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Do you know where your "fresh" produce or seafood really came from?
Imagine ordering a plate of crab legs at your favorite seafood restaurant. They might look tasty on your plate, but would you be less inclined to dive in if you knew they had been pulled from waters where an oil spill had occurred in the previous year? What if you knew they had been frozen for several months?
That's information you would want to know as a consumer, isn't it? Merchants need to know those details as well to ensure they're serving and offering the quality their customers expect.
Glenn Richey, Raymond J. Harbert Eminent Scholar and Professor in Supply Chain Management, co-authored a paper, “Supplier Transparency: Scale Development and Validation,” that provides merchants with a two-dimensional tool to help trace products throughout the supply chain – all the way back to the source.
“Where is your product? Where has it been? And where is it going?” he said. “That’s traceability. The other dimension of the tool is visibility. What’s your strategy? How are you going about your business? What are your goals? We want to see the supply chain and how it’s working.
“If your strategy is to be a super, low-cost provider and cut every corner to get to that point, then that’s going to end up being transparent and there are going to be a lot of people who don’t want to do business with you.”
These days, consumers are savvy about issues like sustainability, fair trade and ethical labor. They may be less inclined to spend money with a business that cuts corners in one or more of these areas.
“For instance, in Bangladesh we had all kinds of textiles and shoe companies doing business over there because it was cheaper,” he said. “But absolutely no attention was paid to the human component. Look at the conditions – how much people are being paid and the child labor involved. Customers found out and started saying, `What are you people doing?'"
Richey said the survey can be utilized by researchers, industry partners or regulators.
“In politics, they talk about transparency but they don’t do it very well,” he added. “Democracy dies in darkness and I think capitalism does, too. The market is supposed to manage those companies. If you don’t have the information about your suppliers, then the market can’t manage them.”