Top tips to get over supplier engagement hurdles

Ian Guest offers four top tips to get over supplier engagement hurdles.

There has been a lot of talk and events recently around supply chain transparency in relation to environmental and ethical standards and compliance.

I’ve attended a few and it’s been really interesting to hear the same messages coming across from a range of different perspectives.

Without supplier engagement your company is at risk whether that is financial, reputational or legal .“

You might be doing the right thing in your own business but your suppliers might not be.  One high-profile incident can be costly.

Supplier engagement is challenging for everyone

The other message is that supplier engagement isn’t easy.  It’s hard for smaller companies that find it difficult to allocate resources to this activity, but even large corporations who have specific teams to work with suppliers face challenges in engaging suppliers.  I’ve listened to discussions from companies at different points in a supply chain; those sending out requests for compliance data, those receiving the requests and those doing both and although the legislation and companies were different it was interesting to hear that the challenges remained the same:

  • Suppliers are overloaded with requests; often requests for similar but different information in a range of formats
  • Not reaching or having the right contact within the company to be able to respond
  • Difficulties over willingness to share data that is potentially deemed sensitive
  • Suppliers located across the world and working to different compliance standards and not understanding the data request

Path to supplier engagement

On a positive note, it does seem to be widely recognised that the improving processes and providing support for suppliers is the way forward.  There appears to be much more collaboration between organisations in the same sector to help streamline processes and send a consistent message to suppliers. The key is finding a way to engage.

I’ve been working on projects to help collect ethical and environmental compliance data from suppliers.  We already attempt to make that direct contact with the suppliers and provide them with a range of information to help them respond but there’s still room for improvement.

If anything, the lessons I’m taking away from these events and want to put into practice, is to:

  • Keep requests simple and stick to the information that is really required for you to achieve your outcome
  • Be as clear as possible about why we want this information up front
  • Be proactive in helping those suppliers to understand the requests
  • Try to find your suppliers motivation to respond and incorporate more education tools to help them understand the legislation (where appropriate of course).

Gathering supplier data can be a challenge but proactive engagement can maximise the response. To help keep you on top of supplier engagement we host free events and webinars, make sure to book your place.