Production Ethics, International Ethics, Transparency, Workplace Exploitation, Supply Chain Sustainability, Social Responsibility
The case deals with the quest for boundaries of corporates’ social and environmental responsibility. It poses the question where the responsibility of a company might start or end in a given context and once the company has been able to assess the extent to which it holds itself responsible, what action it ought to take in this regard. In the case of Axel Springer the question is focused on the aspect how much responsibility the company might have for its supply chain: how far and how deep down the supply chain does or should responsibility of a corporation reach? On what facts does this responsibility depend? The publishing house Axel Springer AG serves as good example as it wonders about the scope of their responsibility: After making the strategic decision to move aggressively into the field of digital news and media, the company wonders about their responsibility for digital devices, in particular with respect to conflict minerals that are extracted for the production and use of such electronic devices under highly problematic conditions.
The case draws attention to a rather ambiguous, quite complex, and intertwined sustainability issue. It requires students to think laterally about anticipated and potential risks, about scopes and the extent of responsibility. The case can be well-introduced at a later and more advanced stage of the term as it deals with the concerns of an only indirectly involved media and publishing house that can either neglect or take up the challenge of dealing with conflict minerals. Students preferably know concepts of risk management and corporate responsibility or are acquainted with cases focusing on formulating, implementing, or articulating corporate responsibility before dealing with the question of at what stage and with what tier of the supply chain could or should corporate responsibility end.
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