“How can you make an impact when you don’t have lots of bodies to throw at the issue?” asked Amy Hargroves, director for corporate responsibility at Sprint, while speaking at the BSR global conference in 2012.
Sprint, which sells primarily to the North American market but has suppliers around the world, began working on social and environmental standards for its supply chain back in 2007, with the help of BSR and NGO partners. One problem that Hargroves and her team of four quickly ran into was resistance within their own company’s corporate supply chain team, which is responsible for the performance of suppliers.
In this video, Hargroves explains how her team engaged the supply-chain team over time with a mix of persuasion and pressure. In her panel discussion, Hargroves described an effective tactic she used in corporate meetings: She reviewed the corporate responsibility progress of different divisions of the company using red, yellow and green score cards.
“I think the supply chain team was sick of seeing themselves as red,” she said. “They got enough pressure, and had enough time, and they finally understood that we were trying to support them.”
Once the supply chain team was won over, several internal leaders came up with a simple but effective system for engaging suppliers, which Hargroves details in the video. A letter from the company’s COO to its suppliers also sent the message that Sprint was serious about social and environmental standards.
According to Sprint’s 2011 corporate responsibility report, the company aims to use 90% of its “sourceable spend” on suppliers that comply with Sprint’s social and environmental standards; as of 2011, 55 percent were in compliance.
Working in partnership with local and international NGOs, Sprint has also tackled tough issues including lead-acid battery disposal in China, conflict-mineral sourcing from the Democratic Republic of Congo and labor standards in various Asian nations.
Hargoves said her team’s current challenge is finding training and other resources to help willing suppliers close the gaps in their social and environmental capacity. “We are finding there is a shortage of resources, especially for small and medium enterprises,” said Hargroves at the BSR panel.
Her message to companies who want to upgrade their supply chain’s standards but don’t have a lot of resources to get the job done?
“You don’t need to be intimidated,” she said. “If you keep it simple, understand your business model and focus on your priorities, you can avoid biting off more than you can chew.”
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