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Improving Supplier Compliance Through Joint and Shared Audits with Collective Penalty

Abstract

When suppliers (i.e., contract manufacturers) fail to comply with health and safety regulations, buyers (retailers) are compelled to improve supplier compliance by conducting audits and imposing penalties. As a benchmark, we first consider the independent audit-penalty mechanism in which the buyers conduct their respective audits and impose penalties independently. We then examine the implications of two new audit-penalty mechanisms that entail a collective penalty. The first is the joint mechanism under which buyers conduct audits jointly, share the total audit cost incurred, and impose a collective penalty if the supplier fails their joint audit. The second is the shared mechanism in which each buyer conducts audits independently, shares its audit reports with the other buyers, and imposes a collective penalty if the supplier fails any one of the audits. Using a simultaneous-move game-theoretic model with two buyers and one supplier, our analysis reveals that both the joint and the shared mechanisms are beneficial in several ways. First, when the wholesale price is exogenously given, we establish the following analytical results for the joint mechanism in comparison with the independent mechanism: (a) the supplier’s compliance level is higher; (b) the supplier’s profit is lower while the buyers’ profits are higher; and (c) when the buyers’ damage cost is high, the joint audit mechanism creates supply chain value so the buyers can offer an appropriate transfer payment to make the supplier better off. Second, for the shared audit mechanism, we establish similar results but under more restrictive conditions. Finally, when the wholesale price is endogenously determined by the buyers, our numerical analysis shows that the key results continue to hold. The online appendix is available at https://doi.org/10.1287/msom.2017.0653 .

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