Beyond auditing – driving continuous improvement in supplier sustainability
At Philips, our purpose to improve people’s lives extends beyond our innovative products, systems and services to our supply chain. Philips’ Supplier Sustainability Performance (SSP) program replaces the traditional approach of supplier auditing, which had been shown to be insufficient in driving sustainable improvements and often leads to audit fatigue.
“One of the most important behaviors we’re trying to drive is the focus on continuous improvement,” explains Bob Ruers, Philips Supplier Sustainability Director. He says this means identifying and tackling the root cause of process issues.
With the SSP program, the focus is on ensuring structural, proactive improvement in social and environmental performance, rather than simply reacting to issues that arise. “If something's not right, you need to take time and analyze the problem,” he says. “There's no point in keeping the train running on a broken track. We need to normalize fixing the root cause.”
By lending expertise to suppliers, Philips helps them grow their skills in many areas, including assessment of supplier sustainability performance, management of regulated substances, greening the supply chain, improvement of working conditions, and responsible sourcing.
“Our SSP approach is long-term and relationship-driven,” says Bob. “We explain the reasoning behind the plan. At the beginning it may be, ‘I have a policy,’ but the larger aim is to build mature and sustainable supplier management.”
Bob says implementing sustainable, people-centered practices in a company’s supply chain takes an all-hands-on-deck approach. “We invest in suppliers who provide a safe working environment, treat workers with respect, and work in an environmentally sound way. When problematic practices surface, that’s okay. Because identifying an issue is the first step towards making an improvement – and we do that together.”