extra Free Case

Values Engineering (B): The Story of a Supply Chain

Published 20 Nov 2023
Reference 6783
Region Europe
Length 3 page(s)
Language English

This short case study is a snapshot of the ethical challenges faced by members of a supply chain as they work on an apparently fictional high-rise renovation project. Although the story is set in the construction sector, it is relevant to any supply chain in any industry or any set of individuals working on a business project with real-world consequences. Case A starts with Bruce, the architect’s project manager, who adopts a fake-it-till-you-make-it approach and agrees to phase payments in such a way that his firm avoids the standard tender process. The narrative then moves to Simon, the contract manager for the “favoured” contractor, as he tries to drive down costs to meet the quoted price while maintaining profitability. Next we encounter Ben, a recently graduated project manager for his father’s specialist building-facade firm. Like Simon, his technical knowledge is insufficient, and he fails to follow up on crucial questions, instead relying on others in the supply chain to ensure compliance with regulations. We then encounter two suppliers of the materials for the facade and internal insulation. Deborah, a sales manager with minimal technical knowledge, supplies misleading information and oversells, partly due to pressure and poor communication from her bosses overseas. Jonathan, a young product manager, does the unthinkable by participating in a faked fire-safety test. He, too, is under pressure, both from experienced colleagues who present this as normal procedure, and from the cost-conscious private equity firm that owns the company. Case B reveals that these characters are real people who worked on the renovation of Grenfell Tower in London, where in 2017 a fire resulted in the death of 72 residents. Their stories and quotes are part of a vast and complex “supply chain” of failures revealed in the subsequent public inquiry.
INSEAD has made this case study free for anyone to read or use, as the writers believe that the story deserves wider international attention and should not be a source of revenue.

Teaching objectives

The case, extracted from a complex and tragic chain of events, puts the reader in the position of five protagonists, enabling instructors and students to explore important lessons about business ethics and safety. It is intended to prompt classroom discussion of ethical failures and how they can be avoided, rather than solving a business dilemma. It provides scope to explore: •The dangers of “dehumanizing” the people affected by business decisions, especially at the end of a long supply chain •The risks of “passing the buck” in complex supply chains •The pressure to prioritize profit and aesthetics over safety and ethics •How an unhealthy culture can pervade a project, organization, profession, or industry. •Poor ethical leadership

  • Business ethics
  • responsible business
  • corporate social responsibility
  • supply chains
  • health and safety
  • construction
  • value engineering
  • issue moral intensity
  • diffusion of responsibility
  • cognitive biases
  • professional negligence
  • cost reduction
  • risk management
  • ethical leadership
  • Reduced Inequality
  • Responsible Consumption and Production
  • Q42023