Here at Fluid, our people, the way we work and our partnerships are at the heart of what we do. Our reputation is based on consistently delivering to a set of values which we represent in the way we treat each other as colleagues, work with our partners and do business with our suppliers and clients.
We believe that producing good quality products need not come at the expense of others. We stand out as a supplier of promotional merchandise as we care about where our products are from and under what conditions. Our clients trust us to uphold their values and conduct our business responsibly, maintaining their brand integrity, along with ours.
These values are fundamental to our business, it takes commitment and it's vital that all members of the team are engaged as well as our suppliers.
As a business, Fluid adopts the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) base code of conduct, which forms the basis of our engagement with suppliers and is used as the internationally recognized standard against which we monitor a supplier's performance.
So why is ethical sourcing an issue?
Ethical trade became a growing issue during the 90's as large companies with global supply chains were coming under increased pressure to ensure decent working conditions for their factory workers. A number of campaigns raised consumers' awareness of poor working conditions in factories in developing countries.
As a result, a growing number of companies decided they can no longer turn a blind eye and have adopted ethical sourcing policies to address growing public concern over supply chain issues. Pressure on companies has been maintained as organisations all over the world have continued to campaign on these issues.
In addition, corporate investment companies are screening their investments according to a range of social and environmental criteria, including a company's efforts in addressing supply chain conditions. Together, these trends are making it more and more difficult for companies to ignore ethical sourcing issues.
Fluid are also AB members of Sedex, the Supplier Ethical Data Exchange which is a not for profit membership organisation dedicated to driving improvements in ethical and responsible business practices in global supply chains.
It's the largest collaborative platform for sharing ethical supply chain data and is an innovative and effective supply chain management solution, helping to reduce risk, protect company reputation and improve supply chain practices.
Sedex offers an electronic system for collecting and analysing ethical information, providing an efficient and cost effective way of sharing these details with multiple customers, helping cut down on unnecessary paperwork and saving time and money.
Our Sedex membership number is S000000066577.
But do our clients actually care where their merchandise comes from?
In short, yes - it is beginning to matter more than ever to the consumer, as their brand is reflected in their product choice. But in addition, there is generally more overall understanding of ethical business practices, where products are manufactured and how they are produced. Plus, the increased use of social media as a platform to report findings within 140 twitter characters, can no doubt damage a brands reputation very quickly, as we've seen in recent times.
The most recent high profile case was of mobile phone giant EE who had to recall thousands of their ‘Power Bar' chargers after reports of them exploding from overheating due to an internal fault.
Understandably, price is a major factor in the buying decision for companies especially when purchasing vast quantities but it's of utmost importance to be able to explain why those extra few pennies are worth spending in order to supply a compliant product, with the relevant safety documentation and tested to conform to local laws within the country of distribution.
We choose Asia Inspection as our partner for factory audit programmes and product inspections. These inspections can be crucial as they can bring to our attention and show first hand any issues within a factory or during the manufacture of one of our orders.
Our ethical audit programmes adhere to the internationally recognised SA 8000 or SMETA standards for social and ethical compliance and cover a number of key areas including health and safety, waste management, child and underage labour, labour practices plus working hours and wages. Upon receipt of audit results, if required we implement corrective action plans and work closely with the factory to ensure any issues are rectified within a certain time frame.
Not just a statistic: Asia Inspection data shows that in 2014, 50% of factories audited in Asia showed major non-compliances and 29% were at serious ethical risk and data for January – July 2014 shows 5.5% of ethical audits in Asia failed due to child labour!
We also work with Intertek who are a provider of quality and safety services and work alongside many of the world's leading brands and companies.
We primarily use Intertek for specific lab and safety testing, giving assurance that the products our clients are buying are safe and compliant. We recently produced some soft toy dogs for a client where we had to perform a variety of material tests to ensure no harmful substances were used along with specific functionality tests.
One of the tests we had to perform was a strength test where we had to pull the eyes from the soft toy to show if it presented any possible choking hazards, as the image illustrates below.
In addition, Intertek are a great resource for information and routinely advise us of safety hazards and current legislation to ensure compliance to national and international standards.
All in all, CSR, ethical sourcing and product compliance is absolutely vital for us as a business to understand and treat with the utmost importance. Our clients trust us to conduct our business responsibly and we ensure peace of mind that the products we produce and the services we offer are supplied through ethically sound supply chains, as our reputation along with our clients depends on it.