In the spring sunshine, my grandma came up to my room with her divine smile. That afternoon was warm and lazy. She coughed twice, and said, “Dear, I need your help”. I promptly replied, “Yeah, sure!”. “This summer is bothering me too much. I want to buy some soft cotton sarees. Can you help me to shop them online?” she asked politely.
I expressed in wonder, “What about your favourite girl, Rupa? I thought you are willing to buy only from her self-help group”. Grandma unhesitatingly replied, “Yes, I love to buy from Rupa. She always comes home with such a nice range of collections. They work really hard on it. But now, she is unable to come. So, meanwhile, I was thinking of getting something online. But I’m eagerly waiting to meet her soon”.
She continued and said something which turns out to be the fundamental of social responsibility in business and the ethical business issues.
She said, “Most importantly, I feel good that the money I’m spending is directly making its way to the people who are weaving them”.
That’s how grandma always wins my heart with her simplicity. I have never seen her as an impulsive buyer, rather always a conscious consumer. Giving her a nod, I picked up my mobile and started searching for her requirement. But I was in a dilemma!
At most I can pick a product of a popular brand considering how good it looks and how convenient the price is. But how can I assure that this money would percolate down the economy? Or in another way, how do I know if the product is made by a brand that takes care of the social responsibilities of business?
As I was searching, there were a lot of product details and information available. But hardly could find anything about how it is being produced.
The journey from source to shelf reflecting the social responsibility in business
I wanted to drill down to know what the concept of the supply chain is all about. The supply chain doesn’t merely involve moving of raw materials or products in a systematic flow to end in the delivery of the final product. It, in fact, involves the interaction of human beings at each step giving rise to numerous issues. Most of the time, we tend to forget these interacting elements and just focus on the final product or outcome.
At a glimpse, here are the 5 elements of the ethical supply chain.
Codes, standards, and laws related to the social responsibilities of business
I came across the standards that set requirements and guidelines to manage ethical business issues. ETI Base Code, SA 8000, ISO 26000, ISO 14001, are a few of the international requirements guiding social responsibility in business across the supply chain. International Labour Organisation (ILO) has many such advisory and guidelines that set the basis of legal requirements of different countries.
Assurance and certification programs for social responsibility in business
I started searching and to my utter surprise, I found hundreds of assurance and certification programs are available on earth to ensure that the company manages ethical business issues. In fact, different commodities have different assurance programs. However, most of them follow a similar framework and issues related to social responsibility in business.
As a consequence, this opened up my heart, just not the eyes. Really, there are so much more to just a product.
I was triggered by the unseen behind the scene. Got curious about the social responsibility of business.
But it saddens me to know that ethical purchasing is till now a ‘Good To Have’ concept. It’s not yet a “Must Have Criterion” in most of the developing and the (even in the) developed economies.
However, the scene seems to be brighter in certain developed countries where the consumers are aware of ethical business practices. In addition, they stand for this purpose. But humans are humans, anywhere in the globe. In fact, the developing & underdeveloped countries are majorly the ones who are producing due to the cheaper labour force. Therefore, social responsibility in business should be taken care of right over here.
I came across a survey data which shows the transforming trend of the consumer’s choice in India.
59% of consumers in India want companies to take a stand on the social responsibility for business, cultural, environmental and political issues close to their hearts.
Is it not a shame to be a consumer of a product that has exploited the toil of the real makers?
In this context, I can recall some glimpses from a trip long back. We were enjoying the beauty of nature while travelling across a village. We saw some village girls were washing boutique clothes in a pond. Out of curiosity, we took a halt there. What a mess! All the chemical dyes were directly polluting the environment. Not sure if they were even aware of the local rules and regulations, forget about ethical business practices. Moreover, it had an impact on humans too. Rashes were visible on their skin.
I asked one of them, “Isn’t there an alternative to use harmless colours instead? Or at least why don’t you use hand gloves?”. They only stared at me with an open mouth. I could not overlook the wave of pain on their face. One young girl muttered, “It’s a costly affair. We are not in a position to claim and choose. Our daily wage does meet our livelihoods. If we demand those, we will be jobless”. A guilty feeling wrapped me up.
Unknowingly, we are making offenses! Indefensible offenses. Being true to oneself is important than anything else.
66% of consumers globally find transparency and ethical business practices as one of the most attractive features of a brand or business.
But as a commoner, how can I make decisions based on the social responsibility of business?
Such questions are constantly coming here along – How can I be sure of responsible purchasing? Who will ensure ethics and quality? Is there any third party mechanism or matrix? We need a simplified guideline to make better decisions.
The transforming trend on social responsibility of business – What wins our heart
More than 50% of consumers in the developed economies are disappointed by a brand’s words or actions on a social issue complain about it.
ICC-Consultivo Knowledge Report
DOING WELL BY DOING GOOD – Mapping the CSR space in India
Business ethics and social responsibility of business – the new value consumers are looking for
Consumers are now moving into an ecosystem where they have the power to choose among competitive socially responsible brands that manage ethical business issues and corporate social responsibilities well. Brands are just not an emblem but a movement. Social responsibility in business is just not an activity. It shows the organization’s concern for the environment and society and how much they are creating social impact. It must percolate down to the base of the pyramid. This should be communicated to the end-user in a simplified way.
Consumer’s choice and behaviour can reshape how brands perceive creating value. It’s the time when transparency, values and business ethics stands strong.
More than 50% of consumers believe their individual actions can influence social responsibility in business. Activities like speaking out on social media, supporting the purpose-led brands etc. can make a difference in how brands perceive.
That’s how we can use our purchasing power as a shout out message that ethical sourcing and manufacturing is our priority.
This would supercharge the brands to figure out how to meaningfully manage ethical business issues across their supply chain. They will go the extra mile to be socially responsible. An ethical business will navigate the consumers, will become the lighthouse for consumers’ choices. The brands will assure that every product we purchase, the amount will make it’s way to the people who deserve it. It’s a win-win scene. Brands will create a larger value with their sustainable practices. The people across the supply chain would be recognised.
Around 70% of the younger generation are willing to choose only those brands to stand for their values and social responsibility in business.
Social responsibility of business – what value does it really bring to society?
It brings back dignity to the bottom of the pyramid.
I finally bought my grandma’s saree which as per my information and analysis is humane in the total process. Still, I am not sure if it’s made up of sustainably grown cotton in environmentally friendly safe working conditions. I don’t know if a reasonable part of my money is reaching the deserved beneficiaries like farmers and the weavers. But I’m hopeful as a consumer to know about the responsible sourcing of a product, soon or sooner.