Nike: The Sweatshop Debate
Nike is a hugely successful global industry that designs and markets shoes and apparel (Coakley & Kates, 2013). Most of Nike’s products are subcontracted and manufactured overseas in countries such as China, India, Vietnam, Indonesia and Korea. For decades, Nike has been embroiled in controversy where critics claim its products are manufactured in foreign factories with substandard working conditions and disregard to labor laws (Powell & Zwolinski, 2012). As a result, Nike has initiated numerous policy changes in an effort to silence these criticisms. While Nike has definitely made great strides in turning around its image, it continues to struggle with allegations from critics.
Nike’s Responsibility for Working Conditions
Should Nike be held responsible for working conditions in foreign factories that it does not own, but where subcontractors make products for Nike?
Nike should be held responsible for the working conditions in foreign factories where subcontractors make products the company sells. Although Nike does not actually own the foreign factories, the workers are employees of Nike and Nike is the beneficiary of the products they are making. Thus, Nike is responsible (at least in part) of the working conditions endured by those that work there.
Labor Standards of Foreign Factories
What labor standards regarding safety, working conditions, overtime, and the like should Nike hold foreign factories to; those prevailing in that country, or those prevailing in the United States?
I do not think it is feasible to ask foreign factories to adhere to the same standards regarding safety, working conditions, overtime, and the like as those of the United States. Many countries, especially third-world countries, would not be able to support the labor standards of the Western world and if forced to do so many foreign factories would be
References: Ballinger, J. (2011). How civil society can help. Harvard International Review, 33(2), 54-59. Coakley, M. & Kates, M. (2013). The ethical and economic case for sweatshop regulation. Journal of Business Ethics, 117(3), 553-558. Doorey, D. (2011). The transparent supply chain: From resistance to implementation at Nike and Levi-Strauss. Journal of Business Ethics, 103(4), 587-603. Locke, R. M. (2013). Can global brands create just supply chains? Boston Review, 38(3), 12-29. Powell, B., & Zwolinski, M. (2012). The ethical and economic case against sweatshop labor: A critical assessment. Journal of Business Ethics, 107(4), 449-472.