Archive for ethics

Step It Up

Image result for international women's dayOn March 8, 1917 women in the city of St. Petersburg marched in the streets to end WWI, food shortages and the rule of czars. This International Women’s Day event was called a march for “bread and peace” and it kicked off a revolution. In 1965, March 8th was declared a national holiday in the Soviet Union, meant to recognize the heroism and selflessness of women and to celebrate the contribution made by women toward the establishment of peace and freedom. Since then the holiday has been adopted across the world and is now a day to reflect on progress made by courageous and inspiring women in all walks of life. Google’s doodle  today is a montage of the many roles and the many possibilities for women. And what wonderful possibilities there are!

This year the United Nations called for Gender Equality by 2030. At the rate we are currently going we will not achieve parity across the world until 2095. We need to step it up.

Some key targets of the 2030 UN Agenda:

  • By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and Goal-4 effective learning outcomes.
  • By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education.
  • End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere.
  • Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.
  • Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.

Let’s join in to support these goals and step it up to achieve gender equality. You can pledge your support here: PLEDGE SUPPORT. You don’t need to pay anything, leave an email address, sign your name. You just have to say you will participate in change.

Let us devote solid funding, courageous advocacy and unbending political will to achieving gender equality around the world. There is no greater investment in our common future.  UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon



The Logistics of Giving Back

2013-05-30_10-12-03_844“Bridging the gap between surplus and need”   This is a compelling value proposition for any supply chain professional. It happens every day at MedShare.

On a Thursday morning in May I arrived at the MedShare warehouse in San Leandro, California. This is one of two warehouses filled with medical supplies and equipment. The second one is in Decatur, Georgia. What I’m looking at is material that would otherwise be in landfills across the country.  As a manufacturing geek, I feel right at home in this warehouse with racking, forklifts, bar coding, computer entry, shipping docks and a container poised for loading. After the tour and instructions, I get to work sorting and re-boxing.

MedShare has been operating since 1999 and diverts on average 2000 pounds of medical surplus each week.  They have shipped over 900 containers to 93 medically underserved countries including Kenya, Haiti, Costa Rica and Ecuador. They also provision hundreds of medical teams who serve in these countries and provide free supplies to safety-net clinics in California and Georgia. This web of suppliers, volunteers, bio-medical experts and logistics professionals works to lessen the medical disparity around the world.

Our medical system in the US is, on its own, very wasteful. A surgical procedure will draw in pounds of material in kit form in the name of hospital efficiency, and then whatever is not used, will be tossed. The piles of waste include, masks, needles, surgical instruments, gowns, bottles, bandages, and gloves. MedShare is a non-profit that will accept that waste material, sort it, repackage it when necessary, label it accurately, store it and then ship it to order. Hospitals from developing countries are able to look online at MedShare’s database to determine what is available. They “shop” to fill up a container. Assuming that there are funds available to pay for the shipment, they get what they need. This is in contrast to other charities that ship what they have, when they have it. Often what is shipped does not meet the needs of the people and sits unused. Not so for MedShare shipments.

In addition to excess medical supplies, MedShare takes in, refurbishes and ships out medical equipment such as surgical tables, ultrasound machines, scales, lights. Again, in the US medical world these items are obsolete but for a developing country they are seldom seen luxuries. There are wonderful stories of medical intervention that would not have been possible without MedShare equipment and supplies.

But what does MedShare NOT have readily flowing?

  1. Cardboard boxes – Volunteers bring in boxes from home. MedShare has to buy boxes that they can’t get donated.
  2. Sponsored containers – It costs about $20,000 to ship a container to its destination. Companies can sponsor a shipment and can advertise this donation both in the US and in the receiving country. For a company expanding in the developing world or even partnering with suppliers in that region, it is a very inexpensive way to build positive brand awareness.
  3. Volunteers – They welcome volunteer groups from companies, churches and youth groups. You can show up as an interested individual and they will put you to work.
  4. Funding –  Money is very efficiently put to good use either to fund the very low administrative costs or to pay for the container shipments.
  5. Regional expansion – MedShare plans to expand this year by adding another warehouse location in the east. The numbers make it clear that this is a good strategy. Healthcare Without Harm claims that U.S. hospitals generate more than two million tons of medical waste each year, most of which is medical supplies and equipment. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 10 million children under the age of five die in the developing world due to inadequate medical care. MedShare is serving a critical need and is only scratching the surface with its fifty plus tons a year.

The efficiency of this charity has been celebrated with awards and recognition. MedShare is a four star charity in Charity Navigator. They have been featured on TV and in print. There are numerous testimonials online. However, for all of its success, it should be better known than it is. Maybe, for some, it is not so glamorous. After all, this is a process of matching supply and demand. It is a non-profit that deals with inventory management, transportation costs and material handling. The demand fluctuation has a lot to do with global forces such as economics, natural disaster and incoming funds. In short, the job done at MedShare is a job that many of us in supply chain management will recognize. The supply chain community should resonate with this charity and its work.

My morning was spent sorting, labeling and boxing and having a blast. The volunteers I worked alongside were smiling, chatting and one even burst into song. Halfway through, we took a break and watched a container load finish up. This one was funded by the MedShare’s own Western Regional Council. The stories told by Chuck Haupt, the Executive Director for the Western Region, were stirring and motivating. In fact, the volunteers themselves are raising money to ship a container, just going to show how compelling the work really is.

A sign up on the wall said it all for me: 2013-05-30_10-40-21_667

Ethical Supply Chain Management

BANGLADESH-BUILDING-DISASTER-TEXTILEReshma was pulled out of the wreckage of the Bangladesh factory fire after 17 days. She survived in a dark 8 foot by 10 foot space with room enough to move and food and drink enough to survive. After finding over 900 dead in this factory, the miracle of Reshma brought joy to the rescuers. This factory garment worker did not give up her life making our clothing but somehow she puts a face on the ethical questions troubling me and many others who work in the field of supply chain management. Should we know when the factories making our products are unsafe? Do we have a responsibility for our far flung supply chains? I believe that the answer has to be yes. But fulfilling that responsibility is a difficult task.

There are attempts to organize companies around the principles of safe, humane, ethical working conditions. In the electronics industry many companies are members of EICC which is the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition. Their website states that “the EICC is a coalition of the world’s leading electronics companies working together to improve efficiency and social, ethical, and environmental responsibility in the global supply chain.”  HP is a member and also has its own social and environmental standards and policies. Since 2005 HP has audited over 700 suppliers in its 1000 plus company supply chain. During those audits non-compliances are found. The offending company is to fix the non-conformance and report back upon closure. Is that enough? Other companies do more or less work on this topic. How can you judge what is enough? Can we expect to get to zero non-compliances? Perhaps our goal should be an ever decreasing number of non-compliances approaching zero.

The garment industry is trying to get a coalition together for monitoring and compliance throughout the supply chain. It is called IndustriALL. There is some dragging of feet on joining. Gap is not ruling out joining this group but so far it is doing its own work to monitor factories for safety. After the Bangladesh fire there is more momentum around this topic.

And what about human trafficking? An organization called Not For Sale is focusing on this topic. Their website states that this is a $32B business and it is tied to almost every product we use. As consumers we don’t have the information to even vote with our dollars. This organization is stressing the need for transparency. If we know where the problems are and they are visible to consumers there would be a move away from those markets. The economic pressure shifted apartheid policies in South Africa and it can make a difference here as well.

What are the “to do’s” for supply chain leaders? Here are the few I can suggest:

  1. Join the coalitions available. They aren’t perfect but they at least get a collective body to call attention to a problem.
  2. Create transparency in your own supply chain. Know who your suppliers are and who their suppliers are and who their suppliers are…Spend the money to audit.
  3. Keep this high on the agenda. Talk about supply chain design with this in mind. Cost drives many decisions but take the total cost into account. Understand the cost of the monitoring required. Put the right system in place to do the right thing.
  4. Participate in the dialogue. Talk to other leaders about this topic. Engage with the government and with non-profit organizations. Take a position.
  5. Design your supply chain with ethics in mind. Enough said.

“You have just dined, and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity.” 
―    Ralph Waldo Emerson