High standards for our supply chain

It is a great need for us to maintain an accurate overview of our entire supply chain and to guarantee this on a permanent basis.

The high standards we expect from our partners and suppliers are of course also something we want to maintain ourselves at every level of our company. To demonstrate this transparently to all stakeholders, we use a social audit conducted by an independent third party.

During this social audit, all ethical, environmental and social practices are reviewed to fully analyze and control risks and protect all stakeholders involved from any injustices.

A holistic understanding and prudent business practices at each site (our own and those of our suppliers) play a fundamental role in our choice of partners. Through such audits, we try to fully understand the extent to which our partners are in line with our values. The choice of this special social audit also ensures, through recurring follow-up audits, that we will continue to act under socially responsible aspects and principles in the future.

Sedex & SMETA: Our promotion of prudent action

We are aware that trying to keep track of all this information at all levels is a major challenge. Both in the initial analysis and in the continuous measurement. However, it is of great importance to us to build a strong foundation that ensures and promotes excellent business practices of all our partners on an ongoing basis. This is why we use the SMETA social audit.

What is SMETA?

SMETA is Sedex's social audit standard that companies can use to audit, validate and transparently view their suppliers' working conditions in the areas of labour, health and safety, environment and business ethics. SMETA literally means Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audit.

What does Sedex stand for?

Sedex is an acronym for Supplier Ethical Data Exchange. It is an online system that allows suppliers to maintain data on ethical and responsible practices and share this information with all customers..

Our social audit in detail: A well thought-out system

In the following, we would like to show what is meant by this special system, how an audit works and to what extent any data from our entire supply chain can be viewed.

In principle, this social audit consists of the following four pillars:

  • Labour standards

  • Environment

  • Business ethics

  • Health and safety

This type of audit is carried out by an independent third party. We see such an audit (or visit & review) as indispensable in order to be able to permanently ensure both social compliance towards all stakeholders and the fulfillment of sustainable standards for a better future.

The implementation of this particular social audit has different advantages:

  • We create maximum transparency throughout the supply chain

  • We ensure good working conditions throughout the supply chain, respecting human rights as well as protection obligations

  • We know that any legal requirements are met (e.g. under the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015, under which annual reports on organizational structure, listing of due diligence processes in relation to all human rights in the own company and in the value chain, identification of any risk-prone parts of the company and much more are required, broken down and transparently disclosed to us)

  • We get an accurate picture of the ethical compliance of our entire supply chain

Of course, we also have this audit carried out in our company in order to create a better world together with our partners.

In summary, the following can be said:

  • We understand the working conditions at all our partners at every level - thanks to transparent disclosure and insight into structured data through this audit.

  • SMETA is the most frequently used audit in the world due to many factors (such as safety, valid processes, well thought-out procedures, large system)

  • Through Sedex Advance, we have access to the complete assessments of our partner companies and, in the course of our cooperation, we can see important aspects such as workers' health, workers' safety, ethical actions of the management as well as suppliers' performance through this system

  • This entire system provides systems, checklists and immediate support for even the smallest potential hazards to ensure continued compliance with our standards

Audit process: No exceptions and full transparency

In order to carry out such an extensive audit, which is fair and transparent to all participants according to fixed standards, it is of course necessary to have an independent auditor with many years of experience, a trained eye and precise systems behind it.

During the audit, this independent auditor is of course at the company's site. The SMETA audit basically examines the processes of the company to be audited, as well as the documentation and systems against the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) and the locally applicable laws.

The ETI primarily pursues the goal of improving all working conditions worldwide. This is an alliance of companies, trade unions and non-profit organisations. For us at PPE Germany, this is of absolute importance, as we expect ethically sound working conditions from all partners, which includes fair and benevolent practices towards employees as well as clean practices from companies throughout the supply chain.

This social audit is therefore designed to help protect all workers from unsafe working conditions, overwork, discrimination, low pay and forced labour - and is also based on the International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions. The ILO (or ILO = International Labour Organisation), as a specialized agency of the United Nations, is an indispensable building block in our modern world. It was initiated by the United Nations to ensure social justice, human rights and labour rights for all workers.

Of course, we do not only guarantee the fulfillment of all requirements in this special social audit at our company, but we also demand it from all our partners.

In this audit alone, all business areas at the site are closely examined, for example:

  • Wages

  • Labour law

  • Working hours

  • Health and safety

  • Temporary workers

  • Granting of rest periods

  • Fair treatment of staff

Such an audit requires several days, accurate records, observations and a detailed inspection. For example, in order to conduct such a thorough audit under our high standards, workers are interviewed both individually and in group interviews by the auditing company (excluding management).

After the complete evaluation of all data, the management of the audited company is informed personally and in detail of the status quo. Hereby, the management receives a complete feedback. A so-called action plan for future improvements is also presented in detail. Subsequently, the audit report is uploaded into the database accessible to us. This is of course done by auditors. Defects are listed there until they have been demonstrably fixed.

We are very proud that our partners (whom we have selected on the basis of all fulfilled conditions) have continued to distinguish themselves positively during our cooperation. They not only meet, but exceed, the high minimum requirements for our industry through this social audit.

We are pleased to share common values and would like to take this opportunity to thank them for living moral and ethical principles on a daily basis.

We see the promotion of the working conditions of all participants for a happier, more satisfied and high-performing fulfillment as a matter of course in our daily work. Nevertheless, we are pleased that our chosen partners have internalized this thinking just as deeply and act according to such estimable standards.

But how can we know this so precisely?

Insight into all data

Parallel to our already close cooperation with our partners, audits are carried out at regular intervals by third parties. An entry of all findings then of course always takes place according to strict guidelines and is subsequently entered truthfully into the Sedex Advanced database.

Sedex Advanced is the ethical data platform we use to record all audit findings. It is one of the largest collaborative platforms in the world where buyers, suppliers and auditors can quickly and easily store, share and report on supply chain information. It is now used by more than 50,000 members in over 155 countries.

This transparent platform helps us to view detailed information and ensure deep insights into our complete supply chain (beyond face-to-face contact). Improving the quality of life for all is at the heart of everything we do. This is not only about our valued customers, but also about our employees, who are committed to the highest quality standards every day.

As a company that is able to exert a strong influence on our immediate environment in the areas of labour rights, health and safety, as well as the environment and business ethics, we naturally want to make use of this. Our word is to be followed by deeds.