Disney Cleanses its Supply Chain

MAY 8, 2013

Disney sweater found in the remains of a fire last year in Bangladesh

Disney sweater found in the remains of a fire last year in Bangladesh.

Ever since a building with garment factories collapsed in Bangladesh a few weeks ago, killing more than 1,000 people, Western apparel companies with ties to the country have scrambled to address public concerns about working conditions there. But one big American company, Disney, had already decided to leave the country — pushed by the devastating fire just six months ago that killed 112 people. The Walt Disney Company, the world’s largest licensor with sales of nearly $40 billion, recently ordered an end to the production of branded merchandise in Bangladesh. The New York Times (May 2, 2013) reports that on March 4, the company had sent a letter to thousands of licensees and vendors setting out new rules for overseas production.

This comes as no surprise to those of us in Orlando, where Disney, with its 60,000 “cast members” (employees in layman’s terms), is king. Its public image as a safe, clean, and wholesome company is carefully maintained. Disney’s move reflects the difficult calculus that companies with operations in countries like Bangladesh are facing as they balance profit and reputation against the backdrop of a wrenching human disaster. “We felt this was the most responsible way to manage the challenges associated with our supply chain,” says Disney’s president of consumer products.

With some labor groups urging Western companies to stay and fix problems rather than leave, Disney said that it would pursue “a responsible transition that mitigates the impact to affected workers and business.” It set out a yearlong transitional period for its contractors to phase out production in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Belarus, Ecuador and Venezuela by April, 2014. In deciding in which countries to permit production, the company relied heavily on the World Bank’s Governing Indicators, which evaluate performance on issues like government effectiveness, rule of law, accountability and control of corruption.

This post provided courtesy of Jay and Barry’s OM Blog at www.heizerrenderom.wordpress.com. Professors Jay Heizer and Barry Render are authors of Operations Management , the world’s top selling textbook in its field, published by Pearson.

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