The 3rd annual QIMA Supply Chain Conference took place in Hong Kong. The two conference sessions featured 23 speakers from leading brands and NGOs, sharing their insights in interactive panel sessions, demos and presentations.
Use the session guide below to explore the conference agenda, and click on the title of each panel for a full summary of the session takeaways and video footage.
Session 1: Navigating the Shifting Landscape of Global Supply Chain
- Financial and legal implications of Trade Wars, moderated by Finbarr Bermingham, South China Morning Post
To kick-off the day, we gathered representatives from the American Chamber of Commerce, Sandler, Travis and Rosenberg, Natixis and a consultant specializing in US-China trade policy. The conversation focused on the far-reaching consequences of the uncertainty surrounding tariffs. As many businesses move away from China, the global sourcing landscape as we know it is being reshaped.
- Emerging Regions: Growing Pains for Businesses Expanding into New Geographies
The Trade Wars has diversified sourcing and many challenges are arising as businesses shift from China to emerging regions. Academy International, ICTI Ethical Toy Program, ProductIP and QIMA representatives all shared the pain points experienced or observed in the field. Unlike China, which has a highly developed manufacturing infrastructure, many of the new sourcing countries are struggling to meet quality measures in the face of new volume demands. This has caused companies to go back to basics when it comes to onboarding new supplies and ensuring expectations are being met.
- From Traceability to Sustainability: The Virtually Limitless Applications of Technology in Global Supply Chains, moderated by Dr. Christina Dean, Founder and CEO, Redress
Technology in the supply chain has been a hot topic in recent years. Prior to the panel, KPMG shared a demo of a blockchain product the company helped developed that traces the origins of rice products and wine. However, as noted by panel participants (KPMG, QIMA, Clover and Chicks), technology is only a piece of the puzzle. In a survey conducted by QIMA last year, it was found that only 10% of those surveyed felt that they knew their supply chain fully, signaling how far away the industry is from achieved full visibility and transparency. Yet, there is hope. As many panelists noted, it’s not just about having the right technology but also the right talent that can implement it every step of the way.
Session 2: Ethical and Sustainable Sourcing: Progress and Challenges
- Fireside Chat: The Present and Future of Circularity in Fashion, a fireside chat hosted by Dr. Christina Dean, Founder and CEO, Redress
Historically, the needs of a business and sustainability have been at odds, particularly in fashion. However, as the circular economy begins to boom, there’s an opportunity for fashion to play a huge role and it appears that brands are beginning to understand the business benefits of circularity in fashion. During this fireside chat, it was shared that 93 million tons of fabric is being produced each year and 73% of it goes into a landfill. Rather than just incinerating it, there’s a huge opportunity to re-invest it back into the fashion industry, creating a more sustainable business model that also saves money.
- Are Global Supply Chains Making Progress in Ensuring Safe and Decent Work?
Bangladesh remained a hot topic when discussing ensuring worker safety. Many of the panelists had direct experience working in or with factories in Bangladesh (WRAP, Hasbro and QIMA), providing a first-hand look at where improvements have been made since Rana Plaza. While Bangladesh has seen improvements, QIMA’s Gabriel Amouyal, noted that building safety still remains an issue in many regions. In the last 6 months, only 40% of factories that were audited were considered low risk. In South East Asia, 80% of factories audited were found to be at medium to high risk for workers in terms of building safety. The panel also touched on human rights and the changing shape of child labor issues. According to CCR CSR, there has been an increase of child labor among 17- and 18-year-olds. While of legal age to work, these workers are often put into hazardous positions so it’s important for them to understand their rights and for businesses to consider this when working to combat child labor issues.
- Technology for Good: Innovative Tools for Protecting Human Rights in Global Supply Chains
The day ended by touching on technology again, this time by discussing its role in protecting human rights in the global supply chain. It was a very lively discussion among amfori, the Mekong Club and Workplace Options. The conversation touched on smaller companies that have less of a microscope on them when it comes to human rights issues. Similar to the points brought up in the previous panel, implementing technology is only half of the battle. This is increasingly so when it comes to tools used to protect workers. Making sure workers are aware of why the technology is being implemented and how the data will be used can build trust and promote proper implementation.
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