Steve Gray, CEO, Earthwatch, talks with Ian Welsh, Innovation Forum, about how companies can engage their employees linking better corporate practises, lessening environmental and social impacts, with core business purpose.

Gray argues that overall corporate strategy is becoming increasingly the core focus of employee engagement – linking individuals’ roles to their business’s overall impacts and how these link into the bottom line. He says that it is crucial to establish personal context for employee engagement – how their and the company’s impacts can make a difference both to wider stakeholders and to themselves. This trend is reflected in the move away from philanthropic approaches to employee engagement to a desire to change motivation and inspiration across businesses.

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Dave Robb, sustainability manager, Cargill Aqua Nutrition, talks to Innovation Forum’s Ian Welsh about corporate impact measurement, and the importance of establishing baselines and the topics that are most relevant, and then measuring progress against them.

Companies need to establish what relevant and challenging goals look like, set targets and then make progress towards achieving them. Maintaining progress is very important so that companies can see the clear benefits of making positive change. Robb argues that businesses also need to remember that they can’t do everything, and that they should choose to focus efforts where their impact is greatest.

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Beth Holzman, Good World Solutions, and Dan Viederman, Humanity United, talk to Innoation Forum's Ian Welsh about the new West Principles for worker engagement on forced labour.

Companies don’t know what is going on in their supply chains on human rights and forced labour and social audits have proved to be inadequate. The Worker Engagement Supported by Technology (West) Principles are a set of guidelines for technology-driven efforts to engage workers in global supply chains. Technology has the capacity to scale worker engagement and data collection, and to help business better understanding migration patterns. The eight principles fall into four distinct stages: design, engage, analyse and utilise data.

They aim to maximize the impact of technology-driven efforts to engage workers in global supply chains and ensure they can work with dignity and free from abuse. Initiated by a group of technology providers, the principles seek to engage stakeholders at all levels of global supply chains – including workers, worker organizations, the private sector, and governments – to collectively develop a roadmap to operationalise their use.

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Rob Lederer, executive director, Electronics Industry Citizenship Coalition talks with Innovation Forum’s Ian Welsh about EICC’s new Responsible Labor Initiative. The new initiative is designed to facilitate cross-sector collaboration, exporting EICC’s due diligence tools to other industries. Lederer points out that forced labour issues are not unique to the electronics sector and, as such, there is much that other sectors can benefit from the electronic sector’s work. He admits that many were caught off guard by the issues of modern slavery and forced labour – and explains how EICC has worked hard to move from a reactive to proactive approach to the challenges. With the prospect of the repeal of the Dodd-Frank legislation in the US, the imperative for industry to stay on top of these issues is more important now than ever.

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Eileen Fisher’s leader of social consciousness Amy Fisher speaks with Innovation Forum’s Ian Welsh about how the apparel sector can develop circular economy models. Eileen Fisher is already collecting previously worn clothing – some of which is then re-sold, some of it re-purposed into different garments. There are clear incentives that work, so that consumers will engage in terms of product return – Eileen Fisher offers a $5 voucher for every item brought back to a store. They debate the current barriers to repurposing at scale: the technology isn’t yet in place that allows for taking back thousands of items and extracting fibres for new clothing. But there are some exciting new business models with significant potential. 

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UK footwear brand Clarks’ global head of corporate responsibility, Anthea Carter, speaks with Innovation Forum’s Ian Welsh about how new industry collaboration in the leather supply chain, including via the Leather Working Group. As a byproduct the leather sector’s ability to leverage has traditionally been lessened and there had been a tendency for the footwear sector to ignore aspects of the supply chain. Not now, though, as the industry is working harder to engage with raw material suppliers and recognising their supply risks. Carter argues the case for the footwear sector to work better with other leather buyers from the automotive and luxury goods sectors for cross-sector improvements. There is plenty of scope for innovation.

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Cotton Connect’s Alison Ward and Infor’s Kurt Cavano talk with Innovation Forum’s Ian Welsh about how companies can benefit from the latest supply chain mapping innovations. There are many benefits of supplier mapping, but what are the key elements in an efficient mapping process? Ward and Cavano discuss how transparency makes supply chains – particularly in the apparel sector – more personal and helps companies take real ownership of their supply chains. They discuss the models that work and how they can be taken to scale, and the technology that can take things forward. There are lessons that can be applied across different sectors – and some typical characteristics that typify the companies that want to drive change while becoming more efficient and better businesses.

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Michael Smith, analyst with Ecovadis, talks with Innovation Forum’s Ian Welsh about how companies are now beginning to look for modern slavery and labour risks beyond their tier 1 suppliers. They discuss what supply chain mapping actually means in practice, and the systems that companies are developing to uncover where their risks are and how to target resources effectively.

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Georgina Erangey, senior consultant at Sancroft, talks with Ian Welsh, Innovation Forum, about the challenges for companies engaging with the complexities of the UK’s Modern Slavery Act’s requirements. She argues that a whole company approach to disclosure is necessary, and this requires new and innovative solutions. A mindset change is required for companies to address forced labour as a supply chain issue. Companies have to challenge themselves to think not just about where products have come from, but the labour involved as well. The legislation landscape is evolving as companies accept that it simply doesn’t make business sense to profit from exploitation.

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Erin Lyon, director, Elevate, discusses with Innovation Forum's Ian Welsh why understanding a supply chain is the first step in being able to identify migration risks.

Lyon explains where companies can find information that helps them find out where the migration hot spots might be in their supply chains. While supply chains from one business to another are typically very different, industry groups can be helpful in identifying common risks. Companies have to ask where their future labour force is going to come from – only then will risk become more apparent.

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