“What emerged from this [visit to suppliers] was that for over 50 percent of our supply chain, they were suffering from chronic food insecurity for 3–7 months of the year.” —Michael Dupee, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR)
“After 20 years of compliance we said, ‘so compliance has done a lot of great things, today compliance is the floor—not the ceiling.’ A code of conduct 20 years ago was a dream. Today everyone has a code of conduct, so what is that next vision, what is that next dream?” —Michael Kobori, Levi Strauss & Co.
“You can go to the poorest place on Earth and the people have phones” —Sidsela Nyebak, Telenor Group
“[Our] biggest source of leverage is our products” —Talya Bosch, Western Union
The session began with four breakout sessions, where the panelists joined with participants to read the story of a farmer or a factory worker; the groups then identified challenges and discussed how its businesses could help provide solutions and services to the world’s marginalized populations.
The speakers then gathered for a conversation with Yeager. They began by introducing each of their companies and their work with economically marginalized communities. Dupee spoke about how Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR) is addressing the issue of food security for coffee producers in its supply chain. Kobori explained how Levi Strauss & Co. is moving from compliance to improving the lives of the workers in its factories. Bosch highlighted how Western Union is leveraging its products to specifically meet social needs while still being profitable. Nyebak then described how Telenor Group is providing basic information to people in the countries where it operates through their cell phones, empowering people with information that has had far-reaching positive impacts on their lives.
Yeager than asked the panelists to share some of the solutions discussed in the breakout sessions. Dupee began by mentioning that mobile phones offer solutions to farmers, giving them access to real-time knowledge of prices. Kobori reiterated the need to know and engage with the local context before bringing in outside solutions. Bosch continued by noting that companies need to pay attention and be sensitive to the needs of communities.
Yeager followed up by asking how having a human perspective, with teams in the field, impacts employees. Nyebak explained that Telenor engages employees in projects so they have ownership and feel connected to the work. Bosch followed by saying that Western Union has been able to develop a welfare payment-processing project in collaboration with the government of the Philippines because its employees come from the community and know the existing needs. Kobori added that educating employees is only one aspect and that educating consumers is another important issue. Dupee agreed, mentioning that GMCR is using mainstream marketing tools to bring customers’ attention to supply chain issues.
Yeager then asked the panelists to share an idea from the breakout session that excited them. Nyebak began by noting the participants’ focus on the importance of collaboration and looking at root causes of issues. Kobori noted that in his session participants questioned the assumption that we understand the lives of factory workers, highlighting the need to be thoughtful and have humility. The example Dupee shared was an industrial ecology approach, whereby you could create enterprises in communities by using waste products to address problems, such as using the byproduct from coffee as fuel instead of having children forage for fuel, which leads to deforestation and forgoing education.
A participant asked the panelists if shareholders request information on their corporate social responsibility work. Bosch responded by saying that Western Union gets some requests, but not very many. Dupee agreed, but mentioned that GMCR is looking into the impacts of climate change on coffee, believing that in 20 or 30 years this will be a big issue of interest to shareholders. Nyebak offered a different viewpoint, saying she receives questions, but always about what the company is doing to minimize risks, not what it is doing to create value and take advantage of opportunities.
The entire panel agreed that working in collaboration is important. Kobori argued that we must accelerate the progress and have fast and smart collaborations. Bosch and Nyebak agreed that information should be shared so as not to recreate existing information, with Nyebak adding that collaboration is needed to bring projects to scale.
Another participant then asked the panelists how they are taking into account the specific needs of women and girls. Kobori highlighted the work Levi’s is doing with BSR’s HERproject to bring health awareness to factory workers, while Dupee spoke about the health and economic diversification projects offered to women in GMCR’s supply chain. Bosch again pointed out the importance of listening to women to better understand their needs before acting.
To close the session, a participant asked for a simple definition of humanizing the global economy. Bosch responded by saying that for Western Union this means financial inclusion and economic opportunities for everyone. For Dupee an inclusive economy “is about putting names and faces into the supply chain.” At Telenor this means doing what the company is best at, and providing products and services to the poor, not just to people with resources.