It must be said that while the company has learned hard lessons over the years about the procurement of goods and services, these lessons are continually updated in the face of technological advancements. We cannot afford to overlook these new lessons, as even a single misstep can be enough to derail our entire supply chain. Even in the fashion retail industry which belongs to the secondary sector of economic activity, it would not be far-fetched to say that the lack of ethics in procurement management sets a high-risk scenario where dangers, uncertainties and challenges abound. If ignored, these issues of ethical transgressions will resurface and cause significant damage to the business on a national, regional or even international scale.
Quality/Safety Issues While it is ideal to create a win/win situation for manufacturers and marketers, every company is fighting to make a profit in order to stay in business. If that’s not a possibility, given the scope of the project, some companies will submit a bid with the intent to cut corners on the project, often with disastrous consequences. Take China’s manufacturing industry for example.
“[Chinese shipments] have all caused big safety scares. The defective goods that have long bedevilled Chinese consumers are beginning to spread to the outside world-a trend that is exacerbating concern about China’s burgeoning exports….And this week a report from the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, China’s standards watchdog, said that 20% of domestic products tested had failed to meet safety standards.”
“The Diddle Kingdom – Tainted Chinese Goods Prompt Safety Scares Around The World” , (2007, July 5), (The Economist.com) Available: http://www.economist.com/business/displaystory.cfm?story_id=9443105 (Accessed: 2007, October 12) Labour Issues In general, most blue-collar workers in the garment manufacturing industry are poor, unskilled, and have few alternative employment opportunities. It will be women and their dependents who bear the brunt of lost employment and income in terms of poorer health, lost education opportunities for their children and poverty.
The term “ethical fashion”–which encompasses but goes beyond the more familiar “eco” or “green” fashion catchphrases–is still not on the radar screen of most Singaporeans. In addition to using eco-friendly or organic materials, ethical fashion denotes the end-product marketer’s commitment to ensuring humane labour standards and fair-trade wages for garment workers. That means wages that afford workers “a relatively comfortable quality of life within the context of their local area”, as reported by Marketing Daily.
“Seeds Of ‘Ethical Fashion’ Are Being Sown In U.S.”, (2001, August 1), (Marketing Daily) Available: http://publications.mediapost.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=Articles.showArticleHomePage;art_aid=64927 (Accessed: 2007, October 12) For the specialised product range that my company is developing, there are few factories with the equipment and staff training able to produce such a quality value-added product for niche markets. The majority are high volume/standard-cut production lines. This would not be a problem if not for the fact that most of these factories have significant stakes in regional fashion retail operations, ie. my competitors!
Highly proprietary information on stock-selection, technical specifications and product timelines have to be protected from inadvertent release. Other trade secrets may range from a list of key suppliers and/or buyers, to use of software tools for fashion design, to logistics management of the entire value chain. Such privileged information, if used to the sharpest advantage, could result in a well-timed early release of a similar product range, a disastrous blow for my company.
Intellectual Property5 Issues Copying remains ubiquitous in the fashion industry. Fashion-forward but low-priced retailers like H;M and Zara have flourished, thanks to their ability to take designs from Milan to the mass market. Private-label designers for major department stores trumpet the fidelity of their imitations. And almost as soon as hot new designs appear on the runway, photographs and drawings of them are on their way to Chinese factories that can produce reasonable replicas at a fraction of the cost.
“…Congress now finds itself considering a bill, pushed by the Council of Fashion Designers of America, that would give original designs a legal protection similar to copyright.” Sadly, “the fashion industry is not alone in its surprising mixture of weak intellectual-property laws and strong innovation…where innovators produce new work without being able to copyright it.” “The Piracy Paradox”, (2007, September 27), (The New Yorker)
Available: Limitations As project managers in a global environment, it is crucial that we bring our skills in project management with us, but we must also know the way to implement them that acknowledges and honors the host country’s culture. Kerzner gives many examples of limitations to enforcing a company’s ethical principles. Some more relevant ones to the reality that my product development project is facing are –
“Contracts are awarded, in some cultures, on the basis of business relationships, gratuities, or kickbacks”, “Language will cause problems in developing accurate Statements of Work.” and “Limited contractor availability may restrict quality and timeliness of deliverables.” (Kerzner, 2001) Conclusion In conclusion, it is up to the company to set its ethical ‘thermostat’ for its employees, but as more players compete in this global climate, companies have to stay ‘ethically relevant’. Thankfully, this does not require a certain ‘moral flexibility’ but instead, a heightened awareness of cultural influences and customary practices of the country where one is operating in – don’t expect others to conform to your way of doing things, especially when you’re in their country.
Ultimately when faced with an ethical situation that involves personal profit or reputation versus the trust and safety of the public, a project manager should always have his ‘internal ethical thermostat’ set right, and make his decision based on what is best for the public. Without this as a standard for operation, the public would lose faith in every garment that is made, every automobile that is purchased, and every building that is constructed.
BIBLIOGRAPHY / REFERENCES
Australian Government, Department of Finance and Administration (http://www.finance.gov.au/procurement/ep_background.html Accessed: 2007, October 10)
Cooper, D. et al. (2005) Project Risk Management Guidelines: Managing Risk In Large Projects And Complex Procurements England:Wiley
Heldman, K. (2002) PMP: Project Management Professional Study Guide San Francisco:SYBEX