UPM expects all 25,000 of its suppliers to operate responsibly. But what is responsibility and how can it be assessed? In this series of articles, we will familiarize with the responsible sourcing stories from Brazil, China, and wood sourcing.
Our strength resides in the close and transparent co-operation with all of our key suppliers. Transparent and systematic supplier requirements are the basis for the company’s supplier selection process and supplier performance evaluation. The primary goal of these supplier requirements is to recognize and reduce risks related to business operations. They also aim to support suppliers in their continual improvement efforts. On-site visits are one way of assessing suppliers.
Kimmo Ståhlberg, Director, Chemical & Consumables, Raw Material Sourcing, recently audited the Hebei Asian Sage Industry’s machine workshop in China. Asian Sage supplies doctor blades for the UPM Changshu paper mill. The family business located in Hengshui manufactures products from carbon fibre and has around 50–100 employees.
Nina Norjama, Director, Responsibility Development and Support comments the observations. Kimmo: The Changshu mill has used products made by Asian Sage for a long time now, and we wanted to see whether we could also use them in Europe and the United States. We audited the production process, our first priority being to ensure quality output. During the same visit we also checked the working hour logs, employee conditions, wages, safety and other responsibility-related issues. The company’s documents were in Chinese, so we had experts on our team who understood Chinese.
Nina: And you found there were major issues concerning safety at work?
Kimmo: The employees lacked safety boots and respirators even though a lot of dust is generated during production. The company corrected all the issues that we pointed out to them. They installed an epoxy floor in the chemical store, which reduced the amount of dust. They also labelled all the chemical barrels and provided employees with safety equipment.
Nina: Asian Sage is an excellent example of a supplier willing to invest in improvements. They also had capital earmarked for such investments.
Kimmo: Exactly. They knew they did not meet the demands of western companies and they wanted to improve. They were grateful for the “free consultation.”
Nina: What about holidays? Were the employees given enough time off?
Kimmo: The employees wanted to work longer hours so that they could have time off to help at home during the harvest. We told the company about western requirements and persuaded them to upgrade their holiday pay, for example.