What lies behind the curtain of your supply chain?

When Dorothy returns to the Wizard of Oz after melting the Wicked Witch of the West, she is surprised to find that the man is not an almighty and powerful Wizard, but simply a man behind a curtain. Just before she exposes him, he yells one phrase that has been echoed across culture and business: “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”

More than ever, what lies behind the curtain of business has become of interest to consumers as they search for products and brands that are transparent in their processes and sustainable in their practices. Consumers want to make sure that there is no criminal activity, human rights violations or animal cruelty hidden in your product journey.

This means that strong supply chain management and transparency has become key to helping your business grow. One unethical practice hidden behind one curtain can have an impact on your brand reputation and bottom line.

A supply chain or a growing pyramid?

The problem is, a supply chain is not simply a series of curtains that you can pull back one by one. For every supplier that you directly know or engage with, they may have multiple suppliers of their own. And those suppliers may have even more suppliers. This is a number that can grow exponentially — and the reality is that if even one of these suppliers are operating unethically, it can have an impact on your business.

In a survey of 80,000 people over three years, global communications agency We Worldwide revealed that 74 % of consumers expected brands to take a stand on important issues — for example, addressing environmental issues at a local and global level.

“These attitudes are driven by a new era of expectation, a push for accountability from all sides and an empowered consumer audience,” says the groundbreaking report.

Consumers have certainly become increasingly savvy at pulling back the curtain themselves — they have high-speed internet at their fingertips and a passionate collection of people. This means that it has become impossible and ineffective for ethical issues to hide away in the supplier chain — and strong, sustainable supplier control is a must.

Associate Professor Bronwen Dalton, from the UTS Business School elaborates in an article by Ann Arnold: “Business is experiencing increased numbers of popular protests, consumer boycotts, legal suits [and] various public shaming campaigns.”

However those that embrace transparency and accountability are flourishing. Examples of brands like the popular LUSH Cosmetics — who started with a small cult following and are now reaching a billion dollar turnover — show that consumers appreciate and buy ethical supply.

In fact, LUSH’s marketing relies heavily on word-of-mouth about their ethical practices. Their radical stance is one of complete honesty when it comes to the difficulty of supply chains and the needs of workers, consumers and the planet.

In a blog post titled ‘Is Lush an ethical company?they talk of constant accountability and improvement. “No company is perfect,” the article reads. “We will always want and demand more from Lush, so that our business practices match our own expectations, our staff and customer expectations and the needs of the planet.”

Turn the curtain into a window

It is time for businesses to pay attention to the curtains in their supply chain and turn them into windows that consumers can look through. If you take down these barriers, then you can truly create and grow powerful relationships between your business, the environment, and society.

As Dr. Steve New argues: “Supply chain issues are… central to an organisation’s activities and are not an optional add on.” True supply chain transparency includes both visibility and traceability — not just on a brand or product level, but also for suppliers, raw material production, and importantly, those who manufacture the product. It is a social responsibility that all businesses must undertake for future growth and development.

Luckily, there are new technologies that can help you investigate what lies in your supply chain. Using advanced learning technologies such as Blockchain, almost anything can be traceable and we are able to significantly scale how to digitally attribute a product lifecycle.

At Misio, we see a future where we use this technology to connect conscious consumers with ethical brands. We can put power back in your hands to control the supply chain, increase traceability and transparency, and conduct business for good. No Wizards or curtains required.