Eliminating compliance barriers with Better Buying


Better Buying, an initiative that will collect suppliers' anonymous ratings of brands and retailers' purchasing practices, was introduced on May 12 at a multi-stakeholder workshop in Geneva, Switzerland. Set to become fully operational by 2017, the initiative will combine and score supplier ratings to publicly identify those buying companies with the best purchasing practices. C&A Foundation provided seed funds for Better Buying, and Fair Factories Clearinghouse is the technology partner.

“The purchasing practices of brands and retailers have been discussed for over a decade, yet the challenges for suppliers in accommodating demands for low prices and quick production continue," said Marsha Dickson, co-lead of Better Buying and Professor of Human Services at the University of Delaware. “By providing a way for suppliers to safely voice a wide range of concerns, we hope to create a race to the top as brands and retailers consider ways to transform their business practices in support of human rights in their supply chains."

“Better Buying will provide more detailed information for brands and retailers on a broader set of purchasing practice issues than has commonly been available in the past," commented Doug Cahn, principal of The Cahn Group and co-lead of Better Buying. “Better Buying is designed to showcase the buyers with better practices and help companies share and learn about ways to improve. We expect Better Buying to result in better business practices and better protections for workers."

The initiative began in August 2015 with background research on purchasing practices and ways to build a credible rating system, and has since been supported by face-to-face consultations with manufacturers in Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, and Vietnam. Additionally, a survey among suppliers was conducted to evaluate the most important purchasing practices, and the willingness of suppliers to provide available data to rate buyers' on these behaviours. The recent workshop in Geneva identified refinements that can improve the value of Better Buying for all stakeholders. The next step, testing the methodology for inputting and scoring data, will begin this summer.

Some of the measures that suppliers will be asked to rate will include whether adequate time has been allowed for production, extent that actual orders vary from capacity booked, and whether contractually agreed payment and terms have been met.

“Ratings systems are becoming increasingly important to socially responsible investment firms and mainstream asset managers," commented Bennett Freeman, former Senior Vice President, Sustainability Research and Policy, Calvert Investments (2006-15) and Chair, Advisory Board, Responsible Sourcing Network (RSN). “Better Buying gets down to the level of core operational functions and has the potential to make a significant impact."

Learn more about Better Buying at http://www.betterbuying.org/

“We hope to create a race to the top as brands and retailers consider ways to transform their business practices in support of human rights in their supply chains.”

Co-Lead, Better Buying Marsha Dickson