Hitting the Wall: Nike & international labor practices
How well and how responsibly do you think she has handled these issues to date? What advice would you give her about how she should now proceed? What principles should guide the company’s policies and practices? What opportunities, constraints, and risks does the firm face? What are the scope and limits of its social responsibilities?
There are two aspects to look at how Nike has acted:
1) The intension with which it has acted: any corporate’s acts are a manifestation of the values of individuals responsible for making decisions. In my view the most relevant reading that applies to Nike is Kant’s philosophy of acting in good will to others and out of moral duty. Kant believes people should respect the rights and dignity of others. However, by having a supplier selection criterion, which focuses on lowest cost and does not include any information on how the goods are manufactured, by who, where they come from, and how the supplier manages such a low cost, Nike has committed a serious oversight of its duties and moral responsibilities. In the process it has acted in sheer self-interest and has ignored the workers’ rights and dignity. It becomes even more important in Nike’s case because it commands a really high bargaining power and could have easily got any information it wanted.
Even though, Nike has done a commendable job at course correcting in response to the public criticism - by employing outside firms to monitor compliance and improving internal work conditions for employees and sourcing organic materials – it is a reactionary act, which was perhaps necessary to save its tarnished image and restore lost consumers’ faith in the company as a responsible corporate citizen. It wasn’t done out of good will.
Another relevant reading here is the Ring of Gyges by Plato. By saying that it does not set policies at the suppliers’ factories and that it’s their business to run, Nike has tried...
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