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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Strategic CSR - T-shirts

Modern supply chains are highly evolved systems. Think of almost any product and its supply chain will be more complex than we can imagine. In my class, I find it difficult to convey this point to students in a way that re-creates this complexity, but also marvels at the intricacies of the markets that evolved to produce even the seemingly most simple of products.
Two resources I have picked-up along the way help in this process. The first, is a video by the Planet Money team at National Public Radio (NPR) who set-out to make a t-shirt and follow their product from design board to store in order to fully understand the process:
The second is a quote from Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations. It is amazing that Smith was able to comprehend the complexity and beauty of the market and its ability to aggregate the effects of the millions of micro decisions that get made every day in the process of generating products that people demand:
“The woollen coat, for example, which covers the day-labourer, as coarse and rough as it may appear, is the produce of the joint labour of a multitude of workmen. The shepherd, the sorter of the wool, the wool-comber or carder, the dyer, the scribbler, the spinner, the weaver, the fuller, the dresser, with many others, must all join their different arts in order to complete even this homely production. . . . Let us consider only what a variety of labour is requisite in order to form that very simple machine, the shears with which the shepherd clips the wool. The miner, the builder of the furnace for smelting the ore, the feller of the timber, the burner of the charcoal to be made use of in the smelting-house, the brick-maker, the brick-layer, the workmen who attend the furnace, the mill-wright, the forger, the smith. . . . Without the assistance and co-operation of many thousands, the very meanest person in a civilized country could not be provided, even according to what we very falsely imagine, the easy and simple manner in which he is commonly accommodated.”
As noted in the article in the url below from The New Yorker that reviewed Smith’s ideas, it is the combined effect that is truly amazing:
“… all these people working together, absolute harmony among anonymous individuals, motivated not by the will to cooperate but by the pursuit of their own interest … that's what makes the coat.”
Take care
David Chandler & Bill Werther
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Market Man
By Adam Gopnik
October 18, 2010
The New Yorker