The Three Levels of Traceability — Step One: Supplier Mapping

The Three Levels of Traceability — Step One: Supplier Mapping

Supplier Mapping is a good starting point for transparency efforts, primarily because it helps to comply with due diligence laws around the social and environmental impact of your supply chain. To learn more about supplier mapping, read on.


The Basics

- Gather all your supplier information in one place

- Gain an overview of suppliers in some or all stages of the supply chain

- Identify, monitor and analyze supply chain risks across tiers to ensure sustainability standards are met

- Keep track, send out and collect audits & certifications

- Create scorecards and perform due diligence and ESG reporting


Collecting social and environmental evidence, and keeping this information easily accessible, is one of the main requirements in all due diligence laws. Brands with internal strategies to improve sourcing and gather data from suppliers in an automated manner will also benefit from this level of traceability.


Supplier Mapping is the first step in any business’s traceability journey as it allows you
to gain an overview of all the potential suppliers in your network, and document everything from their energy use to the labor conditions in their factories. You can also record and analyze third-party audits to understand and improve the ESG performance of your suppliers. At this level, you’re able to identify the risk areas in your supply chain, gather evidence to help you mitigate these risks, and make claims at a corporate level about your supply chains. Supplier Mapping can help you identify whether or not your supply chains are powered by renewable energy or do not include child or slave labor.


Supplier Mapping is achieved by asking your direct suppliers to provide information about their suppliers, who in turn ask their suppliers for information, and so on. You can continue on until you reach the tier where you source your raw materials (usually tier 4 to 6), or stop at a particular tier that is relevant to your needs. How much of your supply chain you map depends on a number of factors. These include the depth of information you need, whether your suppliers work with certifiers and auditors, the complexity of your supply chain, how much time and money you’re willing to invest, and your ability to collect and store the information you request. It also requires a high level of trust and cooperation from your suppliers to provide information.

The key information that is collected during Supplier Mapping includes: 

- Suppliers and facility details across tiers

- Social data about suppliers and facilities

- Social, environmental and material-related certifications and audit reports

- Due diligence assessments related to the social and environmental performance of the suppliers

Challenges and Limitations

Supplier Mapping will only get you so far in your sustainability journey. At this level, you will not be able to identify the value chain of individual styles or products, and you do not have the ability to identify which suppliers you are using more than others. For example, your total supplier network may include 1000 suppliers, but you may only be actively working with 500 of these. This means you aren’t able to target the parts of your supply chain that need immediate attention. Supplier traceability doesn’t provide you with a chain of custody for products, meaning that it’s not sufficient for all types of regulatory compliance.

We encourage brands to be ambitious and consider supplier mapping as the first, not the only, step in your sustainability journey. While mapping your supply chain is essential in order to move to the next level of traceability, it should be done in conjunction with product traceability to understand your supply chains on a deeper level.


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