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Supply chain data platform Sedex’s Xplore Sustainability conference saw representatives from British retailer Ted Baker in attendance to discuss the challenges and opportunities it faces in the push for further ESG practices in supply chains.

At a panel session, Ted Baker‘s chief people officer Peter Collyer told delegates that as a smaller business in the retail sector, it is “more challenged” when it comes to ESG regulations. “The bigger retailers often have larger orders and therefore more leverage and typically more resources. So, we must work together collectively.”

The retailer identified three main barriers to ESG practices within the company: lack of comprehensive industry wide data, regulatory language, and a lack of accountability and human rights risks hidden within lower tiers in supply chains.

Collyer referenced Ted Baker’s acquisition by Authentic Brands Group in 2022, which he says prompted internal questions around organisational purpose: “How do we position ourselves? How truly ethical and sustainable are we? How do we make sustainability part of everyone’s day jobs?”

Collyer spoke against companies that pay lip service to ESG. A recent survey by procurement and supply chain management specialist Efficio found that traditional business objectives are still prioritised over ESG.

In considering how to push for genuine sustainability in Ted Baker as a whole, Collyer stated: “We had a strong ethics and sustainability drive within our product zone, but it became evident that it wasn’t initially owned throughout the entire organisation. We have worked hard to address this and are very pleased with the progress we have made here.”

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He highlighted company and industry-wide collective ownership, authenticity, and transparency as key solutions.

Speaking exclusively to Just Style, Cat Lee, head of ethics and sustainability at Ted Baker, disclosed that while 100% of the retailer’s factories are audited, 10% currently have not been audited over the past twelve months, which is Ted Baker’s minimum requirement time frame for auditing factories. Lee clarified that these factories are predominantly in China and attributed the delay of auditing to ongoing pandemic lockdowns and Chinese New Year.

In the panel session, Collyer pointed out that “often the root causes for non-compliance aren’t recitifed, and so the issues recur throughout the audit cycle. As a result, we are introducing a system within our factories for non-compliance that is identified in our audits and supplier surveys – we’ve never done this before.”

He added: “Our suppliers mostly want to do the right thing too – it’s when they outsource to other parties that we lose the same level of visibility which we have in our first-tier cycle. We need to identify how much subcontracting is going on using robust data gathering.”

The panel agreed that incentivisation is key to pushing for the implementation of ESG practices in business. Collyer affirmed that “incentivisation has made a big difference for us. People are under immense pressure in business. They are balancing many things in very unprecedented times. Sometimes ESG is not seen as high on the agenda as other things and many businesses are still in survival mode right now. So, we’re very conscious that we have to get the minds, hearts, and hands on board.”