Scandic Sourcing had a chat with Alexandra Frenander, a new CSR co-worker at Scandic Sourcing with a long background in Code of Conduct work in Sweden on how to best approach the issue of Corporate Social Responsibility in China.
Name: Alexandra Frenander
Background: Master’s Degree in International labor law, has been working with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and sustainability issues in Sweden.
What is Corporate Social Responsibility and Code of Conduct?
CSR and Code of Conduct is implemented by companies to make sure that all parts of the operation is in line with rules and regulations (like the country’s labor law for instance), and that the work is handled safely and ethically. The Corporate Social Responsibility is the more general term for the corporations basic values, while the Code of Conduct is the actual plan used to qualify and ensure safe and ethical operations.
What are the benefits of implementing a Code of Conduct program?
It is extremely important to have at least a basic Code of Conduct program, to not be completely in the dark about the state of your suppliers or operations, especially if your facilities or suppliers comes under scrutiny by a third party. Having a basic Code of Conduct program in place is often also a requirement from customers, and required for many ISO-certifications.
Also if your clients are from the public sector, it’s a requirement that you have a basic Code of Conduct program in place to show that operations are handled in line with human rights, labor law, rules and regulations and so forth.
Practically speaking, a basic Code of Conduct program also helps to stabilize your supply chain; it works as a basic supplier qualification as well. If a supplier cannot put up adequate emergency exit signs for instance, that serves as an indication that you are dealing with a high-risk supplier that probably will give you lots of trouble down the line with other things as well, such as quality control or delivery times. Once your suppliers comply with your basic Code of Conduct program, you have weeded out the bad suppliers, developed strong ties with the good ones, and made sure that they run a serious operation, lessening the risk in your supply chain.
What kind of CSR work did you do in Sweden?
Our CSR and Code of Conduct work in Sweden could deal with anything from company processes for handling hazardous chemicals, or ensuring that salaries where paid according to contracts, to enforcing worker’s rights within the food and beverage industry.
How did your sights set on China and what challenges do you think you will face here in terms of Code of Conduct and CSR?
Code of Conduct has a different significance in China; it is one thing to create CSR directives from the main office in Sweden or in Europe, but quite another to really implement those directives at a Chinese sub-supplier. And that work; to bridge the gap between a main office in Sweden and a supplier in China, is the bread and butter of Code of Conduct work.
Specific problems is that the legislation sometimes differ between Europe and UN’s global compact and China, and that you thus need to modify CSR-goals and standards to fit the Chinese way of conducting business, without compromising your company’s ethical framework. But the fact remains that some standards and CSR directives cannot be implemented without breaking local labor laws and regulations. In such cases, you cannot be too stubborn; instead you need to find solutions and compromises, that also the interesting challenge of implementing Western standards in China.