#216 – Integrity Idea 046: Clean Your Chain

Integrity Ideas are specific actions a leader can consider during the Re-Align step of Integriosity®–actions that will begin to Re-Align the organization with Biblical beliefs, principles and priorities.  You can find more Integrity Ideas at Integrous | Integrity Ideas (integriosity.com)

Integrity Ideas are practical actions toward implementing a bigger WHY for the organization.  We believe some are critical (and necessary) steps in the RENEW/RE-ALIGN/RE-IMAGINE/RESTORE process.  Others are just ideas to be considered if they feel like a good fit based on what leaders prayerfully discern is best for stewarding the organization toward its WHY.

“Clean Your Chain” falls into the “necessary” category, particularly for organization’s that sell or utilize products manufactured by others.  Putting aside the legal and ethical requirements, it is part of pursuing faithful integrity with a whole heart.

INTEGRITY IDEA: Clean Your Chain

“Clean Your Chain” is about putting in place policies and practices to ensure that your supply chain does not engage in practices that are antithetical to the WHY of your organization.

The WHY of an organization represents its heart, and faithful integrity through business a better way calls for pursuing that heart wholeheartedly.  Colossians 3:23 calls for wholeheartedness in all we do:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart.

“Clean Your Chain” recognizes that the product or service an organization delivers is a reflection of every process that went into delivering it, including those of the suppliers chosen by the organization.  Pursuing faithful integrity wholeheartedly requires a commitment to investigate and monitor the business practices of suppliers and the courage to take appropriate action if those practices undermine the purpose, values and culture of the organization.

For faithful leaders to ignore the practices of their suppliers is to pursue their organization’s heart half-heartedly. The pursuit of faithful integrity does not permit the leaders of an organization to mimic the proverbial monkeys, covering their eyes, ears and mouths to the practices of their suppliers.

In past posts, we have noted that there seem to be two types of kings chronicled in the Biblical history of the Jewish people.  One type “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord”, and the other type “did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord.”  There is actually a third type.

In 2 Chronicles 25:2 we are told that King Amaziah “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, yet not with a whole heart.”  Half-hearted did not end well for Amaziah.  Compare the description of King Hezekiah:

Every work that he undertook in the service of the house of God and in accordance with the law and the commandments, seeking his God, he did with all his heart, and prospered. (2 Chronicles 31:21)

Inhumane work practices are a reality around the world.  Human trafficking, slavery in the form of forced labor, and child labor are realities.  A 2022 report by the International Labour Organization estimated that 28 million people were in forced labor, including 3.3 million children.

Child labor is not just a third-world issue.  In 2023, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that child labor violations were up 70% since 2018, with 835 companies having been found to have violated child labor laws in just the most recent fiscal year.  The migrant crisis is reportedly leading to migrant children being channeled or forced into illegal child labor.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously wrote:

Silence in the face of evil is evil itself.

Leading with faithful integrity through business a better way toward Biblical flourishing is about maximizing the flourishing of all those touched by the organization.  The humans who work for an organization’s suppliers indirectly work for the organization.  For purposes of the second great commandment to love your neighbor, they are the organization’s neighbors.

“Clean Your Chain” also recognizes the Biblical principle that God cares about heart more than appearance.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. (Matthew 23:27-28)

We believe benefitting indirectly from modern slavery and child labor (and other business practices antithetical to an organization’s WHY) through cheaper supply while claiming to be pursuing a bigger WHY based on Biblical flourishing is a half-hearted “whitewashed tomb”.

Beyond being the “right thing to do”, “Clean Your Chain” with respect to modern slavery is also legally required.  For example, the United States has outlawed the importation of goods produced with forced labor since 1930 through the Tariff Act of 1930.  In 2021, the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act was passed to prevent the importation of products produced with forced or child labor from the Xinjiang region of China.  California has passed the Transparency in Supply Chains Act to require companies to disclose what they are doing to combat forced labor.  Other countries have laws that can impact multinational businesses.

But “Clean Your Chain” is about more than complying with the law and being ethical.  It is more than protecting the organization’s reputation.  It means prayerfully considering what elements of the organization’s purpose, values and culture are important enough that the organization should avoid doing business with suppliers who do not align with those elements.  It is about seeing a supply relationship as being “yoked” and then discerning what elements of the organizations WHY are so important that to have a supplier out of alignment is being “unequally yoked”.  2 Corinthians 6:14 warns:

For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?

Pursuing faithful integrity with your whole heart means pursuing it in all aspects of the organization’s operations–including the integrity of its supply chain and its supply chain partners.

“Clean Your Chain” reinforces to the organization’s stakeholders that the organization is wholehearted rather than half-hearted about its WHY–it is “walking the talk” in all aspects of its business.

CONTINUUM: Practices

The Integriosity model organizes “heart change” along six Covert-Overt Continuums.  There is nothing magic about these categories, but we believe they are helpful in thinking about practical execution of a Re-Imagined Purpose, Re-Imagined Values and a Re-Imagined Culture.  The Continuums are Prayer, Proclamation, Policies, Practices, Products, People.

Each Continuum represents an area in which leaders can begin to think about, plan and institute Re-Alignment changes to the heart of the organization.

“Clean Your Chain” is on the Practices Continuum. It involves ensuring that the purpose, values and culture of the organization and its integrity are not being undermined by practices of its suppliers.

COVERT-OVERT RATING: Highly Covert

The Integriosity model breaks the Covert-Overt Continuums into six gradations–from Highly Covert to Highly Overt–that we believe are helpful in beginning to pray and think about what is most appropriate for an organization at a particular moment in time.

Most Integrity Ideas will have one place on the scale.  Some can vary depending on how they are implemented.  “Clean Your Chain” is Highly Covert (an action that would be taken by a secular company) because even a secular organization must ensure that it is complying with legal requirements related to supply chain monitoring for human rights abuses and would want to ensure that its reputation is not tarnished by unethical or inhumane practices of its suppliers.

“Clean Your Chain” can also be Overt (An overtly faith-based action known generally within the organization) if the faithful leader chooses to explain the practices in terms of the organization’s WHY and Biblical beliefs, principles or priorities, such as the commandment to love your neighbor and the call to work for God’s glory wholeheartedly.

STAKEHOLDERS SERVED: Employees, Customers/Clients, Owners, Community, Kingdom

When we categorize faith-based actions, we also consider the stakeholders principally impacted by the action: Employees, Customers/Clients, Owners, Suppliers/Vendors, Community and Kingdom.

“Clean Your Chain” serves all stakeholders, although we have omitted Suppliers/Vendors because it is aimed at policing their behavior.  Employees are served by knowing they work for an organization that takes its WHY seriously.  Customers/Clients are served by knowing that the products and services they are purchasing are not being produced through illegal, unethical or otherwise immoral practices.  Owners are served by the value created by integrity.  The Community and Kingdom are served by the organization’s efforts to eradicate illegal, unethical and immoral business practices, particularly those involving the inhumane treatment of people.

Silence in the face of evil is evil itself. (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

IMPLEMENTATION

Implementing “Clean Your Chain” will vary tremendously depending on the nature of the organization. Some organizations, such as service providers, do not rely heavily on suppliers. Other organizations sell other companies’ products or rely heavily upon contract manufacturing outside the United States.

If you rely heavily upon suppliers, “Clean Your Chain” is not something to ignore or even delay.  A number of prominent companies have found themselves as defendants in lawsuits or the subject of news reports because of alleged slavery in their supply chains. It is more than “guilt by association”.  Remember Bonhoeffer’s warning.

A faithful leader wishing to implement “Clean Your Chain” can consider thinking about it in four stages: Discern, Discover, Dictate, Determine.

Discern.

The discern stage involves prayerfully considering what supplier practices you would not want your organization associated with and what aspects of your organization’s purpose, values and culture are so foundational that you would not want to be yoked with a supplier that was not in alignment with them.  The discern stage also involves understanding what laws, regulations and international standards apply to the organization’s business and the businesses of its suppliers.

At one end of the spectrum are the illegal practices that no faithful leader would want associated with their organization–practices such as forced labor or child labor.  At the other end, a faithful leader might discern that they only want to be yoked with a supplier (at least a key supplier) that also aligns their organization with Biblical beliefs, principles and priorities.  There are obviously many places along this continuum where an organization might land.

Once an organization’s leaders determine what is unacceptable, we suggest memorializing its determinations in policies that can be shown to suppliers, as well as to employees, customers, and if necessary, regulators.

Discover.

The discover stage involves mapping the organization’s suppliers, assessing the relative risk related to various suppliers in order to prioritize efforts, and conducting due diligence on suppliers and prospective suppliers.

How this is carried out will depend on the risk assessment of each supplier as well as the nature of the relationship and the relative bargaining leverage of the two parties.  I very large supplier is likely to be less willing to expend resources to satisfy a relatively small customer.  If the organization would be a significant customer of the supplier, the supplier is likely to be more willing to get the organization’s leaders satisfied.

In addition to collecting information and inspecting operations of suppliers upfront, discover also involves ongoing audits of suppliers to ensure that they are still in line with the organization’s requirements.

Dictate.

The dictate stage involves ensuring that suppliers understand what the organization expects of them.  This can include steps like sharing the organization’s policies, requiring contractual provisions that address the concerns of the organization and provide audit rights, requiring the supplier to permit inspections of their operations, and requiring the supplier to provide training to its employees.

Determine.

The determine stage involves prayerfully determining what to do if problems are discovered with a supplier.  This could range from helping train suppliers, to working with the supplier to bring their practices in alignment with the organization’s requirements, to terminating the supply relationship, to reporting illegal activities to regulators.

It is advisable for an organization with high-risk supply chains to engage experienced professionals to assist with their “Clean Your Chain” implementation.  In addition to lawyers who practice in this area, one unique organization that can help is Slave-Free Alliance.

Slave-Free Alliance is an international social enterprise wholly owned by the global anti-slavery charity Hope for Justice.  All profits from Slave-Free Alliance are actually invested into Hope for Justice.  Slave-Free Alliance can provide consulting services, training services and technology solutions to help an organization implement “Clean Your Chain” with respect to forced labor and child labor.

Finally, faithful leaders should prayerfully consider, with the help of appropriate advisors, how the organization would respond if, despite its “Clean Your Chain” efforts, allegations were to surface that one of its suppliers was engaged in inhumane practices.

John 16:33 says “In the world you will have tribulation.” A faithful leader of an organization committed to leading with faithful integrity through business a better way toward Biblical flourishing and pushing back against illegal, unethical and immoral practices will face challenges, because that leader is seeking the BIGGER Kingdom but doing it in a broken world.

In his book To Change the World, James Hunter warns:  “To enact a vision of human flourishing based in the qualities of life that Jesus modeled will invariably challenge the given structures of the social order. In this light, there is no true leadership without putting at risk one’s time, wealth, reputation, and position.”

Although these challenges may come in the form of human resistance and resistance from worldly systems, the Bible tells us that these challenges are spiritual:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.  (Ephesians 6:12)

Remember the Scout motto: “Be Prepared”.

PERSONAL NOTE (from PM): I remember when I first came to understand that human trafficking is a big problem in the United States.   I had always assumed that sex trafficking was a problem in places like Bangkok–not in my backyard.  In 2013 I agreed to join an advisory board for Intervarsity’s “The Price of Life” campaign in New York City.  It was an awareness event, and I was one of the first to be made aware.  Save the Children reports that the United States “is one of the most active sex trafficking countries in the world.”  I was told that an estimated 300,000 children are victims of sex trafficking in the United States at any given time.  I was shocked.

I then learned that Super Bowl XLVIII coming to MetLife stadium in the New York metro area in early 2014 was likely to bring an influx of sex-trade workers, many of whom would be victims of trafficking (Googling whether the Super Bowl results in an increase in trafficking will yield many views denying there is any causal link).

If this is surprise to you, take some time to explore groups such as Hope for Justice, International Justice Mission, and Untrafficked.

ESSENCE:  Integrity Ideas are specific actions a faithful leader can consider in leading faithfully through business a better way.

INTEGRITY IDEA: Clean Your Chain

COVERT-OVERT CONTINUUM (six Continuums for action):  Practices

COVERT-OVERT RATING (several levels from Highly Covert to Highly Overt): Highly Covert

STAKEHOLDERS SERVED: Employees. Customers/Clients, Owners, Community, Kingdom

Most Integrity Ideas are practical actions toward implementing a bigger WHY for the organization.  “Clean Your Chain” is about putting in place policies and practices to ensure that your supply chain does not engage in practices that are antithetical to the WHY of your organization.  It recognizes that the product or service an organization delivers is a reflection of every process that went into delivering it, including those of the suppliers chosen by the organization.  Leading with faithful integrity through business a better way toward Biblical flourishing is about maximizing the flourishing of all those touched by the organization.  The humans who work for an organization’s suppliers indirectly work for the organization. Pursuing faithful integrity wholeheartedly requires a commitment to investigate and monitor the business practices of suppliers and the courage to take appropriate action if those practices undermine the purpose, values and culture of the organization.  “Clean Your Chain” recognizes the Biblical principle that God cares about heart more than appearance, and it reinforces to the organization’s stakeholders that the organization is wholehearted rather than half-hearted about its WHY.

Copyright © 2024 Integrous LLC.  Integriosity is a registered Service Mark of Integrous LLC.

Photo credit: Original photo by Joey Kyber: https://www.pexels.com/photo/selective-focus-photoraphy-of-chains-during-golden-hour-119562/
(photo cropped)