”Our engagement in third-party verification is not only about maintaining a green profile, but also about a true profile. I want to know that what I tell my clients is true. That goes for our timber sourcing as well as our Code of Conduct”, says Jesper Panduro.
Mr Panduro is CEO of Trip Trap, a Danish trader of high-end garden furniture as well as indoor and outdoor decoration.
Corporate responsibility includes the supply chain
Sourcing products made from teak, sapeli and other precious wood from Asia through 30 years, the company has been FSC Chain of Custody certified since 2008 and has a policy in place for responsible timber sourcing. Over the past few years, the company has also stepped up to its commitment to social and environmental responsibility throughout its supply chain.
Since 2010, Trip Trap has worked with NEPCon to align its Code of Conduct to the UN Global Compact’s 10 principles. The Code of Conduct applies to Trip Trap’s own facilities as well as the company’s suppliers. Trip Trap has chosen third-party verification to confirm the system’s proper implementation, and over the past year NEPCon has performed audits among Trip Trap’s key Asian suppliers located in China, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia.
Mr Panduro: ”The hallmark of our products is that they foster and support a ’use and conserve’ mentality among our clients, as opposed to the throw away culture which has become part and parcel of modern life. We produce tried-and-tested quality products which – if well cared for – may last for decades".
"That way of thinking also applies at another level: we depend on forest resources, so we take precautions to avoid being part of a destructive trade. We depend on the work of the people who manufacture our products, so we demand that they are offered decent jobs at fair conditions”.
Trust in suppliers is the key
According to Mr Panduro, the suppliers of Trip Trap have welcomed the CSR auditing. ”Our Asian business partners are skilled and well-educated people who see the benefits involved. Several of our suppliers have expressed that the audits help them raise their quality and profile”, he says.
”I also feel confident that we have a pretty accurate picture of the situation in each location based on the audits carried out.
NEPCon appointed a key expert to lead the process of verification and make roundtrips to visit our suppliers. In addition they involved local experts in the on-site audits, effectively preventing any cultural or language barriers”.
Sanding department of aTrip Trap supplier, producing FSC-certified stools.
”We could probably generate more short-term profit by shopping among suppliers from year to year”, says Mr Panduro. ”But if you wish to build an ethical business offering enduring products of high quality, then you need to have faith in your suppliers above all. Trust and good relations are built over years of collaboration with the same supplier. In Thailand, we have maintained relations with the same factory for 25 years”.
Sustainability in a local context
”In my opinion, being responsible often means a more nuanced approach than simply letting people go unless they conform to Western standards”, says Mr Panduro. ”For example, in one of our sourcing regions, older children may take part in the family business by helping out after school hours. This is part of old handicraft traditions in the area and we accept that. The Code of Conduct is there to ensure low environmental impact and fair conditions for people including protection of children against cruel exploitation - not to disrupt family traditions or cultural patterns that do not damage the child’s life and future”.
NEPCon’s expert leading the CSR auditing process at Trip Trap Kjell-Owe Ahlskog comments: ”In my experience, auditing the proper execution of a Code of Conduct sometimes requires case by case judgement to ensure a meaningful and effective approach to CSR in the local context. I have found that common sense goes a long way to strike the right balance”.
”For instance, we discovered that one supplier factory had been built so that chemicals had to be stored right in the middle of the building. This is not the best location in terms of health and safety, but we cannot realistically require the factory to be re-built without destroying the financial basis of the supplier. In this case, our short term approach was to require measures addressing the risk, such as a strong focus on safe containers, fire escape routes, use of protection gear, and effective emergency procedures”.
Impact on company culture
The company’s focus on sustainability is also important in terms of staff satisfaction and loyalty. Mr Panduro:”People today are generally concerned about ethical issues. For example, a staff member attending a private dinner party may well find himself questioned by his dinner partner about how our work in Asia impacts the local people on the factory floor. I want to enable our employee to provide a truthful response and continue enjoying the party”.
According to Mr Panduro, in-house competence is crucial in order to efficiently implement corporate responsibility policies. This is why the company recently appointed a Quality Manager who has a strong background within CSR. ”I see technical quality and sustainability as being strongly interrelated”, he says. ”We are working with our suppliers around both aspects, helping them improve as we go along”.
”As a businessman, I feel it is important to take a stance. My vision is to create sustainable products that last in a world full of temporary and short-lived consumer items. We take the steps toward sustainability that we deem necessary, and we take one step at a time. We have a timber sourcing policy well in place that includes preference for FSC-certified products whenever possible, and we are now well under way with implementing our Code of Conduct, taking care of social and environmental issues throughout our supply chain. Our next step will be to look at how we can reduce our greenhouse gas emissions”.
Mr Panduro’s five tips for achieving success with CSR:
1. Ensure involvement by the company’s top management
2. Build in-house competence
3. Get external expert assistance
4. Take one step at a time
5. Choose suppliers you can trust, and build long-term relations
Pictures showing finished products and portrait picture of Mr Panduro © Trip Trap
Pictures showing manufacturing of products and fire escape route are from NEPCon's supplier audits.