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Dimensions of Purchasing Social Responsibility in Sustainable Supply Chain Organizations: Anonymity and Confidentiality

At Northcentral University, the Institutional Review Board (IRB) is tasked with ensuring the dignity, rights, and welfare of human participants in research undertaken at the University. As a doctoral student, I petitioned the IRB for permission to begin this research. The members of the IRB reviewed my study including the plans and parameters for data collection and granted approval on April 15, 2011. My application included an explanation and documentation as to how responses would be anonymous and confidential. My research is being conducted under the review and oversight of the IRB, as well as my Dissertation Committee, chaired by Dr. Mirza B. Murtaza, Ph.D.

I chose SurveyMonkey to host the Sustainable Procurement Questionnaire used in this research project. SurveyMonkey surveys can be configured to ensure anonymity by selecting a setting that does not collect IP addresses. I chose this configuration so that answers cannot be tracked back to an individual, a workstation, or an IP address.

In addition, I chose not to use the email invitation option so that email addresses would not be associated with any part of data collection. As an additional layer of confidentiality, I developed a postal letter, a postcard, and an Internet posting to extend a personal invitation to non-named individuals, addressing the invitation to “Purchasing Manager” at firms listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). These firms represent the study sample population.

The data collected in this study are confidential. All data are coded numerically such that no identifying information is associated with participant responses. In addition, the coded data are made available only to the researcher through a password-protected web portal. At the close of the survey, the data collected by SurveyMonkey will be erased when I cancel my survey account. As you move through the survey, you will find that that wording of the questions is generic in that personally or company-specific identifiable information is not requested. At any time you feel uncomfortable answering a question, you may skip it and continue.

You may have noticed that the URL of the survey contains “https://” indicating that survey responses are sent over a secure, encrypted connection. Secure Sockets Layer or “SSL” encryption is often used for banking and other sites that require transmission of secure information over the Internet. SurveyMonkey uses Verisign certificate Version 3, 128 bit encryption. A third-party firm also conducts daily audits of SurveyMonkey’s security and firewalls.

Sensitive data and information must be protected as it moves through electronic communication channels and collected for academic research. The purpose of this study is not to identify responses from particular firms, but rather to see if sustainability trends are present that distinguish buyer-supplier relationships within integrated supply chains. I appreciate your concerns about confidentiality and anonynmity as related to this survey and the resulting research conclusions.

If you are a purchasing, sourcing, or procurement manager, and your firm is publically traded, please take a few minutes to complete the “Sustainable Procurement Survey” at the link below. Thank you in advance for completing the survey and forwarding the link to your procurement colleagues, customers, and friends.


I will be happy to provide an Executive Summary at the conclusion of my study to interested parties upon request. If you have any additional questions about the survey, this study, Northcentral University, or any of the guidelines that ensure that this research is being conducted in an appropriate and scholarly manner, please do not hestitate to contact me.

Cynthia J. Wolfe, Doctoral Candidate

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