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Sedex supplier-led database strengthens opportunities in ethical supply chain

By Lindsey Partos , 28-Apr-2009

The opportunity for confectioners to audit the ethical credentials of their existing, and potential, suppliers comes in the shape of Sedex, a database tool designed to serve an ethically-driven supply-chain.

Set up in 2004 by a handful of UK retailers, the Supplier Ethical Data Exchange (Sedex) now boasts over 15,000 suppliers across a range of industries, with a major chunk - 42 per cent - dedicated to food.

"For a company interested in moving towards ethical trading, Sedex is a practical step," said a spokesperson for Sedex, a non-profit making organisation.

Consumer demand for ethically sourced foods is picking up in pace. And a sign of such times, earlier this month chocolate giants Mars and Cadbury both announced moves in this direction.

Mars has pledged to sustainably source 100,000 metric tonnes of cocoa annually by 2020, while UK confectioner Cadbury said it would seek Fairtrade certification for its top selling chocolate bar, Dairy Milk, by the end of this summer.

Cadbury, Mars and the world's number one food group Nestle are some of the big name confectioners already signed up to Sedex.

The exchange began life from a dual desire by a group of UK firms and their first tier suppliers to ease the burden on suppliers "who were being audited multiple times, and to drive improvements in ethical and responsible business practices," Tom Smith at Sedex told ConfectioneryNews.com.

In order to slash the papertrail, the group devised a common questionnaire that "met all the needs".

"Suppliers save money, and the retailer or manufacturer has a live, continuously updated database," explained Smith.

According to Sedex, their web-based exchange is built on four pillars: labour standards; health and safety; business integrity; and environment.

Matching the 15,000 supplier-led exchange are about 300 members, that include retailers Tesco and Waitrose, government organisations, manufacturers and importers, who access the supply chain information.

In terms of verifying the credentials of the supplier on the ethical database, it is ultimately "down to the members to apply their different internal codes and policies on the supplier," clarified the Sedex representative.

"The database is about collating the information and streamlining the process in order to unburden the suppliers," he said.

Further, because Sedex is a 'closed' database, for a supplier to be viewed it has to give permission to allow the potential viewer to access the supplier's data.

"This is to protect the confidentiality of the supply chains, and to empower the supplier," added Smith.

Membership for the supplier is £28 per registered site each year, for the A and AB members - the retailers, government bodies, agents, importers, manufacturers et al - the fee to dip into the database depends on the turnover, and is "upwards of £1000".

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