IGC International purchases and markets branded promotional products that are guided by responsible sourcing-principles. Through a network of local and international partners, IGC International manages the complexity of global purchasing and the risks inherent in buying promotional products. Along with commercial considerations, the company’s product sourcing strategy also incorporates corporate social responsibility criteria.
Product quality, safety and sustainability go hand in hand
IGC International sources promotional products that will reinforce clients’ brands. It is IGC’s core mission to make global clients who want to buy promotional products for branding purposes, aware of the inherent risks associated with global purchasing. Therefore, the company believes it needs to change the mindset of buyers by advocating the added value of sustainability. Its true value is transparency, the knowledge of where a product comes from and what it is made of. Price and quality can be inadvertently linked; buying an item at the lowest price does not mean it is of good quality. The item can present defects that cause risks to the health and safety of the consumer. The product can be produced unethically in a factory that does not respect environmental laws or labor and human rights. For IGC International, product quality, safety and sustainability go together.
All these efforts help serving IGCs clients and at the same time are contributing to IGCs excellent score in the TfS Assessment (by EcoVadis).
Implementing and managing responsible supply chains is a process of learning by doing in a never-ever cycle of continuous improvement
A few years ago, IGC International introduced the company’s supplier code of conduct as part of their responsible supply chain management processes. It is based on the ten principles of the United Nations Global Compact and defines the non-negotiable minimum standards that the company asks its suppliers to respect and adhere to. Suppliers who are unwilling or unable to satisfy the requirements of the IGC’s code of conduct will be phased out. As Soraya van den Broek explains “Managing a responsible supply chain is quite challenging. You learn by doing, and there is not only one right way to do it. It is a cycle of continuous improvement.”
IGC International works closely with its suppliers to drive sustainable improvements. In 2017, the company started to work for a brand specialized in baby products. It carefully selected a partner in China to manage the production of these sensitive items. IGC helped the factory grow by for example controlling working and overtime hours, creating a safer working environment and providing training to production staff to improve quality and efficiency. The IGC team visited the factory several times to guide the process which ultimately resulted in better working conditions and higher product quality.
Driving sustainability through an organization or it takes two to tango
IGC International believes sustainability is a team effort. Therefore, the company actively involves its stakeholders in the company’s sustainability journey. Two years ago, IGC International appointed a CSR manager who works closely with management and sales to implement the company’s corporate social responsibility policy. Team members provide support in different areas like quality management, product compliance and factory audits. IGC International also works in collaboration with its clients on projects that promote sustainable development.
Key requirements to improve a company’s sustainability performance: be transparent and raise awareness of the benefits of sustainability with staff and clients alike
As Soraya van den Broek continued “You can’t know about a company’s sustainability without transparency. If a company is holding back information, it might be a sign they are not as sustainable as they claim to be.” In its sustained efforts to become more transparent, IGC International gives its clients access to product test reports, company certifications, audit documentation and confirmation regulatory standards are met.
An organization cannot drive sustainability through its operations if the staff is not fully aware or engaged. Therefore, employees must be informed about the benefits of sustainability. Raising awareness happens via webinars for the IGC International global staff and clients.
The future: moving from compliance to offering an eco-collection
Going beyond compliance is the way forward. Soraya van den Broek explains “That is why we have created an eco-collection in cooperation with our suppliers. We have a lot of knowledge regarding this topic and we want to share this with our clients. By doing so, we work on a sustainable mindset together. For every ‘standard’ item we propose, we present a sustainable alternative. Consumers will be able to learn more about the products they use and where they come from.”
Note: We thank Soraya van den Broek of IGC International for her contribution to this article.
The Dutch company IGC International – Branded Products with Global Reach – is a global network with 50+ member companies operating in 110 countries worldwide. IGC International employs around 1800 people and has a yearly turnover of more than $400 million. In terms of sustainability profile, IGC International is an advanced company.