David Eriksson’s research is based on Supply Chain Management,
that is, the organisation and management of activities from raw-material extraction to consumption and disposal or returns. Within this field, he has been focusing on a specific area that centres around the question of responsibility.
Writing his Phd thesis at the University of Borås, David Eriksson focused on the relationship between supply chain management and moral disengagement, and how this affects social responsibility.
“What has interested me for many years is why individuals, such as you and I, can buy or use products that affect people and the environment in a negative way. For example, we might currently be wearing a cotton t-shirt picked by child labour in Uzbekistan. Why don’t we feel more responsibility about that?” says David Eriksson.
His research took off when he identified a theory of moral disengagement that explains how individuals stop feeling responsibility for their actions. This theory includes eight mechanisms that cause this phenomenon. He transferred these mechanisms to a supply chain context and was thus able to argue how the supply chain causes moral disengagement.
This has in turn opened doors to other psychological theories, for example the relationship and humanisation theory and the bystander effect, which when also applied to the context of a global supply chain, explains why it is not possible to create a sense of corporate or consumer responsibility.
“Supply chains give you the exact output they are supposed to do. They are designed to reduce cost and increase competitiveness. We shouldn’t be surprised that they don’t encourage a responsible attitude,” explains David Eriksson.
“If you want to feel responsible for people producing cotton t-shirts, you need to identify with them and know who they are. But the supply chain is often too long – there are too many stages between the initial producer of cotton and the person receiving the end product. Blame can easily be shifted and responsibility avoided.”
David Eriksson has been a senior lecturer at the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management since 2016. On 13th March, he gave his docent lecture Reduced responsibility through supply chain design at the School of Engineering.