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A Webinar by the United Nations Global Compact: Traceability in Global Supply

Saman Baghestani, Founder, WeMakeChange

Traceability is defined by the International Organization for Standardization as “the ability to identify and trace the history, distribution, location, and application of products, parts, and materials”[1].  Traceability is thus fundamental to any discussion about a company’s level of social responsibility.  Without accurate, traceable information about the full scope of what went into the production of a particular product and bringing it to market, -  i.e. what is happening behind the scenes and within the supply chains - stakeholders cannot properly begin to assess how responsible, ethical, or environmentally-friendly a company really is.    

I recently attended a webinar presented by the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) on the topic of traceability in global supply chains.  This webinar featured several panelists representing organizations working on initiatives aimed at improving the traceability of some of the most heavily traded commodities on the planet, from coffee to cocoa to palm oil and beyond.  One of the panelists, Tara Norton, BSR’s Director of Advisory Services, outlined efforts underway at the UNGC’s task force on traceability to draft a guide that will assist firms in unraveling the complex challenges of tracing raw materials through intricate global supply chains.   

Traceability is not an easy task.  While supply chains have become more sophisticated and complex, the technologies required to provide the transparency for assuring that raw materials are ethically sourced, has not kept pace with these changes.  The contents of the UNGC task force’s guide -  the draft of which will be completed in Q1 ‘14 - will include information regarding opportunities for firms to establish traceability schemes unique to the commodities in which they deal.  Firms are also encouraged to participate in achieving supply chain traceability through global collaborative opportunities available on the website:  Sustainable Supply Chains: Resources and Practices.   

For more information on how companies are embedding sustainability issues into their supply chains, including access to existing resources and best practices, download the comprehensive report Research Findings and Scoping Recommendations (pdf).  

The United Nations Global Compact is a platform which exists to establish global standards for responsible business practices, and with 10,000 + corporate participants, it is the world’s largest voluntary corporate responsibility initiative.  Learn more about the UNGC by visiting  

Tara Norton is the director of advisory services at BSR.  Tara has an M.B.A. from London Business School, and a B.A. in International Studies and French from Northwestern University. See Tara’s full bio by visiting

[1] Iso 9000: International Standards for Quality Management. Genève, Switzerland: International [1]Organization for Standardization, 1992. Print.