Who is to blame?


Can we really blame Nike entirely for their exploitation of overseas workers? Can we blame Shell for their exploitation of Nigerian resources? Ethically, I still firmly believe that these companies have a responsibility to the community affected by their actions. But, as stated in class last Thursday, if Nike didn’t contract with those factories, wouldn’t another company? Then we would be having this debate about that company. I am not saying that Nike’s actions are excusable. However, I think that other players in these crises are also at fault. Take for example, the government’s very significant involvement (or rather their lack of involvement). Shouldn’t the government of a third-world country be attempting to strengthen and “develop” its nation? Why then, would the Indonesian government grant Nike “sweatshops” and exemption from minimum wage? Yes, an increase of available employment in their country provided through these factories is beneficial, but not when the now employed workers will never be able to earn enough money to live comfortably, much less save for the future. Therefore, I would argue that the weak national government regulation has lead these cases to be even more horrific than had the government acted on behalf of their countries.

Tying this analysis to other cases, large corporations are not always to blame. Look at the case of BP’s latest oil spill. My Mom works for BP, and I have listened to countless people explain to me why BP is such a terrible company, ruining the lives of so many because of the oil spill that occurred in the Gulf last spring. But think about it: why was BP drilling into the ocean floor, putting millions of dollars into an operation to obtain more oil, in the first place? Maybe it is because we demand a continuous supply of oil to fuel our busy lifestyles, and to go even further we demand that the price of oil remains cheap. Sure, BP could have handled their public relations better than they did after their mistake, but we cannot blame a company for providing to our needs. Additionally, the government could have had stricter regulations on the utilization of a new drilling platform.

So I think that we cannot only blame large corporations for their work. We, the demand for goods (people using BP and Shell’s oil, others wearing Nike shoes), as well as the government, play a critical role in cases such as the ones we have been reading. Don’t these other players, have a social responsibility to the community, too? So should we not buy shoes from Nike? When another company goes in to provide less than minimum wages to overworked employees, should we not buy their product either? Maybe this is our responsibility, but unfortunately, I do not think the world will follow; as a people, we buy what is cheap.

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2 Responses to Who is to blame?

  1. tpm011 says:

    I agree that as consumers we are largely to blame, but because our actions of buying a shoe is so far removed from the worker in the sweatshop that makes the shoe we hardly ever think about how a collection of small choices can snowball into something as terrible as sweatshop labor.

  2. Nate says:

    I agree that responsibility needs to be put on the Indonesian government in the Nike case. They set the minimum wage and should stand by it. To American companies, the minimum wage for international employees is cheap enough to not want to pass by. I agree with what you said that we cannot put the blame on these companies when another company would be doing the same thing and we would want the cheapest product.

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