56 Ethical responsibilities along the supply chain – call to account the principals

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During the last years a remarkable number of companies, especially in the Northern hemisphere, established an in-house Occupational Health Management or at least came up with a broad range of workplace health promotion (WHP) programmes. At the same time, most companies increased their efforts in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), becoming aware of their responsibility towards the environment and society. However, these ethical responsibilities do not end at a country’s borders. Regarding global players as corporate citizens, they also have a special ethical and social responsibility for their workers in the supply chain. Moreover, they already have the WHP-tools and resources to care for and enhance the health of these workers.


A qualitative interview study was conducted and evaluated with the Qualitative Content Analysis. Interviews were carried out with German and Swiss companies of all different sizes and sectors, their stakeholders, final consumers and industry representatives. They all were asked questions about ethical responsibilities along the supply chain, especially regarding topics of occupational health and CSR.


The analysis reveals that most companies do not regard themselves responsible for their stakeholders beyond the contractual commitment and legal framework. Not surprisingly, the stakeholders along the supply chain as well as the industry representatives emphasise the companies’ voluntary assumption of responsibility.


The interviews show that the CSR strategies of many companies already include the awareness to be responsible for future generations, a proper education of youth and general educational work regarding health in the global south (e.g. vaccination campaigns). The social and ethical arguments considered in CSR can build a bridge to reasons for the promotion of occupational health programmes beyond occupational safety especially in the supply chain. Such actions, again, will have an impact on the perception of a company’s CSR and, ideally, lead to positive reinforcement.

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