Let me make one thing clear. This blog is not political. I have not become a member of a certain political party, just as I’m not either for or against nationalistic or protectionist industrial policies. On the contrary, I want to look at the choice between a Danish or a foreign outsourcing partner from a social responsibility perspective – what I call responsible sourcing.
You can buy sourcing services all over the world. It is especially suitable within IT development as the product is digital. Distances are irrelevant – differences in time zones can sometimes be an advantage. Programming language and processes are often so standardized that there may be a greater mental distance between the developers on different platforms, than between developers of different nationalities (and vice versa).

Beware of the rapid ticks

Because we seem so alike and easily comparable on a number of parameters, it is my claim that there may be a risk of the buyer of the IT sourcing services ticks of the list of requirements too quickly. Maybe so quickly that you disregard one crucial criteria: Did you examine your future partner thoroughly, so you are certain that the partner has the same level of social responsibility, which you and your business have?

Social responsibility is determined by standards

Social responsibility is not only about glaring and visible examples of child labor in productions or IT developers working under miserable working conditions in sweatshops. Social responsibility is also about standards in relation to compliance – standards that are perceived very differently between nations due to culture.
Can you imagine giving your business partner money under the table? Such an action is very uncommon to Danes, but it is the standard in other countries. Is it okay to steal – sorry, reuse! – IP rights, which belong to you? Not in Denmark, but in other places – reuse of code is not a problem. Many firms outsource to save costs on salaries, but how cheap should you buy? In Denmark, our view on minimum wage is almost a collective and moral matter – in other places – salary is an individual matter, which is determined by supply and demand.
I’m not saying that foreign sourcing firms are unscrupulous robbers who cheat and cheat. I’m saying that the standards for god CSR and standards for being compliant differs from nation to nation. Therefore, Danes need to be attentive when buying sourcing services, as we may have a blind spot.

Make demands for compliance and social responsibility

When you buy sourcing services from a Danish partner, the parties will most likely agree on the standards for good sourcing, and the requirements for compliance. If you buy sourcing services from a foreign partner, you need to be aware of the blind spot. Remember to make your requirements for compliance clear, both to your partner and to their subcontractors and partners, and keep controlling that your requirements are met and respected. The examples above are just a few of the factors that supports a tendency to be reluctant towards sourcing. As an industry, we should work actively to ensure that things are controlled – that we think of CSR and responsibility in everything we do – regardless of the sourcing being bought in Denmark or abroad. I am not familiar with such problems in the Danish sourcing industry. But now and then – articles show that a number of the above mentioned challenges do exist. We must be aware that we are not – conscious or unconscious – help foster such challenges.

Carsten Hansen
About Carsten Hansen

CEO, Conscensia, cha@conscensia.com