NIKE: SWEATSHOPS AND ADVERSITISNG’ Nike’s use of sweatshops and its attempts to sell its products by advertising using doctored facts are reprehensible. INTRODUCTION Nike has been in the news for a long time for the way in which it manufactures and sells its products in patently unethical terms. This paper examines the issue of ethical behavior and norms that can be followed by Nike as far as its efforts to present a clean image of itself. It is my opinion that Nike is not doing enough in this regard and as I argue subsequently, the company and its structure do not seem to be having much of an impact as far as following ethical norms are concerned. ETHICAL ISSUE The issue being discussed here is that of ethically responsible business practices employed by Nike.
Nike has always been in the news for its reliance on so-called “Sweatshops” employing cheap labor and thus helping the company cut costs and undercut its competitors. The fact that the sweatshops were in third world countries where the enforcement of rules and regulations related to the working conditions is often lax has added to the urgency of the issue. The article that we located on the internet talks about these business practices and how Nike is responding to criticism about its alleged unethical practices.
The article lists several instances of violations of the code of conduct that the company has ostensibly put in place and goes on to highlight the fact that nothing seems to have changed vis-à-vis the practices employed by Nike. The most public issue as far as Nike is concerned is the use of sweatshop labor in its foreign manufacturing locations.
The worrying aspect is that the sweatshops employ women in conditions that can be seen as misogynistic and the products are sold in the US that has an atmosphere of gender equality professed by the mainstream. This article shows how Nike subverts the information about its exploitative practices of women from reaching its targeted customers in the US. For instance, the article states that “Nike has its own political and media fallout 'war room. ' Nike hires professional PR spin control people. The first Corporate Social Responsibility Chief for Nike came out of the press office of the White House (Papa Bush); the current chief used to work for the BBC.
Nike's priority is press manipulation first & foremost. You won't see anything on the "public policy side" of Nike (actually making changes) until this strategy becomes untenable in the public sphere” (NMSU, 2008). Thus, the contention of the article is that far from improving the working conditions of the labor employed in the sweatshops, Nike is actually promoting practices that are unethical. As a solution, the article highlights one instance where “$20 million a year in advertising to present a story of Corporate Social Responsibility could go a long way to fixing the real problems of inadequate wages and continuing egregious levels of forced overtime.
Within a decade, the savings in ads would pay for changes” (NMSU, 2008) There has been much speculation about the intentions of the company in making real changes as far as using cheap labor is concerned. The company’s slogan Just Do it has been used to exhort the company to doing something positive instead of just relying on advertising.
As a leading business journal puts it, “The problem? Wall Street analysts, industry rivals, and former Nike executives say the company is in serious need of fresh blood and new ideas. They believe Nike's insular mind-set is a major reason for its current troubles. That inward focus has driven off new talent the company recruited to help get it out of its rut, caused it to miss major shifts in consumer tastes, and resulted in botched or foregone acquisitions that could have boosted its prospects” (Business Week, 2001). The quote above illustrates the fact that the company’s structure and current management do not have a mindset or an appetite to bring in fresh ideas on how to shore up the sagging image of the company and focus on putting its heart where its mouth is.
The consumers have to take a share of the blame as “For example, if a consumer buys sneakers or garments made in sweatshops then they are complicit in the global sweatshop supply chain that extends from the sewing machines of a sweatshop in the Third World to the retail counter of a Footlocker, Nike Town, or Wal-Mart” (NMSU, 2008). The point here is that the onus is on both the company as well as the consumer in making the right choices about what and where to produce (Nike) and what to buy (the Consumer).
Unless, there is a concerted action by the company to address the issue, thousands of poor people, especially women, in the third world countries would be left providing their labor at dirt cheap rates to a market that does not seem to care. In conclusion, my opinion is that instead of blaming externalities like absence of regulations and lack of enforcement, the Multinational corporations like Nike have to take the lead and ensure that they set an example by providing better facilities for the workers.
Further, the consumers have to demand accountability from the company towards its business practices and not succumb to hype and advertising. Sources Academics Studying Nike and Athletic and Campus Apparel Industry. NMSU. edu. Retrieved Mar 04, 2009 from: http: //business. nmsu. edu/~dboje/nike/nikemain1.html Are Sweatshops Misogynistic Revenge. NMSU. edu. Retrieved Mar 04, 2009 from: http: //business. nmsu. edu/~dboje/nike/sweatshops_overview. htm Nike: Just Do Something.
Business Week Website. Retrieved Mar 04, 2009 from: http: //www. businessweek. com/magazine/content/01_27/b3739181.htm