Just Kind of Do it


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Back in the 1990’s, Nike’s business strategy revolved solely around profit. Phil Night denied responsibility, procrastinated proactive changes, and brushed off ethical decisions as a public relations issue. However, after 1998, Nike made drastic changes in their oversea working conditions and apparel industry as a whole after their sales dropped. Now, were they really committed to international human rights? Did their ethical practices hold up?

Nike Kind of Does It

As you can see, Nike stayed somewhat committed to preserving human rights.  When I first started reading this article, I was not surprised by the new Malaysian scandal of Nike taking passports and cutting wages of international employees. However, I was surprised at Nike’s ability to learn from their mistakes. Instead of denying responsibility, Nike now admitted to their breach in their code of conduct with their contractors. Twenty years ago, Phil Night would have claimed it was their contractors’ duty to pay attention to ethics of their employees and Nike does not need to worry about it. Now, they are accepting responsibility right off the bat and actually meeting with not only the one, but 30 other contractors in Malaysia to discuss enforcing labor standards.

But here, Nike still only reacted. As Tim Connor, a labor-rights activist from Oxam Australia, puts it, “we are looking for a systematic change that improves conditions across the supply chain, not solutions once problems are exposed.” Despite them accepting responsibility, Nike still allowed the working conditions to get that bad. Nike was reactive instead of proactive. They turned their heads until the public got involved. They only learned from their mistakes in the sense that negative public publicity hurts their sales and denying it only makes it worse. As a result, they quickly accepted responsibility in order to escape profit loss.  Just like in the 1990’s, Nike is still largely concerned with profit, but now they know how to manage it better.

Nevertheless, Nike still has implemented more ethical concerns into their business strategy. For example, Nike successfully has adopted a VP of Corporate responsibility that’s goal is to implement corporate responsibility into Nike’s operations. One successful team she manages is Nike’s Consideration Team that looks for innovating and sustainable designs to reduce environmental wastes. This team uses a computer program that calculates the environmental costs of a shoe design. While maintaining style, Nike has effectively created Green shoes that practically generate no waste through changing little technical designs and has saved over $800,000,000 worth of materials.

Overall, I believe Nike has improved their ethical practices since the 1990’s. However, I agree with Tim Connor that being reactive is not enough. As a leader in the industry, Nike needs to set the precedent that working conditions need to improve. They need to take proactive steps to ensure their contractors are holding up to their contracts. The public shouldn’t have to raise concerns for Nike to enforce international human rights.

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9 thoughts on “Just Kind of Do it

  1. I agree with your thoughts that Nike has improved since the cases we read and discussed in class, however they should take a more proactive stance when it comes to corporate social responsibility. If Nike is capable of creating green shoes that generate no waste and save thousnads of dollars of materials then they should continue these efforts with more products. Being green is popular with consumers in todays market so why not continue this geen idea and make a whole line of green products.Nike can definitely be more socially responsible.

  2. I completely agree. This post reminded me of the notion of owning up to a lie you made vs. being caught and being sorry after. In each case the person (or in this case Nike’s buyers) find out what had happened but the difference lies when they come out, say there is a problem, and make the changes before anyone else points at their flaws.

  3. I was extremely eager. I knew i wanted to research them when I saw the prompt. It is just interesting to me that they only changed after they experienced a loss in profit. I was really eager to see their stance now. Not surprisingly, I realized that they still prioritize profit. But what really surprised me was that the media was not nearly as involved much as it was back in the 90’s. I just figured that since Nike still participates in sweat shops and becomes exposed, people would react stronger now since Nike claims they defend their employees.

    • Which makes me wonder if the media are an active force, or more passive and they amplify other actors. For example, how robust is the anti-sweatshop movement? If “no one” is pushing this issue, the media will drift away?

      Or, do Americans care less?

  4. I agree with the point that you make about how they are being somewhat responsible, but they should be more responsible. I actually make the same argument but for Apple in my post Tim vs Steve. P.S. I liked your title, it made me intrigued to read your post!

  5. The quote from Time Connor really grabbed my attention: “we are looking for a systematic change that improves conditions across the supply chain, not solutions once problems are exposed.” I could not possible agree more that the system needs to be addressed more so than problems for a particular company, especially by dealing with them with a reactive approach. I feel if more efforts and energy was spent towards Connor’s proposal rather than dealing with corporations’ problems after they arise, we would be much closer to a solution to the outsourcing and global supply chain issues.

  6. I have to agree with what you are saying, but enough is enough. This company may be now owning up to what they are doing in their shops overseas, but why are they still doing them anyway? You would think they finally would just stop, so why do they keep going? Because we still buy. They figure that although their public image takes a hit here and there, we still have some of the greatest representative in athletics supporting us, so obviously we will stiff have fans. So, when will there be that big name athlete who stands up to Nike in public? At this point, I don’t think we will ever see it.

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