illycaffè: Value Creation through Responsible Supplier Relationships

Journal of Business Ethics Education 5 (Special Issue):139-169 (2008)
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Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is gaining momentum in the business world, but several issues continue to challenge managers in charge of sustainability. Supply chain management is one area in which CSR-related activities could potentially drive the process of sustainability within firms. This case presents the way that illycaffè, an Italian coffee producer, has approached CSR. Since 1991, the company has focused on developing a new relationship with Brazilian coffee producers based on networking translated into knowledge transfer—Brazilian producers became responsible for their operations all along the supply line—and innovation translated into quality—one supplier talks about how illycaffè persuaded him he was capable of producing a Ferrari among coffees instead of a Fiat. These two factors not only drive the supplier relationship, but also serve as the drivers of illycaffè’s sustainability strategy. Lessons for managers relate to benefits for the business, for society and for stakeholders, and questions arise about how to replicate illycaffè’s success and create value through values.



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