Supplier Risk Mitigation: Protecting Business Continuity

This guide covers the complexities of Supplier Risk Mitigation, the risks organizations face, the useful strategies to adopt, and why being proactive protects the business’ bottomline better.

supplier mitigating risks from harvest

What is Supplier Risk Mitigation?

Supplier risk mitigation is a process used by organizations to determine, evaluate, and reduce potential risks associated with their third-party vendors or service providers. Generally considered a proactive system to resolve potential problems, supplier risk mitigation is vital in managing the supply chain because it facilitates the company’s smooth operations, maintains its reputation, and secures its financial stability.

Why Mitigating Supplier Risk is Vital

Suppliers are vital to any business across sectors as they provide the necessary goods and services that companies cannot furnish on their own. But like everything else in business, working with any thrid-party, such as suppliers, comes with various risks. Here are reasons why it is critical for businesses to undertake risk mitigation for suppliers:

  • Ensures Business Continuity – Supplier issues are incredibly problematic because any disruption causes a ripple effect in the entire supply chain. Being prepared with possible resolutions to probable risks prevent delays, shortages, and other disruptions.
  • Improves Cost Management – Unanticipated disruptions could mean finding alternative suppliers or rushing additional orders, which costs a lot of money. If companies have foreseen these possibilites, they can avoid or reduce financial losses.
  • Protects Reputation – Associating with suppliers that have less than satisfactory history could jeopardize the company’s standing in the industry and in the eyes of their targeted audience. Doing a thorough research on prospective partners is part of supplier risk mitigation.
  • Enhance Compliance with Regulations – All organizations should adhere to the best practices of their industry and comply with the regulations mandated by agencies that govern their operations. Companies should also ascertain that heir suppliers do the same.

Examples of Supplier Risks

Companies are often caught off guard when confronted with supplier-related threats. And this is because they failed to conduct studies or investigations about supply chain risk mitigation. Knowing these can help companies prepare for them, minimizing their exposure to operational, financial, and reputational damage. The few listed below are the most prevalent ones observed in any industry.

  • Quality Issues – Faulty, sub-standard, and insufficient products or services do not just impede operations and increase their overhead costs. These could also harm the trustworthiness of any company. A whiff of quality-related scandal could cause a company to shut down, despite its highly favorable history.
  • Cybersecurity Threats – According to a recent study, data breaches exposed over six million records the first quarter of 2023, and a chunk of these originate from third-party affiliates.
  • Environmental Hazards – Natural disasters and the unfortunate effects of climate change can endanger any business operation. While these are unavoidable, vendors and service providers should prove to be prepared and resilient in any emergency.
  • Geo-Political Factors – The pandemic and international conflicts reflect how interconnected the world is now. It also proves how any geo-political event has an immense impact on the global supply chain.
  • Financial Instability – Any financial challenge (e.g., indebtedness, illiquidity, or operational issues) can hinder the supplier’s ability to fulfill their commitments to a company.

A Step-by-Step Guide in Mitigating Supplier Risk

The risk mitigation process includes only four steps. While this looks simple, it requires managers to be methodical and meticulous so they can correctly identify and effectively manage potential threats.

Identify the Risks

The first step is understanding the different types of risks that could affect the operations and the entire supply chain. Doing background checks on potential partners, zooming in on their financial health, track records, and compliance with regulations and industry standards, can help organizations figure out the next best step.

Best Practices:

  • Create a dedicated team with experts from different departments (e.g., administrative, procurement, operations, and compliance) to gain a better and more varied perspective.
  • Build and continuously update a risk register for documentation.
  • Stay on top of current news and industry trends to see if anything might impact the supply chain.

Assess Risks

Analyze the qualitative risks based on their impact and likelihood of occurrence. Quantifying these by adding values, such as financial loss estimates, probability percentages, and severity scores, also helps businesses make informed decisions when considering suppliers or examining their capabilities.

Best Practices:

  • Ensure impartiality by using pre-defined standards, like KPIs (key performance indicators) when reviewing supplier history and performance.
  • Get the point of view of end users by conducting surveys with standardized feedback forms.
  • Take into account changing conditions by frequently updating risk assessments.

Develop Mitigation Strategies

Create a specific action plan for every risk identified. Include precautions, backup plans, and risk transfer. Prioritize based on the scores calculated during the risk assessment phases and focus on what needs the utmost attention so that resources are appropriately allocated.

Best Practices:

  • Ensure that the strategies formed align with the organization’s objectives.
  • Inform and train everyone involved in the operations about the action plans developed.
  • Involve compliance experts to ensure that the controls established are within the bounds of the law.

Monitor the Effectiveness of the Risk Mitigation Plan

Changing risk factors or risk levels are always a possibility. If the controls set up were well-strategized, they could hold up. But these could also fail. The only way that companies can anticipate these is through constant monitoring.

Best Practices:

  • Invest in a system that provides managers with full visibility into the operations.
  • Whenever applicable, utilize sensors that provide real-time data and detect anomalies or deviations.
  • Document the events, whether or not risks were observed, and store all records for sharing with stakeholders and future reviews.

Improve your GRC management

Simplify risk management and compliance with our centralized platform, designed to integrate and automate processes for optimal governance.

Explore now

Effective Strategies

Managing all suppliers in the supply chain, particularly trying to mitigate the risks involved, is no easy feat. No single strategy is effective enough to eliminate all risks, which is why using a combination of these and tailoring each based on the organization’s requirements is a must.

  • Supplier Diversification – Reducing the company’s dependency on a single partner by sourcing out multiple suppliers from different locations is one of the easiest strategies to enhance flexibility and limit disruptions.
  • Financial Assessment – This involves investigating the third party’s financial health. Review all information that is available, including credit bureau data and trade references then assess their financial ratios to see if they are capable of providing the company’s needs.
  • Supply Chain Mapping – Create a visual representation of the supply chain from start to finish. This flow diagram allows managers to see possible vulnerabilities and dependencies and plan for them accordingly.
  • Contingency Planning – Comprehensive action plans should always include alternative solutions because there is always a possibility of plan A failing. Incorporate extensive emergency response protocols and communication plans as well.
  • Contractual Safeguards – Meticulously outline the clauses of a supplier contract (e.g., expectations, roles and responsibilities, quality standards) and the consequences of non-compliance.
  • Technology and Data Security – As aforementioned, data breaches are serious and quite common. Maintaining data confidentiality and integrity prevents not just disruptions but also property and identity theft.
Eunice Arcilla Caburao
Article by

Eunice Arcilla Caburao

SafetyCulture Content Contributor
Eunice Caburao is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. A registered nurse, theater stage manager, Ultimate Frisbee athlete, and mother, she has written a wide range of topics for over a decade. Eunice draws upon her rich, multidisciplinary background to create informative articles about emerging topics on health, safety, and workplace efficiency.