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April 24, 2012 / Green America

Strategy #3: Chain of Custody and Supply Chains

The booklet “Saving the Titanic” was originally published by Paul Freundlich, founder of Green America (formerly Co-op America).   It contains a dozen green strategies for our society to avoid the “icebergs” of climate change, nuclear catastrophe, economic collapse, and other ills.  Today, we excerpt Solution #3, and over the coming days, we’ll share the rest of Paul’s solutions:

In a global economy, rarely does the entire continuum from extraction, production, distribution and consumption, to recycling or disposal exist within one entity. The complex patterns of sub-contracting and outsourcing are an easy shield, and the purchasing power of corporate giants allows them the freedom to make policy and set pricing that carry all the way down the chain. Reaching agreements that result in companies taking responsibility for the chain of custody is an important strategy. The ILO (International Labor Organization) has taken a positive ideological position, though organized labor‘s practical involvement has been questionable of its reluctance to deal with industries and nations where unions are excluded or inhibited.

How: Under pressure from activists and investors, large companies set standards for vendors, and support verification (that vendors are living up to standards). Monitoring is strengthened by mediating NGOs such as CREA and New Standards, which connect local NGOs and workers with the verification process.

Result: Verification helps vertically integrate the entire supply chain for each business, with the end user taking responsibility for the performance of smaller units of contracted production. Probability: Once retailers stop hiding behind the screen of non-ownership, they have plenty of clout to effect change. There already has been considerable progress in several industries.

In the days that follow, we’ll post the rest of Paul’s 12 strategies for righting the ship.

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