A new supply chain management course in the Debbie and Jerry Ivy College of Business aims to teach students the impact the supply chain can have on war, peace, and human well-being.

The course, SCM 473X, titled “War and Peace and Supply Chains,” is the brainchild of Supply Chain Management Professor Frank Montabon. “When consumers buy products, they may or may not know what was involved in the supply chain to get that product to them,” Montabon said.

Some products may have been touched by war.

The course material covers the high-profile example that occurred in Sierra Leone where a brutal civil war erupted in the 1990s. To finance the conflict, opposing forces turned to the diamond trade, which used slave labor to harvest the diamonds.

Besides war and worker abuses, Montabon’s course will also examine the drug trade, black markets and human trafficking. Additionally, the course will teach students about blockchain and its potential for bringing more transparency to supply networks and about other tools that supply chain professionals can use to evaluate their decisions.

During the class, students are also being asked to think about a lobster they may have ordered for a special dinner. Where did it come from? If it came through the lobster industry in Nicaragua, you may be surprised to learn about a potentially negative impact it had to your local restaurant.

In Nicaragua, lobstermen have to dive deep into the Caribbean waters to harvest spiny lobster. By doing so, they risk serious and even fatal injuries due to decompression mishaps. But they keep diving anyway because in their jobs are hard to come by.

“In the Nicaragua lobster industry, a lot of people are injured, and unfortunately, some have died. This class is going to trace that supply chain to see where those lobsters end up. Some of the lobsters may end up in restaurants or grocery stores in the United States,” Montabon said.

Zach Clauss, a senior in supply chain from Chicago, Illinois, is enjoying the class. He plans to join the U.S. Army as an officer after graduation and possibly enter the private sector after that. For this reason, this class will benefit him in the future. “I now realize that, when done correctly, a business’ supply chain can be a force for good, providing jobs to people in areas that are more unstable and helping to bring peace to a region. The lessons I’m leaning in this class I will carry with me the rest of my life,” he said.

The course is part of the college’s effort to incorporate entrepreneurship in more courses, he said.

“This course will discuss social entrepreneurship, how it affects supply chains, and how it affects peace either directly or through supply chain changes caused by social entrepreneurship,” he said.

Abby Peterson, a junior from Pella, Iowa, who is majoring in supply chain management, said, “I think this class will help me gain more of a global perspective on how one decision can change so many different things in a supply chain, especially in today’s society with globalization. This class has definitely given me a different perspective on business in general and the social responsibility that businesses should have,” she said.

Twenty-eight students are taking the class this semester, and Montabon said he hopes to offer the course annually. Ultimately, this class will teach students the impact poor decision-making can have on supply networks, people, and society.

“When something goes wrong in a supply chain, there’s all sorts of scrambling that goes on to try to fix the problem,” Montabon said. “Rather than trying to clean up the problem after it occurs, why not prevent the problem from happening in the first place?”