Responsible business thinking: interview with Virginia Hu
Ahead of Sedex’s first Virtual APAC Conference, we caught up with Virginia Hu, Assistant General Manager of Intertek China to get her insights on the challenges, trends and tech impacting responsible business practices.
Why is it becoming more important to be a responsible business?
Companies that seek to become more socially responsible are not only doing what is right for their workforce, their customers, and the planet but they also benefit both internally and externally from a business standpoint, via improved brand recognition, financial performance, and customer loyalty.
This typically stems from the fact that companies who take the steps to become more responsible have made these issues a priority in their operations and understand the changes that must be made within the business – whether these be social, operational, environmental or financial changes.
In addition, a company’s workforce is its most important asset. The next generation of workers, who will ultimately be the leaders of the future, are more likely to choose to work for organisations that are holding themselves accountable, being more responsible and more sustainable.
At the moment the investment community has a heightened focus on social responsibility. In rating companies on their responsible performance, the value investors place on a company and the level of investment can be affected. Lastly, consumers expect companies to act responsibly and if they do not, they run the risk of losing customer loyalty, which will ultimately impact their bottom line.
What do you think are the most important recent trends in social sustainability?
For several years now we have seen a growth in direct engagement with workers, giving them a platform to voice their thoughts and concerns. I think this will continue to grow and subjects such as worker satisfaction and wellbeing will become a more important KPI for suppliers if they want to maintain a strategic relationship with their customers. Migrant workers are still a key social trend to focus on. There is a strong link between people who migrate to find work and exploitation risks. This is probably the single largest social risk in supply chains right now. Other important subjects are equality and discrimination and although there is a long way to go, they are increasingly getting more exposure.
Given the current situation, do you think virtual/remote auditing will be the future direction of social responsibility auditing?
At Intertek we have been using our Inview remote audit system since 2019 with great success and see this as an evolving tool that can greatly improve the effectiveness and efficiency of auditing. We must embrace technology and remote assessment will be another “tool” in the box that, when used under the right conditions, is a valid way to engage with the supply chain, whether assessing social, environmental or quality performance.
Do you see any technology that is helping/will really help responsible business progress?
Absolutely. Ten years ago, very little data was captured or analysed from social audits. Now, with new workplace assessment tools and social audits, this is really helping to identify trends across countries and sectors, as well as helping to identify the root cause of poor social performance. We are quickly moving from being reactive to being predictive in this industry which also helps suppliers understand how they can make improvements before any risks become big problems.
What will you be focusing on in the coming year?
We will continue our focus and mission to evolve with the marketplace and match these demands with the tools and expertise to better support our clients in building a more resilient supply chain. This year, fragile supply chains have certainly impacted business continuity for many of our clients. Using Inlight, our digital end-to-end supply chain
assurance solution, we are helping our clients identify risks and weaknesses in their supply chain. They could be related to social, quality, security, environment, or people. Building a sustainable and resilient supply chain will be essential for any global retailer/brand in 2021 and beyond.
Virginia Hu is the Assistant General Manager of Intertek China. We’d like to thank Intertek for sponsoring the Sedex APAC Conference.
The Conference takes place on the 14th – 15th October 2020, you can register here.