Monday, February 25, 2008

ethics and corporate social responsibility - a question?

Dennis Howlett blogged on An ethical question on SAP Community Network (SDN) last week. He asked whether companies should be responsible for their suppliers compliance with human rights standards. My opinion is that people have ethics; companies have ethics policies. I am responsible for my actions, only people controlling a company can he held accountable for that company's actions.

(Full Disclosure: As of February 2008, I own 1 share of Federal Mogul). Rather than comment on Victoria's Secret and their supply chain, I looked at the public records for a company I partly (though quite de minimus) control, through being a stockholder. On their web site are references to supplier requirements, for example: .

In this document, Section 5 is titled "Compliance with law" and Section 10 is "Environmental Compatibility." I'll pick on the latter, as I have more environmental experience than legal. It says, among other things, " Supplier warrants that the Goods comply upon delivery with the state of the art as regards their environmental compatibility" - whoa, "state of the art". That's pretty far-fetched to believe that all suppliers maintain current low-emission, highly recyclable and sustainable processes. It's more likely these are empty words, an canard that whatever exists must be the state of the art.

My point, like an earlier post on corruption, is that it's up to stockholders and corporate offices to verify that company policies point in the right direction. It's up to me to follow best practices.

[all opinions expressed here are mine]

1 comment:

Dennis Howlett said...

Good point Jim - which opens up the question of ethical alignment. Is it possible or desirable? If we believe that corporations are part of the social environment in which we as people live then the answer must be yes. The trouble is that corporations are positioning themselves as outwith that environment and therefore subject to different 'rules.' It's a good application of logic but an appallingly cynical view of the world.