The Role of Retailers in Social Accountability Programs

In this PLMA Live! interview with SAI President Alice Tepper Marlin and Executive Director Eileen Kaufman, host Tim Simmons asked how and why retailers should participate in social accountability programs, and what's ahead in the field of CSR. PLMA (Private Label Manufacturers Association) is a SAI Corporate Program member at the Supporting level. Below are two excerpts:

How retailers can play an important role in social accountability programs?
A lot of the learning and systems here are on the buy side, not only on the sell side. So [if] you're concerned about excessive work hours...the solution to some extent relies on the direct employer, but a lot of that solution rests with the customer -- how they can design systems that will minimize last minute design and volume changes, that will share market forecast information with the producers.

That's where [SAI] works with the big brands and the retailers in order to improve their supply chain management. And it goes all the way back- not only changing the way the merchandisers and buyers are placing their orders, to be sure that they are placing orders that fit the capacity of their suppliers to fulfill- but it goes all the way back to design-- design for decent work.

It's clear that social accountability has changed a lot since SAI first started, what's ahead?

I think the biggest change...is the growth of demand and consumer economy in the developing world. When we began, these [CSR] concerns and systems were found in Europe and the U.S., and then the demand was made for the producers...but there was no demand in the developing world. It's not so much that the culture was different, it's that they didn't have a large consumer market, they didn't have that many...brands to choose from. There's a [theory] - 'Maslow's Hierarchies of Needs'...now we see it particularly in the BRIC countries -there's a huge growth in the middle class, and as those consumers have the kind of choices that Europe and the U.S. have had for many more years, the consumers are at least as concerned about the social responsibility issues as we are.

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3BL TV is the Web video channel of 3BL Media. Its programming features original content produced by some of the most influential voices in corporate social responsibility (CSR), green business, and cause marketing. From personal commentary and insights to in-depth reporting and interviews, 3BL TV also features “the CSR Minute,” 3BL Media’s daily headline news Webcast.