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Elevating Supplier Self-Governance: A Progressive, Competency-Based Approach

 Non-Punitive, Competency and Systems-Based Framework for Long Term Sustainable Growth

In an era where transparency and responsibility in supply chains are not just expected but demanded by global governments, suppliers are increasingly being called upon to rise to the challenge of self-governance. Global companies are unable to do this alone, suppliers must participate to ensure rights are protected and laws are met. Engaging suppliers can be complex, but it is a foundational component of a sustainable and ethical business model.

Traditional social compliance supplier frameworks are issues-based and punitive, which results in suppliers focusing on supressing, not addressing issues and it certainly does not lead to systems creation. This model is clearly insufficient in meeting new regulations and expectations.

Therefore, Labor Solutions works with clients to create a  framework centred on enabling suppliers to take ownership of human resources and rights. The tiered framework enables suppliers to evolve systematically – from initial policy formation to the embodiment of a culture that champions the rights and well-being of every worker. This multilevel framework operates as a guide for suppliers to elevate their operations through strategic planning, implementation, and empowering engagement. It focuses suppliers on building competencies and systems with the hope of building trust that cascades throughout the workplace and supply chain.

Each workplace is unique and at different levels of maturity and ability.  The framework is broken into competency levels and social outcome pillars. At each level, each pillar has different outcomes to meet each supplier where they are and provide structure to allow for strategic, systematic and sustainable growth. 

This approach allows companies to have a tiered measurement system focused on systems and competencies not, issues and provide tailored support when needed. 

Competency Levels:  Level 1: Planning + Intention, Level 2: Implement + Listen, Level 3: Engage + Empower. 

Social Outcome Pillars- can vary based on the needs of the global company, examples include: living wage, grievance mechanism, due diligence, human resources, women’s empowerment, safety and more. When designing a framework, Labor Solutions works with our clients to set up vertical pillars defined by the company’s goals and desired outcomes.  

Worker engagement and voice are key components to all social impact pillars—from grievance mechanisms to women’s empowerment to living wages, workers must be engaged every step of the way.  This framework demonstrates how integrative worker voice, education and engagement tools are key to a wholistic approach to value chain human rights due diligence and social impact programs. 

A Pathway to Self-Governance

The framework is divided into several levels. For illustrative purposes, this post focuses on three levels and only highlights key points. For a full customized framework, reach out to the Labor Solutions; team. 

Level 1 – Planning + Intention: The foundational level underscores the importance of a well-defined strategy and a genuine intent to safeguard worker rights.

  • Suppliers are tasked with formulating policies that align with brand expectations and surpass local regulatory demands.

  • A proactive approach to educating management teams, ensuring teams are well-versed in worker rights and committed to nurturing a culture of safety and respect within the workplace.

Level 2 – Implement + Listen:

As suppliers ascend to the next level, they transition from policy to practice. The implementation of tools and technologies to monitor and ensure policy adherence is vital, as it provides the means to respond to risks and issues promptly.

  • Suppliers are expected to engage in proactive risk assessments, identifying potential problems before they materialize.

  • A two-way dialogue with the workforce is established, where workers are not only encouraged to provide feedback.

  • Regularly conducts comprehensive surveys to capture worker sentiments on key pillars and topics like wages, ensuring that the company's practices are consistently under scrutiny and improvement.

  • Comprehensive education programs ensure that workers are well-versed in their rights and responsibilities, empowering them to speak up and engage with management constructively.

Level 3 – Engage + Empower:

Implementation is not enough, level three, requires suppliers to demonstrate a commitment to action.

  • Policies become a lived experience for workers, as suppliers not only advocate for their rights but also proactively implement changes to improve safety and well-being.

  • Engagement with the workforce is no longer periodic; it is a continuous and integral part of the operational ethos, with feedback mechanisms leading to real and timely remediation of grievances.

  • Develops clear pathways for career progression, recognizing the importance of growth opportunities in driving job satisfaction and fair compensation.

  • Suppliers exhibit a forward-thinking attitude, taking pre-emptive steps to enhance worker rights and safety proactively.

At each level and pillar, Labor Solutions supports suppliers on the pathway to self-governance, from consulting services to help design robust and effective policies to implementation of tools to educate workers and collect feedback from workers to action plans and support to ensure worker needs and concerns are addressed and remediated.

Global companies use these customizable frameworks to clearly communicate to suppliers their expectations, in an achievable format. The framework is focused on competencies and systems not issues, encouraging supplier ownership, growth and trust. Many global companies, assign points to each competency to measure supplier performance, moving away from punitive social compliance metrics.


Get in touch with Labor Solutions today to create your own framework.


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