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Reebok - Managing Human Rights Issues 'Ethically?'
In January 2002, China Labor Watch2 published a report on working conditions in six factories in China These factories manufactured footwear products for the US-based Reebok International Limited (Reebok), one of the leading footwear and apparel companies in the world. The report highlighted the poor working conditions in these factories. A similar report had been published in 1997 by two Hong Kong based non-profit organizations, which had accused Reebok's sub-contractors3 of violating some of the provisions of Chinese labor laws in footwear factories in China. With over a hundred years of operations in the footwear industry, a large workforce (estimated to be over 75,000 in 2002), and operations in over 170 countries across the world, Reebok's dominance in the global footwear industry was unquestionable However, with the focus of the international community drifting to human rights issues in Chinese footwear and apparel factories, Reebok joined the ranks of those companies that were accused of not paying sufficient attention to human rights issues. Reebok had taken several measures to prevent human rights violations in its Asian footwear manufacturing operations (Refer Exhibit I). It had established an exclusive human rights department (HRD) in 1998 to address human rights issues in its operations across the globe, and it had also instituted a Code of Conduct, also known as Reebok's Human Rights Production standards (Refer Exhibit II), to regulate working conditions in the factories of its sub-contractors. However, in spite of the measures taken by the company, it had to face several allegations regarding the violation of labor laws in its Chinese operations. Analysts felt that the efforts made by the company were not adequate, and that the company needed to be more committed to the protection of human rights to enhance its image as a socially responsible company Background Note

In 1885, Joseph William Foster...
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