Nike and Global Labor Practices

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Nike and Global Labour Practices

Nike and Global Labour Practices
A case study prepared for the New Academy of Business Innovation Network for Socially Responsible Business by David F. Murphy & David Mathew

The strategic concept for Nike entering the new century is to be an archetype of the responsible 21st century global company, in the sense that we are providing a sustainable footprint everywhere, not only with environmental performance, but with people performance as well. The triple bottom line of people, planet and profit is our goal. Dusty Kidd, Vice President Corporate Responsibility, Nike Inc.

As we continue to engage in conversations and projects with NGOs around the world, one thing is certain: the better we become at outreach and communication, the more opportunity we’ll have to improve our labor practices.

January 2001


Nike and Global Labour Practices Introduction The following case study outlines Nike’s experience in developing and implementing various labour practice initiatives in its footwear and apparel factories worldwide. Initially written as a working draft by the New Academy of Business for the members of its Innovation Network for Socially Responsible Business1, the case study is based upon publicly-available material, information provided by Nike and interviews with selected Nike staff and external stakeholders. The working draft case formed the basis of a learning activity at a meeting of the Innovation Network in early 2000.2 Based upon feedback from Nike and Innovation Network members, the case study has been re-drafted. This revised case study also incorporates additional information gathered during a research visit to China and the Philippines later in 2000. The field research included visits to 3 Nike contract factories in China and 3 in the Philippines, as well as interviews with Nike staff and external stakeholders in Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Manila. The case study is not an attempt to ‘put Nike on trial’, nor were the field research and factory visits monitoring or auditing exercises. As a business school case study, its main purpose is to offer company managers and business students with insights into why and how Nike has developed policies, procedures and partnerships to improve working conditions in the factories where its products are manufactured. Although Nike has provided feedback on drafts, ultimate responsibility for the content and any inaccuracies lie with the New Academy of Business and not Nike. The Power of the Swoosh The Nike ‘swoosh’ is one of the world’s best known corporate trademarks. Numerous sponsorship deals with major athletes from Michael Jordan (basketball) to Lindsay Davenport (tennis) to Tiger Woods (golf) have helped make Nike a leading brand of sports footwear and apparel worldwide. American Sociologists Robert Goldman and Stephen Papson capture the pervasive cultural and commercial influence of Nike: We live in a cultural economy of signs and Nike’s swoosh is currently the most recognizable brand icon in that economy. The Nike swoosh is a commercial symbol that has come to stand for athletic excellence, hip authenticity, and playful selfawareness. While the logo carries the weight of currency, Nike’s ‘Just do it’ slogan has become part of the language of everyday life.3 With echoes of ‘the Artist formerly known as Prince’, Nike’s 1997 annual report notes that the “company has come to be known by a symbol — the swoosh.” The power of the swoosh has also made Nike a major target of labour, human rights and consumer groups which are campaigning globally on working conditions in the apparel and footwear industries. Nike critic Naomi Klein calls the “international anti-Nike movement – the most publicized and tenacious of the brand-based campaigns.”4 While this has tarnished Nike’s reputation in recent years, the company’s appeal as a popular culture icon remains strong. Nike has even become the subject of graffiti humour as...
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