Small steps to achieving continuous improvement

Responsible sourcing can be a tricky business. Sourcing products and services ethically and sustainably throughout each level of the supply chain are not always clear. But it’s important. As the global demand for products continues to increase, we must ensure that supply chains are sustainable, and we are protecting the people that work in them.

But responsible sourcing should not be overwhelming. It can be tackled and achieved by taking small steps.

“Responsible sourcing must be viewed in terms of continuous improvement so that incremental and realistic improvements can continually be made to a business’ services, products and processes. This helps to build real end to end sustainability across an organisation’s supply chain and drive transformational change that can easily become business as usual."

Dan Murray, Sedex Commercial Director

What small steps can businesses actively take?


  1. Create transparency and traceability – know who your suppliers are and keep a database of them. Arrange visits to your manufacturing sites to review working conditions. Be aware of the traceability of raw materials.
  2. Conduct risk assessment and continuous monitoring – ensure regular audits of your suppliers are conducted, in each stage of production, and ensure they adhere to your own company policies.
  3. Have responsible purchasing practices – Review your purchasing practices. When meeting tight deadlines or unanticipated orders, factories may sub-contract out work without informing the buyer, to meet the demand. Buyers can adjust their purchasing practices to ensure they do not put pressure on these factories and continue to have transparency of their suppliers.
  4. Be aware of your options – understand both your environmental and human impacts. This can be based on simple research. For example, organic cotton is grown without harsh pesticides and uses less water in the production process than non-organic cotton. Brands can increasingly make products from eco-friendly materials, such as Tencel, made from the wood pulp that can be recycled in a “closed loop process” with no more chemicals added.  Hemp, bamboo and the likes of recycled cashmere, denim and PET also tick the sustainable boxes.
  5. Educate your customers and consumers about the sustainable practices you have in place to be ethical. Consumers are increasingly driven by carbon footprint and the sustainable and ethical nature of a product.
  6. Be a leader in the industry and for consumers, with the goal to shift behaviour toward more positive social and environmental impacts.  
  7. Celebrate your progress – behavioural and social change takes time, and achieving transparency is difficult. Every decreased percentage in your carbon footprint helps everyone toward achieving sustainable goals.
  8. Collaborate with other organisations – working with other ethically and sustainably driven organisations is key to creating transparency and you will create stronger outcomes for everyone.
  9. Think outside the box– offer recycling initiatives for clothing or other products. Did you know that recycled jeans can be used as insulation in housing and recycled plastic can be used to make clothing? Then promote this to your customers, buyers, suppliers and community. People like to be commercially aware of their products.
  10. Be responsible for the entire life-cycle of your product – sustainability comes into play at each stage of a garment’s life – from the initial design and picking of the cotton – to the recycling when it is worn out. Offer a place for your consumers to bring any leftover parts of the product back once it’s been used or offer a repair program within a warranty time frame.

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