Like it or not, you “own” your entire supply chain

Wal-Mart, Sears and Disney have all moved quickly to distance themselves from the fire in a garment factory in Bangladesh that killed 112 people — after reporters found items with their logos and other evidence of business relationships in the charred rubble of the building. Associated Press reports that all three companies claimed they had tried to sever ties with Tazreen Fashions Ltd. before the tragedy, and that any production there had been “unauthorized.”
Two important items to note:
1. The unspoken assumption in the coverage is that consumer companies are essentially responsible for their entire supply chain — no matter how far it is from U.S. jurisdictions. Tazreen may have been a tier-three supplier, but no matter to the media. If the smoking sweatshirt has a Wal-Mart label — reporters demand a response from Wal-Mart.
2. In their rapid responses, all three companies appeared to accept that premise as they distanced themselves from the factory and its owner. In fact, according to their statements, they recognized the risk at some level and had tried to sever the relationship before the incident. In a world where communications have such a broad and rapid reach — that’s the only prudent approach. Like it or not, it’s best to know your product’s entire supply chain – from its beginnings as raw material to the time it hangs in a customer’s closet — and be prepared to manage risks of any kind throughout it.

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