Do The Right Thing

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Sourcing Strategies

I scratch my head and often ask myself, how hard is it to do the right thing? I don’t consider myself an overly-righteous individual (I did keep $20 that I found in the Ladies Room at a White Sox game this summer, well actually, I gave it to my Dad). No, what I’m talking about is acting fairly and ethically. That seems like a pretty simple endeavor though my Governor seems to have struggled with the concept. My personal favorite abuse of his power relates to this portion of the indictment, ” Also on Nov. 12, in a conversation with Harris, [ editor’s note: his chief of staff] the complaint affidavit states that Blagojevich said his decision about the open Senate seat will be based on three criteria in the following order of importance: “Our legal situation, our personal situation, my political situation. This decision, like every other one, needs to be based upon that. Legal. Personal. Political.” Harris said: “Legal is the hardest one to satisfy.”

Welcome to Illinois politics. Our last governor of course shared a similar fate (he’s currently hoping for a Presidential pardon). But all of this wrong-doing got me thinking about our own personal dilemmas and ethics questions that arise in the world of metals buying. Consider the following (all real cases):

  1. Somebody recently told us that they have awarded a new program, an aluminum product, to a new supplier. The supplier has invested significant cost and product development time toward that new product. The client awards the business to that supplier but now wishes to benchmark the product. If there is a savings, the company intends to re-negotiate with the supplier who has developed the product.
  2. A prospect asked us to examine their sourcing practices around a stainless steel sheet category. When our benchmark efforts yielded only a small savings through an alternative service center (the savings was too small to justify a formal sourcing effort on our part), the company asked for the name of the distributor who had quoted a lower price, without offering anything in return.
  3. Another prospect, currently buying from a domestic producer, sought outside advice on cost reduction services to include overseas suppliers. But the prospect did not have the ability to finance the overseas purchase. Should the overseas suppliers be engaged even though the buyer couldn’t possibly execute a purchase order?

These aren’t earth-shattering ethics issues but nonetheless they serve as a reminder of ethics questions faced by sourcing practitioners day in and day out. The real question to ask is this: how do you handle these issues? Do you do the right thing?

–Lisa Reisman

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