Friday, November 18, 2011

The Meet the Executive Lecture with Photos

Today we were truly informed by Mr. Dan Viederman, the CEO of Verite', as to corporate social responsibility and global supply chains especially in the context of labor practices.

The problem is that many consumers are completely unaware as to some of the business practices in the countries from which their products have originated.

His talk, "Sweatshops and Slavery in the 21st Century: What Business Can Do," focused on labor practices around the world, which people in the US (as well as other consumers) may not be aware of.

He spoke of what his organization, Verite', is doing to promote a civil society.

He emphasized its work in social auditing, training, and how multinatinal corporations can make decisions that empower consumers.

He noted how people may be working and not be getting paid, be working in horrific conditions in certain countries, and noted that, in the US, it is not illegal for children to work on farms.

He noted that bad labor practices can be improved through both formal and informal regulation.

Companies that were embarrassed when news about how their products were produced changed their processes (think Nike as an example). He noted that Gap had a tremendous leader and that corporate social responsibility was big in San Francisco so the company learned.

The pressure to reduce the price of products is resulting in corners being cut and, oftentimes, at the expense of the workers.

Procurement and purchasing are essential to the supply chain and socially responsible practices in this dimension can make a huge difference. If there are multiple tiers of suppliers and even subcontractors how can the contracting firm know exactly under what conditions the product is being produced by the various workers in the factories?

He emphasized that one needs to talk to the workers and some of the major problems lie in the conditions that migrant laborers are exposed to. They may have to pay a lot of money to obtain jobs in other countries and then may not be paid for weeks at a time or be consistently underpaid. The laborers who have a lot of debt are especially in dire straits.

Verite engages in supply chain interventions and provides a toolkit for companies.

He talked about outsourcing risk (and we have written several papers on this topic but not specifically from the CSR perspective).

I very much appreciated hearing Mr. Viederman speak about the importance of having a systems perspective and to understand the various linkages in a supply chain (this reminded me of the network models that we have been working on).

The UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter did the hosting today and did a terrific job.

The magna cum laude award that the chapter had recently received from INFORMS was displayed along with various treats at a reception before.

The audience was terrific and had really good questions and it was great to see undergrads and grad students in attendance as well as faculty and even staff.

Above are some photos from Mr. Viederman's wonderful presentation today.