Being Good For Goodness’ Sake: Ethics in Logistics

Ethical business, while initially thought of as an oxymoron, today is “in vogue”: companies are striving to be business titans with hearts of gold and impeccable standards of behaviour. For some, it may be done for publicity, but for others, it boils down to one key concept: wanting to be good just for goodness’ sake. In this, the logistics industry cannot be left behind.

Logistics industry players must first and foremost be ethical in their treatment of employees. This entails considerations such as compensation: where payment should be equitable as opposed to bare minimum wages and salaries. Employers in supply chain management must be fair in remunerating employees, both to keep them motivated as well as to show appreciation for their efforts.

Photo Credit: InsideArm.com

Photo Credit: InsideArm.com

Working conditions for employees must also be monitored to ensure that they are optimal for productivity. It would be unethical, for example, to compel employees to work in 14 hour shifts, or in poorly ventilated areas with poor sanitation. Maintaining high standards in this is its own reward: from having well dedicated employees who feel cared for to being honored for it, as Kenyan technology provider Craft Silicon was feted as the “Best Company To Work For” in a 2013 Deloitte and Touche survey and awards ceremony.

Ethics also comes into play with regards to logistics companies’ obligation to the government and Kenyan citizens. Supply chain managers must work to ensure that they comply with set government legislations and quality standards, even where doing so is inconvenient and it would be possible to get away with ignoring them.

The logistics industry also has an ethical duty to the nation to show interest in public welfare, which can be done by engaging in corporate social responsibility efforts that hold no financial returns or prospects. A good example of this would be the Safaricom initiative to donate KES100,000 to each county in Kenya over a period of two weeks, through the Safaricom Foundation.  This campaign is aimed at supporting efforts to provide sustainable solutions for pressing socio-economic issues such as education and health.

Logistics firms have an obvious ethical duty to clients. This expansive responsibility covers issues ranging from preventing pilfering of cargo in transit or storage, keeping confidential client information under wraps and not overcharging for services. The most important obligation supply chain management firms have to their clients is to honor commitments made. This means that we in the industry must ensure cargo is delivered in the condition promised, within the time frame promised.

Currently, YouTube overflows with videos of parcel delivery crews making minimal effort to ensure safety of packages, going so far as to toss them over fences and drive away, hoping the recipients would not notice. Such behavior causes a breach of trust between logistics firms and their clients, hence the need for adherence to strict behavioral codes that align with company ethical guidelines.

Supply chain management players also owe an ethical debt to the logistics industry itself, and other companies that operate within it. Companies are discouraged from engaging in monopolistic practices that leverage an unfair advantage to lock other companies out of the market. Similarly, promotional campaigns that unduly criticize competitors, circling close to slander, by advising potential customers of perceived ineptness of competitors are frowned upon, as a matter of principle.

Likewise, misrepresentation of oneself or other companies, even when not negative, goes against ethical practice policies and could land the company in a world of legal trouble. A clear cut case of this would be where Kenafric Industries was recently put to task by American TV giant Time Warner for infringing on their copyright by printing packaging for Kenafric products unlawfully using the image of popular cartoon “Ben 10”, intellectual property of Time Warner via Cartoon Network.

Ethics in the logistics industry is an issue that cannot be ignored, at pain of litigation in some cases. Having summarized the key ethical duties of a supply chain management player, we’re curious: how did your company score?

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