Company purchasing practices

Suppliers have a key role and responsibility for providing good working conditions for the people they employ. But their efforts can be undermined by the buying practices of their customers - often the same retailers who are pushing them to comply with their codes of labour practice.

Download our Guide to Buying Responsibly. It draws on the findings of a collaborative supplier survey run in partnership with the ILO. It includes best practice examples and outlines the five key business practices that influence wages and working conditions.

Practices such as last-minute changes to orders and short lead times can contribute to excessive overtime, increased use of casual labour, and unauthorised sub-contracting. And pressure from retailers to reduce prices can make it difficult for suppliers to pay workers a living wage.

Many retailers are already starting to identify ways in which they can develop new buying practices that support – rather than undermine – suppliers' ability to provide decent pay and conditions for their workers. For example, many have embarked on ambitious training programmes to increase the awareness of buyers and commercial staff of the impacts of their decisions on workers.

Other positive steps forward include creating 'ethical champions' in retailer commercial teams, who act as the 'go to' person for ethical trade. Some companies are starting to reward their buying staff for taking labour standards into consideration when they place orders with their suppliers.

The role of ETI

In addition to producing guidance we offer a safe environment in which businesses can share experiences and learn from each other, while gaining insights from international trade unions and NGOs. We also provide training programmes and workshops, including one on ethical buying practices. And we help companies to identify poor purchasing practices and improve them in each of our collaborative supply chain programmes.