What is Responsible Sourcing?

Australians want to know if the businesses they engage with operate in ways that align with their values. And, we know Australians care about farm animal welfare and want to support responsibly sourced animal-based products. We’ve seen this in the uptake of cage-free eggs in response to awareness about layer hen welfare and an opposition to barren battery cages. One thing is for certain – Australians understand that animals are farmed for food, but they also believe farm animals deserve a better life and a humane death. Their expectation is that good businesses believe this too.  

Forward-thinking businesses are recognising just how important it is to reflect these values, both to maintain community support and remain viable. This informal but crucial public acceptance is known as having a ‘social licence’ to operate. For animal-based industries and businesses who source from them, it’s becoming more important to consider and improve animal welfare in order to maintain their social licence. In response, many have made the shift to better practices – such as many companies across Australia who have or are transitioning to cage-free eggs.  

The good news? There’s lots that individual businesses can do to source responsibly and maintain their social licence with welfare-conscious consumers. Read on to find out more. 

How do businesses source responsibly? 

To responsibly source animal-based products, it’s vital that businesses have proactive relationships with their suppliers to enable them to go right back to the source and engage directly on animal management practices. From this position, businesses are well placed to thoroughly review their supply chains to understand any current animal welfare issues and how these can be addressed. The RSPCA has developed Responsible Sourcing guides for key species which provide businesses with a step-by-step process for exactly this.  

Once a business has a good understanding of their supply chain, they’ll be better able to set meaningful and achievable goals to improve animal welfare across a range of species. As part of the RSPCA’s Responsible Sourcing guides, short and long-term goals that are applicable to current Australian market and production are available for businesses to use when planning their next steps.  

Most importantly, businesses who are responsibly sourcing animal-based products should publish a public-facing animal welfare policy. The policy should clearly identify who is responsible for animal welfare within the company, articulate how the policy is governed and based on the outcome of the supply chain analysis, outline goals for improving animal welfare. The RSPCA’s guide on developing an animal welfare policy is a 3-page document which every business employee working on improving animal welfare across the supply chain should have to hand.  

Not part of the procurement process but want to help source responsibly?  

You can still help to encourage businesses to source responsibly, even if you’re not part of the procurement process. For example, you might be looking to ensure your workplace is doing their part to incorporate animal welfare standards in their operations. Consider sharing the RSPCA’s Responsible Sourcing guides with your business’s procurement team or starting the conversation with colleagues about developing formal animal welfare policy. Suggestions like switching to higher welfare alternatives, such as RSPCA Approved products in office kitchen supplies and event or company catering, are easy ways to start sourcing responsibly. 

If you’re an individual who cares about animal welfare, you can also ask companies that you purchase from about their supply chains. If they don’t have a clear animal welfare policy sharing the RSPCA’s Responsible Sourcing guides with them not only provides them with clear information to better their business for animals but sends a strong message that animal welfare is important to their customers – and therefore should be important to them. 

Lastly, the guides are for consumers too! You can use them as a tool to ask informed questions of your favourite companies and brands.  

No matter your role in the supply chain, we can all play a part in ensuring that businesses source  animal-based products responsibly. With the right tools, businesses can improve operations and enhance their social standing, consumers can make informed choices from companies they trust – both contributing to the shared goal of a better quality of life for animals. 

Interested in reading more? Chef Simon Bryant on crafting a menu that cares about animal welfare Or How you can support a future of higher welfare farming

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