Global Supply Chains: A Collective Force Against Human Trafficking

Marcell Vollmer

What’s the difference between a wildly successful business that builds momentum and grows year over year or one that fizzles out within a year or two? If you say lack of profits or financial funding, you understand only a tiny part of the answer.

Companies that know the secret to longevity, success, and growth have something in common: a sense of purpose that is on par with their pursuit of profit.

Purpose-driven companies do more than just managing people and resources and shuttling products from one place to another while keeping costs as low as possible. They also mobilize people and resources in a way that builds a healthy, sustainable, and scalable culture. This attention does not just capture higher levels of engagement, passion, and loyalty from their employees, but also the hearts and minds of customers searching for meaning in everything they do, say, and purchase.

Take, for example, rising public concern over human trafficking. For many, this issue conjures images of illegal domestic servitude. But at the same time, it is more pervasive in today’s supply chain. According to the IDC commentary “Human Trafficking: It Takes a Business Community to Drive Business with a Purpose,” 40 million people are forced into modern slavery, many of whom touch supply chains all over the world.

Unfortunately, little has been done legislatively to address this growing social injustice – leaving businesses and their customers in the dark on whether they are contributing to the problem unknowingly.

Preparing for battle as a community of insight

For Mickey North Rizza, program vice president for IDC’s Enterprise Applications and Digital Commerce research practice, writing this commentary was more than just another assignment. It was a mission of love after spending 25 years studying and guiding supply chains and rising as one of the world’s top executives for leading analysts such as Gartner and AMR Research.

“For years, rapid economic changes, stricter regulations, and increasingly deep business networks have been making supply chains tremendously risky and complex,” North Rizza explained. “It takes a business community to drive purpose and abolish slavery in the supply chain. Companies need complete, real-time visibility into every supplier – from those they hire directly to the ones introduced by suppliers – to help bring visibility and awareness, and start the process to ensure that their operations are free from any impropriety and injustice.”

A roundtable with the United Nations Global Compact, Nielsen, Made in a Free World, and SAP Ariba highlighted how global supply chains can effectuate meaningful change. North Rizza asked many questions of this roundtable as they identified significant opportunities to build awareness of human trafficking and uncover problems in supply chains that could strain human rights. The United Nations Global Compact served as the guiding platform at the roundtable.

“The United Nations Global Compact is the heart of this discussion. This significant initiative puts a bright spotlight on modern slavery, forced labor, and noncompliance with human rights in ways that have never been done before,” North Rizza said. “It challenges companies all over the world to align their strategies and operations with the universal principles of human rights, labor, environment, and anti-corruption and take action to advance societal progress.”

Finding progress in simplified, transparent supply chains

Throughout the conversation, it became clear that supply chains need a faster, more-accessible way to gain a 360-degree understanding of how suppliers and their suppliers impact operations. As North Rizza advises, “With thousands of suppliers globally, one person cannot do social compliance justice. But with the aid of the technology that is reliable, actionable, and transparent, businesses can identify social injustices and run with purpose.”

By using data to uncover where risks and exposures emerge, companies have a better chance to locate geographic hot spots and bad actors that make their supply chain susceptible to human rights violations. The key is to simplify the supply chain enough to easily view and understand the supply base and resolve noncompliance everywhere it happens. The data can be separated further by a particular asset or component number to evaluate the sub-tier supply base and specific purchases at the deeper recesses and edges of the supply chain.

“SAP Ariba Supplier Risk is a sound solution for enabling this much-needed capability,” says North Rizza. “The solution combines Big Data into the materials that go into the product. Once this nonconforming information is uncovered, both the buyer and seller can take joint actions to do good and make a real difference globally.”

Read the free IDC commentary,“Human Trafficking: It Takes a Business Community to Drive Business with a Purpose” (January 2018), to explore how SAP Ariba solutions are advancing the UN Global Compact. Learn from Nielsen and Made in a Free World how you can use the technology to isolate human rights abuses for its partners and remove forced labor from their supply chains for good.


Marcell Vollmer

About Marcell Vollmer

Marcell Vollmer is the Chief Digital Officer for SAP Ariba (SAP). He is responsible for helping customers digitalize their supply chain. Prior to this role, Marcell was the Chief Operating Officer for SAP Ariba, enabling the company to setup a startup within the larger SAP business. He was also the Chief Procurement Officer at SAP SE, where he transformed the global procurement organization towards a strategic, end-to-end driven organization, which runs SAP Ariba and SAP Fieldglass solutions, as well as Concur technologies in the cloud. Marcell has more than 20 years of experience in working in international companies, starting with DHL where he delivered multiple supply chain optimization projects.