30 October 2003 | Liam O'Brien
Purchasing managers at the UK's largest shoe company, C&J Clark, have employed the services of a public-relations company specifically to handle corporate social responsibility (CSR) crises.
The Hogarth Partnership is being retained by the shoemaker to deal with potential CSR problems should they arise from the firm's global supply chain.
Hogarth will look at the company's supply chain to uncover risk areas and to develop plans of action should any become high profile.
From being a predominantly UK-based producer, Clarks has moved 90 per cent of its 47 million shoes a year operation offshore, mostly to the Far East.
Matthew Turner, purchasing manager at Clarks, said the firm had a strict supplier code of conduct, based permanent representatives at overseas factories and employed independent auditors.
However, it needed to be ready for CSR issues if they blew up, he said.
"Brand reputation is extremely important to us, and we must ensure there is no potential for damage. There are pressure groups out there - some consisting of only a few people - who can make a big issue out of something."
According to the Institute of Public Relations (IPR), moves like the one at Clarks' are becoming more common.
Joanne Milroy, partner at risk management public-relations consultancy Eloqui and spokesperson for the IPR, said: "More and more organisations operating on a global basis are aware that they need to be organised for any CSR scenario.
"An incident in a far-flung factory can damage their brand, and their reputations are at risk from pressure groups and high-profile media campaigns."