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AIM-PROGRESS: collaboration, compliance, and continuous improvement

AIM‑PROGRESS is a global framework for multinationals, mainly fast moving consumer goods companies (FMCGs), which have joined forces in the name of responsible sourcing. For many of these large-scale consumer goods producers, raw materials form the backbone of their business, and these natural resources must be sourced, grown and harvested in a responsible manner along their supply chains. 

Members of AIM‑PROGRESS co‑create responsible sourcing practices that can be implemented on a large scale, and over the long term. By casting competition aside and pooling knowledge and insights on how best to apply these principles, the AIM‑PROGRESS industry taskforce is becoming a powerful agent for change.

As part of our sustainability programme, we wanted to engage with our customers and really understand the challenges they were facing. Pascal, Givaudan’s Global Sustainability Manager, explains: “Many of the AIM-PROGRESS members are really advanced in their Responsible Sourcing programme. By joining the dialogue at this high level, we can accelerate our understanding of key issues in this domain. This then helps us to structure our processes and address them within our own supply chain.”

Best practices and ideas developed by the group are then shared with suppliers, and we leverage the AIM-PROGRESS auditing framework to help suppliers adhere to social principles that include human rights, labour standards, environment and business integrity. Once a supplier has shown compliance by completing an audit, they can share these results with other customers in a scheme known as ‘mutual recognition’, which greatly saves on costs and time for many actors in the supply chain, both large and small.

Although a relatively new member to the forum (we joined in 2012) Givaudan quickly asserted its status within AIM‑PROGRESS and as of 2014 we were an active member of the Leadership Team. Pascal summarises Givaudan’s activities over the year: “Joining the leadership team was a great opportunity for us to deal with the key issues facing FMCGs and, in turn, truly understand what our own focus should be. It was a great privilege to provide agenda items and be the ‘voice of suppliers’ within the organisation. A key highlight of the year was co‑sponsoring a responsible sourcing event in collaboration with Nestlé and Bacardi, where we could listen to the queries of 300 suppliers and start to draft new action items.”

Pascal continues: “In 2014, we participated in six similar events around the world; as an AIM‑PROGRESS member we can invite our suppliers to these conferences, which were held in Africa, Asia and Europe. Typically, we provide information about responsible sourcing and explain to suppliers the importance of following these principles. Together we then find ways to move forward.”

Beyond compliance

However, the objective of AIM‑PROGRESS goes further than simply proposing frameworks and engaging in discussions. The primary objective of the organisation is to instigate action, and to constantly look ahead to new challenges facing the industry’s supply chain.

Moving forward, one of the key focus areas for the group is to determine what we are really striving for compliance or continuous improvement? As Pascal explains, the aim of responsible sourcing is not for suppliers to merely tick off a checklist out of a sense of duty, rather it’s about changing behaviours so that everyone along the supply chain is fully committed to doing business in a way that preserves the environment, workers and communities.

That’s why there’s a new emphasis within the forum, as Pascal explains: “A core group of advanced AIM‑PROGRESS members are trying to push the envelope, and help suppliers ‘go beyond’ mere compliance: they are focusing on ‘fostering continuous improvement’. With this mind-set of ‘going beyond’, they are also exploring tough subjects such as how can we provide knowledge and thought around issues that are only just coming to the fore. These emerging topics, such as land rights and zero deforestation haven’t yet been dealt with in a structured way and will start to rise to the top of the agenda.”