The what, why, and how of supply chain mapping? By Anna Cantwell

At the end of November, as part of our Modern Slavery Week Webinar Series, I hosted a webinar on ‘Supply Chain Risk & Mapping’ – if you missed it, here’s a brief summary of what was discussed… (or feel free to watch recordings of the whole series here.)

When it comes to supply chain mapping, I find it easiest to break it down into the classic ‘What? How? Why?’

What is supply chain mapping?

Simply defined, supply chain mapping is the process of capturing information from all suppliers or individuals involved in a company’s supply chain, so that the origin and flow of goods and services can be visualised from beginning to end.

A great example is Fairphone, tracing the phone down to the raw materials’ country of origins and the mines themselves in some cases.

The Why?

  • Identify risks – The information collected through supply chain mapping can help to determine which suppliers (and their supply chains) are significantly linked to high-risk products and/or services identified during the risk assessment.
  • Increases resilience to future risk or disruption – It is about the transparency of supply and having the necessary information to identify and mitigate against risks. It is not about auditing the supply chain for performance or improving commercial conditions to the benefit of the buyer, nor is it about attempting to get leverage over suppliers.
  • Streamlines and speeds up investigation processes – Understanding how your multi-tiered supply chain is connected allows you to discover easier where issues and violations occur. In instances such as human rights violation this is a crucial step in being able to remediate.
  • Strengthens supplier relationships – By taking the first step to identify who your suppliers are, you can lay a foundation of two-way communication and set the stage for future collaboration efforts, this is important when looking at innovative solutions to perhaps reduce carbon and waste.
  • Builds stronger, more authentic relationships with customers – Consumers want to know where their products come from, and that their purchases aren’t contributing to human rights violations. Sharing your supply chain transparency story with your customers is a great way to build trust and earn their loyalty.

The How?

Here’s three tips to consider when supply chain mapping:

1. Stakeholder engagement – Internal and external stakeholder engagement is a) crucial to gather supply chain information. more often than not specifics are not written down or visible on an invoice/website. The information gathered will tend to be through questionnaires, interviews, and most importantly, relationships. B) It’s vital to gain buy in and bring those involved along the journey, supply chain mapping is a collaborative process.

2. Use of technology – Technology is great, there are lots of platforms out there providing supply chain mapping solutions. However, the technology is only as good as the information you have and that information mainly comes from engaging the supply chain in an open and collaborative manner (see tip number 1).

3. Don’t forget the broader landscape – As you can see from the Fairphone example above, things travel far and wide, and back again within supply chains. When supply chain mapping, don’t forget to include transport, warehousing and even disposal of products.

Interested in how we can help your business with your supply chain mapping, sustainable procurement and modern slavery needs? Get in touch with Anna.


For more information

Anna Cantwell
Senior Consultant

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