Just Do It: Moral Principles in the Corporate World

by kashamaar on February 9, 2017 - 10:09pm

In the field of commerce, there are many ethical conflicts that take place in the corporate world. A widely controversial moral dilemma that tends to astonish many people about the sneaker industry is the working conditions in factories of large corporations like Nike. With the outsourcing of components such as manufacturing in remote factories from foreign countries, their idea of conduct was frowned upon by many consumers due to the horrendous working conditions in said factories. With an extremely low wage rate, it was no doubt a corrupt sweatshop business. However, Nike somehow managed to pull of one of the greatest image turnarounds in history. With the rejection of cultural relativism and the encouragement of utilitarianism as well as some of Kant’s principles of ethical rationalism, Nike successfully made things right to keep everyone happy.

As some cultural relativists would argue, the sweatshops represent a cultural norm where this sort of abuse is habitual and therefore tolerated. This, however, is a statement of complete absurdity as the process of the creation of these products has a major impact on consumers. The majority of these buyers did not approve of this sort of corruption, which was unfair to them as they were forced to boycott them for the good of their conscience. This brings in a question of utilitarianism. Nike had to adjust their factories’ working conditions for the greater good of society. This will to do good was bound to have a tremendous effect on consumers as well as the distressed employees over at the sweatshops.

In 1991, Nike’s first step of action in response to the complaints was to release a factory code of conduct to ensure that operations would run under their fair and revised conditions. Between 2002 and 2004, they performed 600 factory audits, including revisits to problematic factories. Following that, in 2005, they became known as the first official company to release a statement of all the factories that they contract with as well as a 108 page detailed report of the working conditions and the wages in the factories, recognizing the predominant issues. Ever since then, Nike has continued to follow through with their audits, committing to their corporate social responsibility reports.

To conclude, a moral conundrum in the corporate world will always be tough to settle with nothing but heavy solutions. In this case, becoming the first company to share the names of factories, updated working conditions and wage rates with the entire world, Nike proved that without the revelation of that information, there shouldn’t be any production at all. Using utilitarianism and ethical rationalism, Nike effectively resolved the moral dilemma they faced, satisfying all of their consumers’ demands.

 

Work Cited:

Nisen, Max. "How Nike Solved Its Sweatshop Problem." Business Insider. Business

Insider, 09 May 2013. Web. 09 Feb. 2017.

Comments

I enjoyed reading your post, and I’m glad that you decided to write about this subject. I have always found the topic about huge clothing brands having sweatshops all over Europe and Asia interesting and a big issue in our time and day.

I think that more issues can be found if viewing this through a gendered lens. Not only are sweatshops a big problem today but it is mostly a problem for women. Women make up around 90 percent of sweatshop labourers worldwide. The majority of these women are fairly young if not in their teens. Although the actual sweatshops are located mostly in Asia, women have not been working with the same benefits as men worldwide. Even the picture the you attached along with the blog post only included women working in the Nike sweatshop.

The gender wage gap might not be as pronounced in Canada and the United States when comparing to other countries and it might have decreased throughout the past 50 years. However, it is still very much present in our time.

This leads me to say that I do believe the bigger picture is that a Glass Ceiling still exists worldwide. The Glass Ceiling is an invisible barrier that prevents women (and visible minorities) from advancing the top ranks the corporate ladder despite their education and qualifications.

Here are a couple of links that discuss the issues of sweatshop workers and working conditions in which they are in: http://usas.org/2017/03/09/working-women-vs-nike/
http://www.globalexchange.org/sweatfree/saipan/womenwork

I really liked the statistics that you mentioned on Nike doing a turnaround and helping the factory worker’s through the establishment of various laws against injustice! It brings to light the injustices faced by the workers, along with the necessary solution to some of their problems. However, I believe you can further analyze this topic by researching the disparities workers face based on gender within the factories.
According to an article, 85% of Bangladesh’s factory workers are women, with Nike completely disregarding women’s reproductive labour because many women are refused maternity rights or simply fired when discovered to be pregnant. These statistics delve into the concepts of the gender wage gap, presence of a glass ceiling and mommy tracking that occurs in various job industries.
Most (Nike) factories fail “to pay the legal minimal wage”, which demonstrates the existence of a gender wage gap that is the calculation of the median male wage and the median female wage, that determines the disparity between the two. These women have to care for a family, and must support their family as either the primary or supplementary breadwinner, yet they are barely paid minimum wage. The gender wage gap demonstrates that women cannot successfully have a high income along with a family; it is one or the other.
Additionally, with most women working low-income jobs, compared to their male counterparts, they never advance further than the low level jobs within the hierarchy of their company, showing the presence of a glass ceiling. Most of the women working in the factories will never advance past their status, and will get fired for focusing on any other life goal such as having a family. So, these women are fired if they don’t do their job with dedication, but are never able to advance in the hierarchical ladder if they do put in effort, i.e. they are stuck in their position.
Finally, the factory shows the diminishing opportunities women face in the workforce after having children because they are fired immediately when pregnant, or denied their maternity rights, which defines the concept of mommy tracking. These women, no matter how devoted they are to their low income job, are fired just for wanting a family, which shows the social inequalities between genders because men are often encouraged and respected for having families, while women are shamed and fired for it.
Furthermore, there is a great amount of sexual harassment that occurs in these factories with “1 in 10 women workers are threatened with being made to undress, with 1 in 10 workers experiencing other sexual harassment”, showcasing that women are objectified for their body and the work they do holds little value.
I believe that though Nike may have proposed a few laws to better the rights of their workers, they have ignored the discrimination towards women that could have been fixed with solutions such as more flexible working hours along with maternity leaves and child care options. Maybe for a future blog you can delve into these concepts? But overall, this analysis had many interesting statistics, which I learned a lot from and enjoyed reading it!
If you would like to further explore the concepts of the gender wage gap, glass ceiling and mommy tracking you can refer to these articles:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender_pay_gap
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glass_ceiling
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mommy_track
https://leftfootforward.org/2012/03/nike-exploitation-women-workers-bang...

About the author