10 November 2023

The importance of responsible supply chain provenance

Supply chain provenance allows a manufacturer to be transparent with customers on the quality and sources of raw materials used in the production process. It shows customers that the manufacturer has taken the decision to invest in supply chain management to validate the authenticity of raw materials and check on the suitability, and sustainability, of the suppliers with which it chooses to work.

From the manufacturer’s perspective, establishing supply chain provenance helps ensure consistency of the materials and components used to make their end product. This reproducibility improves process control and product quality. The traceability that comes as part of good supply chain management allows for a complete picture of all the components used during manufacture to be available if required.

Supply chain provenance also helps companies to look at their suppliers through social and environmental lenses. By understanding the origins of raw materials, suppliers that do not match the required work values and environmental responsible practices set by the manufacturer, can be rejected. This is a transparent way to demonstrate to customers that they can be confident that the product they are buying meets high ethical, as well as quality, standards.    

Supply Chain

How can manufacturers demonstrate responsible supply chain management?

Demonstrating responsible supply chain management is easier if a manufacturer is familiar with using a Quality Management System (QMS). The most common QMS standard is ISO 9001 and those companies that have been certified to this standard will understand how to robustly plan, control, monitor and improve their products and processes. This will give them a toolkit that can be applied to its supply chain management to evaluate the ability of suppliers to meet stringent quality requirements. A robust ‘approved supplier’ list can be maintained, and quality records kept for traceability and compliance assurance purposes.

Whilst ISO 9001 helps supply chain management address the quality of the suppliers, another popular standard, ISO 14001, outlines the principles of an environmental management system (EMS). As the name suggests, an EMS provides a framework for a company to identify, monitor and manage issues that have an environmental impact. These include the contribution of its chosen suppliers and will help demonstrate to customers that the environmental aspect of responsible supply chain management has been considered.

Some manufacturers demonstrate responsible supply chain management by being third-party certified to ‘BES 6001 – Framework standard for responsible sourcing’. This looks at the management of the product from raw material extraction, processing and manufacture and covers social, economic, and environmental factors. For those businesses who wish to also separately demonstrate that they have ethical sourcing practices and commit to eliminating people trafficking or modern slavery, they can seek certification to ‘BES 6002 – Ethical Labour Sourcing Standard’.

A business that can demonstrate responsible supply chain provenance through standards and certification schemes and good supply chain management builds up customer trust and confidence in their products.

Why is responsible supply chain provenance so important for steel manufacturers?

The raw materials required to manufacture steel, such as iron ore, coke, limestone and zinc can be sourced from mines around the globe. It is important for manufacturers to be able to prove the materials they use are of the required quality and have been responsibly sourced from suppliers who do not engage in unethical work practices. Only in this way can customers have confidence that they are not inadvertently supporting companies who put profit before the wellbeing of their workforce and the planet.

Tata Steel is certified to the responsible sourcing standard BES 6001 and carefully select and actively manage their suppliers according to a responsible procurement policy. The policy covers health and safety, fair business practices, environmental protection, human rights and local community development. Visits can be made to supplier premises to carry out audits when required to check adherence to the policy.

To demonstrate our commitment to responsible steel production, Tata Steel has joined forces with global steel-making standards organisation ResponsibleSteelTM. It has members from every stage of the steel supply chain and has developed an independent certification standard and program for sustainability in the industry. We are also members of the Responsible Minerals Initiative to avoid the use of minerals originating from conflict zones where human rights abuses may have occurred.

To assist customers in tracing the origins of the 3 million tonnes of steel per year produced across all our locations, we are working with partners to develop blockchain applications that can create a digital product passport to further improve the transparency and security of the steel supply chain.

If you would like more information on how our supply chain management solutions are leading the way in demonstrating responsible supply chain provenance, please contact the Building Systems UK team who will be happy to offer support and guidance.


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