from across Apparel, Beauty and Food. These teams now meet monthly to drive forward social and environmental sustainability initiatives in merchandise and in our product ranges.
What is the process for verifying a supply chain/supplier?
To place a private label order with David Jones we must have full visibility of the factory location(s) and valid audit data with no outstanding critical non-compliances. Our branded vendors are expected to have their own policies and systems in place to conduct supply chain verification and via the questionnaire process mentioned we have been engaging them to understanding the extent to which they do.
What are some of the challenges in this space?
This is a very complex area, with a broad range of issues that are often not black or white. It can be challenging to drive change in a supply chain. Whilst David Jones is a well-known brand in Australia, our purchasing volumes from our private label factories are quite small so our leverage to encourage improvement is sometimes not as strong as we would like. Also we have a very diverse product range so it’s a very long chain to bring our products to market – there can be seven steps in a cotton supply chain alone, multiply that by thousands of products and hundreds of vendors…you can imagine the complexity of what we deal with.
What has been the response for consumers?
As we have been focussed on implementing a strong due diligence framework we have done quite limited customer communications to date. That said, when we promoted this year’s Australian Fashion Report score (B+) and participated in the Fashion Revolution #whomademyclothes campaign on our social channels back in April, there was significant interest in and support for the progress we have made. Recognising we have a lot more to do of course!
Looking to the future, what else does the company hope to achieve in this space?
We’ve got lots of plans. We intend to in the next couple of years really take the program to the next level, particularly in terms of moving beyond audit to support suppliers to reach an even higher standard, improving brand performance, driving uptake of product sustainability attributes and really integrating sustainability thinking into the way we buy. Externally, customers can expect a lot more information about product sustainability to come through to the point of sale and increasingly you will see David Jones differentiating its brand in the market on the basis of its sustainability and ethical sourcing performance.