Frequently Asked Questions

These are the questions that we get all the time from our visitors. If there is something else that you need to know, get in touch with us.

On Responsible Supply Chain Management

What is Responsible Supply Chain Management?

Responsible Supply Chain Management (RSCM) involves minimising the adverse impacts of both a company’s internal operations and its wider supply chain. Why do it? Because businesses can contribute massively to economic, environmental and social progress when they perceive their wider supply chain as an extension of their workforce and they set best practices across their supply chain. 

Because supply chain sustainability is a cross-cutting issue, companies need to apply their work across areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption, ensuring a high level of traceability and that the responsibility of all parties involved is engaged.

For more information on responsible business conduct, we recommend the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Business Conduct, the United Nations Global Compact’s e-Library and the United Nations Global Compact Sustainable Supply Chains’ Resource Area.

Why should I adopt a Responsible Supply Chain Management practice?

Most companies already have internal processes that meet strict mandatory regulations towards labour rights, anti-corruption and the environment. Good examples of such processes are employment contracts or compulsory policies on occupational health and safety. However, beyond these compulsory policies, there is still an expectation that businesses must act responsibly; part of this responsibility is making sure that all businesses within one’s supply chain are equally responsible.

Years ago, corporate social responsibility was used as a mechanism to ‘name and shame’ those companies that are not good corporate citizens. We have now moved to a ‘knowing and showing’ approach that is based on collaboration, mutual understanding and learning. Today, companies understand that they need to work with their suppliers and become their learning partners, as only by working together can they work towards more than just legal compliance and ensure proactive contribution to sustainable development goals.

A business that manages its supply chain responsibly meets international expectations on human rights, labour, anti-corruption and environment, easily identifies areas of saving costs and efficiencies, minimises risks internally and externally, and creates a stronger reputation for itself, while also building better relationships with suppliers and external stakeholders.

This is where IMPA ACT fits in, as it offers a management system that is tailored for the shipping industry and that helps companies adopt responsible supply chain management practices easier and at a much lower cost. IMPA ACT is based on standardised tools, such as the IMPA ACT Supplier Code of Conduct, which add uniformity to the marine procurement industry and streamline work practices.

How much extra work is the IMPA ACT process going to cause me?

Firstly, your company must understand that adopting a responsible approach to managing its supply chain is a commitment that needs both time and resources; it is not something that happens overnight. That being said, IMPA ACT is extremely practical and provides step-by-step guidance to members on how to adopt a responsible supply chain management practice. The programme also provides a vast array of resources that come to your support; these can range from knowledge resources that allow you to familiarise yourself with sustainability issues, all the way to tools, calculators and draft content to use on your sustainability journey.

On the IMPA ACT Supplier Code of Conduct

What is the IMPA ACT Supplier Code of Conduct?

The IMPA ACT Supplier Code of Conduct (SCoC) is the core of the IMPA ACT programme. It is an extensive code that details process requirements for companies wishing to embrace a sustainable practice. The SCoC, despite its name, is not only meant for suppliers, as purchasers too need to understand, apply and continually abide by its principles. The IMPA ACT programme and management system helps parties to collaborate and work towards fulfiling the requirements of the SCoC.

Why are there so many principles in the IMPA ACT Supplier Code of Conduct?

The Supplier Code of Conduct is based on the minimum expectations placed on all businesses to respect human rights, the environment and anti-corruption principles. These have been endorsed by the international community through the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. It is therefore important for all IMPA ACT Members to apply these principles internally, as well as encourage their suppliers to respect them. 

It is very important to note that whilst the IMPA ACT SCoC has many principles contained in it, it is the not expected that companies have an impact on all of them. Companies conducting due diligence using the IMPA ACT tools must assess themselves against all the principles, whether their business operations have a potential or actual adverse impact on them. In that sense, it is a complete 360-degree assessment of potential social, environmental and economic impacts of their daily operations.  

Many impacts will already have been addressed by companies, such as occupational health and safety and the protection of labour rights. There are however new challenges covered by the IMPA ACT SCoC that are not traditionally addressed in codes of conduct or ethical codes. For example, the right to privacy can be relevant for companies in respecting their employees' rights and protecting their clients' data. 

Whilst an assessment against all IMPA ACT principles is required, it is likely that companies will only have actual impacts on some principles, and would be able to spend resources on addressing only issues that are relevant to the individual organisation.

How can our company and suppliers understand what these rights listed in the IMPA ACT Supplier Code of Conduct actually mean and their relevance to the shipping industry?

IMPA ACT acknowledges that many of these rights are new and it will take time to understand them all. But not being able to understand a right does not mean that an IMPA ACT member or supporter will stop having a potential adverse impact on that right or that it will not pose a risk to the company in question.

IMPA ACT provides an extensive guide that explores all 33 human rights principles that are tackled in the Supplier Code of Conduct, and this is available in the IMPA ACT Members' Area. The guide also explains the difference between potential, actual and beyond-remit adverse impacts, and lists industry examples of significant infringents on each right.

Can an IMPA ACT shipping company provide a simpler Supplier Code of Conduct to its suppliers, with only a handful of the rights originally listed?

No. The IMPA ACT Supplier Code of Conduct should be provided in its complete form to all suppliers. Changing or removing parts of the code will mean that the member's or supporter's new code will not be in alignment with international human rights law or the latest UN Guidance on international corporate governance.

Of course, as long as all principles and process requirements of the IMPA ACT Supplier Code of Conduct are respected and incorporated into a company's ethical code, the company in question is free to change the layout and wording of the IMPA ACT SCoC and, where needed, add to it.

What happens if a supplier has a policy of not signing new codes of conduct, such as the IMPA ACT Supplier Code of Conduct?

In the vast majority of cases, suppliers are happy to return a signed IMPA ACT SCoC and begin collaboration with the customer who offered them the opportunity to partner. They will commit to working towards the implementation of the necessary policies and procedures.

However, in some instances, a supplier will come back to a customer saying that they are unable to return a signed SCoC because, for example, it is against the policy of the company. In this case, the shipping company should request a written acknowledgement of the IMPA ACT SCoC and a commitment to work with its principles. If the supplier is unwilling to do this, it is up to the IMPA ACT purchaser member to make an individual assessment of the feasibility of a commercial relationship with a supplier that is unwilling to engage in improving impacts on human rights, the environment and anti-corruption principles.

On the IMPA ACT six-step process

Is the IMPA ACT six-step process available to both Members and Supporters?

While the IMPA ACT six-step process is explained and defined in the Marine Procurement Professional's Pocket Guide to RSCM, thus available to all our Members and Supporters, the necessary tools, templates and working documents that support the process, facilitate participating companies' work and streamline they journey are only available to Purchaser and Supplier Members. This is the main difference between the two categories of participation.

In terms of resources, these differ from Purchaser Members to Supplier Members and, if Supplier Members wish to access all resources available, so they can benefit from implementation help further down their own supply chain, they are welcome to sign up simultaneously as Purchaser Member; they will benefit from a hefty discount if doing so, as well as from further recognition.

Does becoming engaged in the IMPA ACT process mean that I will have to audit my suppliers yearly?

No. IMPA ACT tries to take the focus away from the ‘check-box’ system of auditing. While the programme does indeed culminate in an audit of your suppliers in order for them to be included in our database of sustainable maritime suppliers and to be recognised for their hard work, what will come later will be a simple exchange of yearly progress reports and best practices.

Do I have to stop engaging with a supplier if I find out that they have issues with their social, economic and environmental compliance?

No, IMPA ACT is not prescriptive in nature and will not tell you what to do; this is a decision that your company must ultimately make. However, the IMPA ACT system will provide you with a structure to identify blips on your company’s radar and you should be aware that refusing to identify potential impacts means that your company will be navigating blindly.

It is naturally expected that all companies will have some adverse impacts on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption principles, and it is understandable that both time and resources have to be allocated in the process of driving social change. What is important here is that you, as a company, are able to clearly communicate to your stakeholders, and know and show that you are working to improve your track record. 

What are the achievement stages for IMPA ACT purchasers?

As soon as you sign up to become an IMPA ACT Purchaser Member or Supporter, you will receive a Certificate of Participation and a logo that certifies your company's belonging to the initiative, as well as be included in the IMPA ACT list of partners. Further along the way, once your company has entered into partnership and audited 10 partnered suppliers who have achieved preferred status, your company will receive a Certificate of Achievement and a special logo that attests to this milestone. If you are an IMPA ACT Purchaser Member, you will not only be entered each year into the draw for the IMPA ACT 'Sustainable Marine Purchaser of the Year', but will also be able to receive a Special Award once 20 partnered suppliers achieved Preferred status.

What are the achievement stages for IMPA ACT suppliers?

As soon as you sign up to become an IMPA ACT Supplier Member or Supporter, you will receive a Certificate of Participation and a logo that certifies your company's belonging to the initiative, as well as be included in the Sustainable Maritime Suppliers' database and feature as in-progress. Further along the way, once your company demonstrates successful internal implementation of the necessary policy commitment, due diligence and remediation systems, and successfully undergoes an IMPA ACT approved audit (usually undertaken by its partnered customer), the supplier will receive IMPA ACT Preferred Supplier status, be featured in our Sustainable Maritime Suppliers' database and their company's logo in each issue of the Marine Trader, and receive a Certificate and logo displaying preferred status. Once a supplier becomes a Purchaser Member or Supporter too and begin implementing the Supplier Code of Conduct further down their supply chain, the supplier is awarded with a Certificate of Outstanding Contribution from IMPA ACT. As Supplier Members, you will gain automatic entry into the draw for the IMPA ACT 'Sustainable Maritime Supplier of the Year' and, if won, featured in the Marine Trader, as well as discounted membership if becoming a Purchaser Member.

On engaging in the IMPA ACT process individually as a supplier:

Is it feasible for a supplier to engage on an individual basis with the IMPA ACT initiative?

As a maritime supplier, you have three choices of joining IMPA ACT: (1) as a supplier member together with a purchaser member, (2) as a supplier member acting individually or (3) as a supporting supplier.

All three options come with the same objective, that is becoming compliant with the IMPA ACT Supplier Code of Conduct and aligning your business practice with internationally-endorsed principles on sustainability. We consider this objective to be a SMART one (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely), regardless of the way in which you join us.

While we consider the objective easier to reach by means of partnership, as you would be exchanging best practice at all times with your partnered customer and be able to benefit of their support in the implementation phase, doing the work by yourself is entirely feasible; it will just take a bit more time and resources. Additionally, as a Supplier Member you would also benefit from the IMPA ACT Knowledge Centre and step-by-step guidance in implementing the necessary systems and procedures in order to ensure compliance, which is meant to streamline your journey and make it less onerous. Unfortunately, strictly as a supporter, you would not get these resources and guidance other than the Supplier Code of Conduct and the knowledge resources that we make available to the public.


You too can become a sustainability front-runner.