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Social Responsibility Meets Supply: You Can Take the Lead



ISM's 89th Annual International Supply Management Conference

Philadelphia, PA
April 2004

Author(s):

Roberta J. Duffy

Craig R. Carter
Assistant Professor of Supply Management
University of Nevada


Barbara B. Lang
President and CEO
DC Chamber of Commerce

Following the Sunday keynote address that kicked off ISM's Social Responsibility initiative, a breakout session, facilitated by two members of the ISM Social Responsibility Committee, detailed the seven ISM Principles of Social Responsibility, the audit available on the ISM Web site, and the baseline study conducted related to the audit.

The presenters then asked the audience in attendance for feedback on the initiative and the principles. The discussion sparked some interesting points, with many agreeing that it's a complex issue with no easy answers. On the surface, it's easy to recognize that the principles make logical sense; it's when one starts pondering all the nuances of some of the principles that we see how complex the topic is.

For example, on the topic of human rights, one audience member commented on a situation faced in his company. In a different region of the world, where the company had operations, it was paying wages to workers that was far above minimum wage and actually gave workers a very favorable income, relative to other wages paid in the region. However, when compared to standards in the United States, the wages appeared low. How does one relate the situation appropriately to others in the company who might not be familiar with that region's standards?

Another example that illustrates just how complex these issues can be … in some cultures, it's not uncommon for a worker's family to visit him onsite, in this case, a construction site. How does a firm balance a desire to respect this culture and an employee's wishes with a desire to maintain safety considerations?

It's clear from these thought-provoking discussions that ISM's decision to establish principles for the profession is a timely and welcomed move. The ensuing dialogues and resources that will be available will be an asset to any supply manager.

By Roberta J. Duffy, editor of Inside Supply Management®

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