Exploring the Social Responsibility of Business Through the Fair Labor Association Student Committee
As Full-Time MBA students at the Ross School of Business, joining the Fair Labor Association Student Committee has provided us a unique opportunity to learn from a wide range of industry experts and connect with like-minded students on the social responsibility of business.
The Fair Labor Association is a collaborative effort of socially responsible companies, colleges and universities, and civil society organizations to provide lasting solutions to abusive labor practices in global supply chains. Its Living Wages for All program was recently named a 2021 Classy Award Winner for Social Innovation. As a longtime affiliate of the FLA, the University of Michigan has a long history of engaging with the organization to ensure that products licensed by the university are made by workers who are both treated and compensated fairly.
A unique opportunity for students
The FLA Student Committee offers an opportunity for the students of member schools to learn about social responsibility and connect with others who share similar interests. Through learning from FLA’s online educational tools, talking with industry experts and social impact leaders, and collaboratively writing for FLA Student Committee Journals, students gain a well-rounded perspective that extends beyond the classroom experience at school.
Below are our reflections from our experiences with the FLA Student Committee.
Annie Zaro, MBA/MS '23
When I returned to graduate school at Michigan Ross and the School for Environment and Sustainability, I came to develop both my leadership skills and my ability to critically evaluate supply chains through a social and environmental impact lens. Joining the FLA Student Committee provided me with a unique opportunity to develop my social responsibility knowledge and critical lens through exposure to social responsibility experts in the private and public sectors and access to its digital learning platform. The committee has significantly supplemented my learning through Michigan courses on sustainable business strategy and supply chain management.
One of the unique opportunities that comes with participating in the FLA Student Committee is gaining access to individuals who are able to share real-world stories as industry and government professionals and activists. In the fall of 2020, I had the opportunity to hear a Uyghur activist speak during a FLA University Chair Committee call. This presentation contributed to inspiring me to propose creating a business case study on how apparel brands navigate responding to the Uyghur human rights crisis, in large part because I felt it was an important topic that many students in the US were not aware of.
In addition to the inspiration for creating the case, the FLA Student Committee leader at the time, Earl Shank, also took additional time to speak with me about the crisis to ensure that I was comprehensive in my research and analysis of the crisis in my case writing. The case was published by the U-M in 2021 and is recommended to be leveraged in business, social responsibility, and supply chain courses now.
Junghoon Park, MBA/MS '22
I came to Michigan Ross and U-M in the hopes of learning more about the roles that I can play in the field of business and human rights. The FLA Student Committee offered just the right experience for my purpose. Talking to social responsibility experts not only from business but also civil society, government, and universities helped me build a comprehensive understanding of the different labor and human rights issues prevalent in global supply chains and the current efforts to address those challenges.
The Student Committee also offered a rare opportunity to connect with graduate and undergraduate students from different colleges and universities. We also worked together to publish a FLA Student Committee Journal at the end of each year that listed articles that each student wrote on the topic of social responsibility and human rights. Collaborating with the students to read their writing and provide feedback, I was able to make a deeper connection with my peers who will be working in the same field for the years to come.
The knowledge and connections I made through the FLA Student Committee helped me build a solid foundation to enrich my Ross MBA experience and to prepare for my post-MBA career. As a student representative on the U-M President’s Advisory Committee on Labor Standards and Human Rights, I draw from my discussions with the Student Committee members to help the committee to advise on the university’s policies and procedures to address labor issues in the production of U-M goods and to sponsor student research on related topics. I also conducted research at Ross on how companies can measure and report their performance on socially responsible operations.