Home / Technology Policy & Ethics / March 2018 / The Slow Tech Journey: An approach to teaching corporate social responsibility – Part II, Continued

The Slow Tech Journey: An Approach to Teaching Corporate Social Responsibility  – Part 2, continued

By Rebecca Lee Hammons, Norberto Patrignani, and Diane Whitehouse

March 2018

Read The Slow Tech Journey Part 1.
Read The Slow Tech Journey Part 2.

In the last newsletter, the authors provided additional insight into the importance of the Slow Tech Journey and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), and shared a case study of Apple’s CSR policies and practices based on a review of a variety of artifacts gleaned from several sources. This newsletter provides two final, internationally-based case studies for the reader’s consideration and recommendations for the integration of such case study analysis into the Information and Communication Sciences (ICT) curriculum.

Fairphone

An impressive example of the Slow Tech approach is provided by the Dutch social enterprise Fairphone, a little company established in 2010 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands [15]. Fairphone launched the initiative of developing a smart phone that is a fair phone, built with absolute transparency with respect to the materials used and their sources, the entire supply chain of providers, and the working conditions in the manufacturing plants.

This phone company represents one of the first instances of an ethical approach to the ICT industry in all of its dimensions. In terms of mineral use, the company uses materials that support local economies and which do not come from war zones. In the design phase, the company concentrates on extending the life of products and their reparability; i.e., its modularity, the ease of opening up the device and the repair of its common parts; provision of spare parts, guidelines and manuals – the whole being based on the principles of free and open software.

With regard to its production sites, Fairphone ensures fair working conditions in plants by creating a Worker Welfare Fund for improving the safety and the quality of the workplaces and to offer lifelong training of workers. In life cycle management, it maximizes the use, re-use, and recycling of electronic devices in safe conditions. Last but not least, in relation to social entrepreneurship, it focuses on CSR and transparency with users, right through to the long-term sustainability vision of ICT [16].

Table 2: An assessment of Fairphone in 2017 according to a grading mechanism

ISO 26000 principles of social responsibility Alignment with Slow Tech Fairphone Grade Commentary/Basis for Proposed Grade
Accountability Fair A The entire project is starting from “accountability” principles. It is the world’s first modular phone built with reparability in mind.
Transparency Good

Fair

A The price of the Fairphone is decomposed in all its parts (see section “Know the true cost of your phone” and section “Good Working Conditions” at fairphone.com).
Ethical behavior Fair B Fairphone wants to improve working conditions in the heart of the electronics sector, including health and safety, worker representation and working hours. This is a work-in-progress.
Respect for stakeholders Good

Clean

Fair

A The main stakeholders are considered: users, workers, and the environment.
Respect for the rule of law Fair A Recycling is strictly controlled.
Respect for international norms of behavior Clean

Fair

B The entire supply chain is exposed at global scale.
Respect for human rights Fair B The Worker Welfare Fund is very important.

This is indeed a small social enterprise (imagined as a “David”) based in Amsterdam that is challenging the industrial titans (the Goliaths) of the ICT market. Fairphone has built the first ever smart phone driven by the intention that it is designed to last, to be repairable, and to be recyclable, while lessening the impact on the environment by minimizing power consumption. Fairphone designs interesting applications to protect privacy and avoid the addiction of the need to touch screens and update news continuously.

In comparison to the seven billion smart phones sold since 2007 by Goliath [17], David has sold just a few hundred thousand Fairphones. However, it will be interesting to see if the little “crack in the dam” – to use a Dutch-based expression – will form the beginning of the new era of ICT industry, an era based on Slow Tech.

Loccioni

A good example of a small-to-medium enterprise with a strong commitment to “create and share value” with the surrounding community is that of Loccioni. It is a high-tech, family-owned company that develops solutions and integration projects, is located in central Italy, and employs about 500 engineers, computer scientists, and system designers. The founder, Enrico Loccioni, “… was born in [the] Marche region countryside in a family of farmers, [at] the crossroads of three important abbeys of Benedictine culture: St. Elena, St. Romualdo and St. Urbano. The cultural heritage of Benedictine monks and the family one linked with its land and the work in fields have determined the model and the values of the company he himself founded in 1968, at the … age of [only] 19 years old.” [18].

The mission of the company is Measuring for improving, and transforming data into values.

Several lines of business implement this mission [18]:

  • Loccioni-Humancare, a team dedicated to the development of solutions for healthcare, nutrition and wellness,
  • Loccioni-Energy, involved in the design of buildings, processes and products, and focusing years of experience and knowledge in transforming quality into sustainability, data measured into tangible values to communicate: sustainability, efficiency, renewable energy, energy storage, and energy self-sufficiency (the “leaf-community”),
  • Loccioni-Environment, dedicated to monitoring air and water, and to the design of sustainable processes,
  • Loccioni-Industry, design of advanced testing and monitoring tools for production control,
  • Loccioni-Mobility, systems of systems for testing engines for the future mobility solutions (e.g. electric cars).

This knowledge-based company is implementing the core values described in its mission statement: energy (“putting passion in the things we do”), imagination (“watching with ‘big-eyes’ and asking ourselves useful questions”), responsibility (“every action we do has consequences on the future”), and ‘tradinnovation’ (a term coined by Loccioni, “combining the value of the ancient wisdom which leads to live innovation”).

The Loccioni company has a strong commitment to community values and the environment, and can be called a ‘technology tailor’. It is a living example of how a company and its surrounding territory can co-shape each other by taking into account sustainability, fairness, and beauty [19].

Table 3: An assessment of Loccioni in 2017 according to a grading mechanism

ISO 26000 principles of social responsibility Alignment with Slow Tech Loccioni Grade Commentary/Basis for Proposed Grade
Accountability Fair A All the projects are ‘tailored’ solutions that, by definition, must be “accountable”.
Transparency Good A Solutions are co-designed with clients.
Ethical behavior Fair A One of the few Italian companies in the first position of “Great Place to Work” ranking [20].
Respect for stakeholder Good

Clean

Fair

B The main stakeholders are considered: clients, workers, the environment and the territory.
Respect for the rule of law Fair A All solutions are certified since they are exported abroad.
Respect for international norms of behavior Clean

Fair

A See above.
Respect for human rights Fair A International subsidiaries (in the USA, Germany, Japan, and China) are under the strict control of the Italian headquarters.

 

Discussion and conclusions: The Slow Tech journey

The Slow Tech journey involves the inclusion of the principles of Slow Tech and CSR in secondary and college-level curriculum. A focus on good, clean and fair approaches to the design of technology solutions, development of technology products, and manufacturing practices (including mineral sourcing and labor and disposal/reuse/recycling practices) will provide a socially and ethically responsible education to those who will innovate in the future.

A curriculum centered on teaching Slow Tech principles and relevant standards with class discussion based on corporate case studies, as exemplified in the previous three cases, is recommended as a form of action research in domains such as an introduction to global technology and business education. Thus, a community of research can be built to collaboratively address this critical issue associated with the explosive growth of ICT. Topically, the Slow Tech journey is relevant to a multitude of educational domains such as leadership, technology, business, finance, human resource management, supply chain management, and ethics. Patrignani and Whitehouse have a book titled Slow Tech and ICT: A Responsible, Sustainable and Ethical Approach, planned for publication by Palgrave Macmillan in early 2018, which will support educational initiatives [21].

As a result of undertaking case study assessments, students should be encouraged to engage in a variety of discussion questions that assist in applying critical thinking skills to the Slow Tech context of the targeted firm, industry or product. The concepts of Slow Tech and CSR reinforce the principles of business and human ethics, and can guide young people to an understanding of the available and developing standards in these areas. By educating high school and college students about these concepts, we believe decades of harmful corporate decision making can be reversed and it will now be possible for new generations to begin to make amends to society and the planet. (Failure to provide an emphasis on this kind of curriculum would permit yet another generation to blindly repeat the mistakes of the past, to the detriment of future generations.)

There is a strong need for the development of models and tools for teaching, applying and implementing Slow Tech and CSR strategies. This is an area for future research and development for academia involved in fields such as education, philosophy, technology, communications and business. Dating back to the time of philosophers such as Socrates and Plato, there has been a consistent need to align the business pursuits of humankind to basic ethical principles that make for a good, clean and fair world by creating awareness, engaging in dialogue, and educating future leaders.

References

15. Fairphone. 2017. [Online]. Available: www.fairphone.com

16. E. Raoul. Peut-on fabriquer un téléphone équitable? Le Monde Diplomatique. Mars, 2016.

17. Greenpeace. From Smart to Senseless: The Global Impact of 10 Years of Smartphones, Greenpeace, 2017.

18. Loccioni. 2017. [Online]. Available: www.loccioni.com

19. M. L. Varvelli and R. Varvelli. 2 Km di Futuro. L’impresa di seminare bellezza, 2014. Milano, Italy: IlSole24Ore.

20. Loccioni. 2015. [Online]. Available: http://www.loccioni.com/2015/02/great-place-to-work-2015/

21. N. Patrignani and D. Whitehouse, Slow Tech and ICT: A Responsible, Sustainable, and Ethical Approach, Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.

Dr. Rebecca Hammons has extensive technology industry experience in establishing and leading software quality assurance, product development lifecycle services, and project management teams.  Strengths include technical leadership, process improvement and automation, predictive analytics for software, and strategic planning.

In addition to working at several niche software firms, Dr. Hammons has worked for Ontario Systems, Apple, Raytheon, Tivoli Systems and Wang. She is a Certified Quality Manager and Certified Software Quality Engineer with the American Society for Quality (ASQ) and a Certified Scrum Master and Certified Scrum Product Owner with Scrum Alliance.

Dr. Hammons received her Ed.D. and M.A. from Ball State University and her B.A. from Michigan State University. She has taught Project Management and Software Quality courses for the Purdue School of Technology at IUPUI, the Certified Software Quality Engineer Body of Knowledge for ASQ, and numerous workshops for technology companies and BSU’s graduate program in Adult, Community and Higher Education. Dr. Hammons is currently an Associate Professor at Ball State University in the Center for Information and Communication Sciences.

Norberto Patrignani is a Senior Associate Lecturer of “Computer Ethics” at the Graduate School of Politecnico di Torino (where collaborates also with I3P, Innovative Enterprise Incubator of the Politecnico di Torino), an Associate Lecturer of “ICT & Information Society” at Catholic University of Milano, an Expert for the EU Commission – ERC (European Research Council), and a Scientific Advisor for Loccioni Group.

From 1999 to 2004, he was International Senior Research Analyst with META Group (Stamford, USA). From 1974 to 1999 he worked at Olivetti’s Research & Development (Ivrea, Italy). He graduated (summa cum laude) in Computer Science at University of Torino and in Electronics from “Montani” Institute of Technology (Fermo, Italy).

He is the Italian national representative at Technical Committee 9 (TC9) (Relationship between Computers and Society) of the IFIP, International Federation for Information Processing. He is a frequent speaker at international conferences and has published many articles in international journals and several books on the subjects of Responsible Research and Innovation and Computer Ethics.

Diane Whitehouse is a business partner in a UK-based business consultancy which concentrates on ePublic services policy. She is also the Principal eHealth Policy Consultant at the European Health Telematics Association (EHTEL). She has applied practical experience of European policy development in the domains of digital health and accessibility, and has worked in the domains of action research, civic and human rights, publishing, and academia. Her focus is on the social, organizational, and ethical aspects of ICT and, particularly, ICT for health. Diane is Vice-Chair of IFIP’s domain committee on health informatics; Chair of IFIP’s technical committee on ICT and Society; and Chair of IFIP’s working group on social accountability and computing. In 2017, she was awarded the HIMSS Europe eHealth Leadership Award. Diane has degrees in European Studies (political science) and information systems and has researched and taught at university level in organizational theory and behavior.

 

Editor: 

Dr. Tahir Hameed has been associated with SolBridge International School of Business in South Korea since 2012. He teaches courses related to information systems and technology management at the masters and bachelors levels. Prior to joining SolBridge, Dr. Hameed obtained his Ph.D. in Information Technology Management from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), and obtained his Masters in Computer Science from Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS). His research interests include the areas of information technology standards, innovation, IT policy, information systems adoption, and knowledge management. He has published extensively in prestigious journals such as Telecommunications Policy, Technological Forecasting and Social Change, World Development, and Journal of Knowledge Management. He has presented several papers at leading conferences including IEEE conference on Industrial Engineering and Engineering Management and Australasian Conference on Information Systems. Dr. Hameed’s current research focus is in the areas of health informatics, knowledge management systems, educational information technology, and technology commercialization. He can be reached at tahir@solbridge.ac.kr.