Education's Role in Socially Sustainable Sourcing Methods

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From blood diamonds sparking a war in West Africa to Foxconn building a suicide net, any inhumane act in a supply chain poses a risk to companies, despite how upstream the scandal occurs. Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the supply chains of the companies from which they purchase, as information is becoming more and more accessible. While companies may claim to be not responsible for the actions of tier two and three suppliers, consumers associate the company with the scandal regardless. This study explores how companies are ensuring their upstream supply chains are socially responsible. This paper studies the incentives and approaches to socially sustainable sourcing methods, specifically the use of education. While experts have studied economic and environmental sustainability extensively, there is a gap in social sustainability research. There are no universally accepted measurements to study the effectiveness of social sustainability programs, making this a difficult topic to study. To fill in this gap, this study collected qualitative data through interviewing eight experts in both academia and in the field, and identified common themes. Companies are using education as an approach to sustainable sourcing by educating farmers to operate more cost efficiently and by donating to schools in communities to be able to recruit from a more educated workforce. The key findings of this study were that economic performance is the main incentive behind social sustainability programs and that these programs do not extend beyond tier one suppliers.

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