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Ethical Sourcing Officer

History

The ethical sourcing profession is fairly new. It evolved from the role of purchasing and procurement agents, which began in the 1800s with the growth of manufacturing plants and businesses during the industrial revolution. The jobs of reviewing and buying goods and products became increasingly important during that time as supply chains increased across the U.S. and around the world. Procurement and purchasing agents were soon recognized as essential to efficient and successful business operations. Professional associations were established to set industry standards and provide education and training in this field, including organizations such as the National Association of Purchasing Agents (known today as the Institute for Supply Management) and the American Purchasing Society. The National Association of State Procurement Officials was also founded in the mid-1900s, to provide public procurement officers with best practices and professional development.

The public's awareness of the environmental, human rights, and social impacts of manufacturing, corporate, and governmental practices was heightened in the 1960s and 1970s. Many environmental laws were passed then to protect and improve the health of the planet, people, animals, and all living things. The public started to demand that corporations and governments pay serious attention to environmental and social issues when developing and distributing products and services.

Since the early 2000s, more companies have been focusing on ethical sourcing. As described in a Quality Assurance & Food Safety article, "consumers are putting pressure on retailers, and retailers on manufacturers to implement ethical sourcing and be transparent about their supply chains. Whether due to consumer demand or internal ethics, a number of retailers–both grocery and foodservice–incorporate strong ethical practices into their internal programs and their suppliers..." The article also noted that ethical sourcing can be economically beneficial to companies because people will often pay more for products that are produced "under good working conditions, carbon emissions offset, or ethically sourced materials."

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