We have worked with Mars since 2018 to support the deployment and continuous improvement of 'Supplier Advance' - an enhanced approach to supplier sustainability. Its key objectives are to:
- Build a more resilient supply chain that can deliver on Mars’s sustainable growth aims
- Help suppliers access third party expert support, on-site engagement, and the use of technology to engage with workers
- Encourage suppliers to engage in a long-term change process, advancing and transforming their performance in targeted areas
This responds to the growing recognition of the way audit-led processes struggle to effect significant change on the ground.
Key success factors
Mars wanted to find a complementary way to enhance their relationships with strategic suppliers with a focus on better engaging and supporting them to deliver greater positive impact in their workplaces.
The key challenges for Supplier Advance have been:
- Onboarding suppliers, who are suffering from "audit fatigue" and ensuring they understand the intent, needs, and benefits for this work
- Balancing the need for ensuring basic compliance with new ways of encouraging progress
- Fostering different types of conversations with suppliers
- Monitoring progress and tracking results in an efficient way
We prioritised getting to know the Mars suppliers and fully understanding each suppliers' specific context and business drivers. Building excellent working relationships, we supported them in co-creating the Advance improvement plan and helping their leadership buy-in to the process.
We carried out assessments of suppliers in the UK in 2019 and spoke to a range of stakeholders from agency staff and workforce right through to managing directors. The stakeholder dialogue enabled us to identify key areas for improvement and discuss these with each supplier - the main aim being for them to establish real ownership as to how they planned to respond to gaps identified without providing generic answers to specific challenges.
We revisited the suppliers to see how they had progressed since the initial engagement and were delighted to see there had been a real shift in how management thinks about engaging the workforce – for example, creating more opportunities for workers to raise concerns or propose ways of including worker representatives in key decisions and implementation.
One of the outcomes has been suppliers and Mars working more openly with each other. Meanwhile, suppliers have been implementing initiatives aimed at improving lives for workers on the factory floor, ranging from employee consultation, wage increases, redesigned shifts, and ways to protect or reimburse workers for shift changes due to customer supply chain failures and a lack of product.