The next stage of the assessment is to follow up on the self-assessment questionnaires returned by your suppliers. For some suppliers, follow-up can take place by telephone or e-mail. For other suppliers, a visit may be necessary.
Select suppliers to visit
You should visit the suppliers that, in your assessment, are furthest from fulfilling the requirements in your Code of Conduct.
The suppliers' self-assessments will give you a good sense of who requires only verbal or written follow-up, and who should receive a visit. If a supplier's self-assessment shows that the supplier has a good understanding of your Code of Conduct and works seriously with the areas in which there is room for improvement, follow-up in writing or by telephone will probably be sufficient. You can, for example, ask the supplier to prepare their own action plan, or to prepare an action plan together with you (see phase 5).
If the self-assessment questionnaire indicates that the supplier finds it hard to understand or fulfil the requirements in your Code of Conduct, you can consider a visit to the supplier. You can also consider a visit if you do not trust the information on the self-assessment questionnaire. There are three danger signals to which you should pay particular attention:
If a supplier writes that they fulfil all of the requirements in your Code of Conduct, but they are not able to identify potential or actual adverse impacts on any CSR principles.
If a supplier writes that they are not able to meet any of the requirements, and have no plans to change this.
If a supplier refuses to complete the self-assessment questionnaire or otherwise provide information on their ability to meet the requirements in your Code of Conduct.
You should be aware that the various CSR areas can be inter-related. If, for example, a supplier faces environmental challenges with wastewater, this can result in an adverse impact on the local population's right to an appropriate standard of living, which includes the right to water and sanitation. In the same way, corruption can result in adverse impacts on specific human rights.
Finally, you should review the suppliers' self-assessments in the light of the country and sector risks that you have identified. You can also request Danish or local NGOs to help you to designate areas for particular focus. Their insights on the contextual risks can help you to spend less time on risk identification.
If you trade with a Chinese supplier, for example, they should have ticked the box for potential or actual impact on the right to freedom of association, because the All-China Federation of Trade Unions currently holds the monopoly on freedom of association in China. If a Chinese supplier claims not to be aware of its impact on freedom of association, this may indicate that they have not understood the self-assessment questionnaire, or have not answered honestly. The sector or industry in which a supplier operates can also make selected CSR principles even more relevant. For example, a textile dying works should have a policy on the use of chemicals and discharges of wastewater.
In practice, you will need to match your assessment of the self-assessment questionnaires with the follow-up resources you have available.
Prepare a check list for the visit
A check list will support a focused dialogue during the short time you spend with the supplier.
In phase 2, you can generate a check list to use during supplier visits. Like the self-assessment questionnaire, the check list reflects your Code of Conduct.
On the check list you can note, point by point, whether the supplier lives up to the requirements in your Code of Conduct. The list sets out indicators for suppliers' CSR policies and CSR processes. There are also questions concerning current and potential adverse impacts on people and the environment, as well as cases of corruption. If you have opted to include special requirements in an annex to your Code of Conduct, these will also be included in the check list.
It may be a good idea to adjust the check list so that you know in advance which elements of it you wish to review with the supplier. The supplier's self assessment will help you to identify the CSR processes or CSR principles that you should investigate more closely during a visit. In the same way, your investigation of country and sector risks will identify areas that will be relevant to focus on.
Integrate the CSR assessment into a routine visit
By integrating the assessment into a routine visit, you will ensure continuity with the other business activities and utilise the existing dialogue.
It may be an advantage to perform the evaluation of the supplier's CSR activities when you visit the supplier for other reasons, for example for price negotiations, quality inspections, etc. This saves resources and also signals to the supplier that you do not consider CSR activities to be separate from other business activities.
When the assessment is performed by one of your own employees who has a relation to the supplier, it will also be easier to establish cooperation on the CSR activities required in order for the supplier to achieve compliance with your Code of Conduct. The supplier will to a higher degree experience the visit as a dialogue meeting, rather than an inspection/audit.
If you use an external auditor, this person must understand the purpose of your Code of Conduct and also be familiar with the local conditions.
CSR assessment can be resource-intensive for both you and your suppliers. You can therefore consider cooperation with other companies that use the same suppliers on a joint assessment of the suppliers, or on sharing the results of the assessments.
Several trade associations undertake supplier assessments on behalf of their members. You can therefore investigate whether such initiatives exist within you own industry or sector. Read more under Find your sector.
Inform the supplier about your intended visit
You will achieve the best results if you align your mutual expectations of the visit and give the supplier an opportunity to prepare for the visit.
To achieve worthwhile results, the visit should take place in close cooperation with the supplier. It is important to give the supplier an advance warning of your visit, so that the supplier understands the purpose of the visit and can make sure that you have access to the relevant people and documents. This is necessary, irrespective of whether the CSR evaluation is part of an ordinary supplier visit, or the visit is dedicated to CSR.
You can send a letter to the supplier with information on the purpose and content of the visit, including details of the documents you wish to see and the people you wish to speak to. It is a good idea to emphasise that you will focus especially on the areas where the self-assessment gives rise to concerns or further questions. You can also emphasise that you attach importance to a mutual learning process and would therefore like to hear about areas where the supplier has undertaken special CSR initiatives that you can learn from.