Feeling a little sad for Nike…


Perhaps it is because I was raised visiting my cousin at Nike’s World Headquarters every summer, roaming the beautiful 175 acre campus, or playing sports in the world class equipment, but I have always had a place in my heart for Nike.  After reading the Nike case study, I was pretty upset that the company i held so highly was in fact participating in inhumane practices.  They took a stakeholder approach and tried to maximize profits by outsourcing all manufacturing abroad.  Their actions contradicted those of a  deontological approach or Donaldson’s rights-based theory that every person is entitled to certain rights, no matter their international location.  With all of this in mind, a part of me feels a little badly for Nike…after all, they were doing their duty to the stakeholders by making large profits and were not directly responsible for the poor conditions in their suppliers’ factories.

Okay, now that labor scandal was in the past and the most important thing is how they have improved since the incidents in the mid 1990s.  In a 2008 MSNBC article, Nike admitted that the conditions of the factories have not improved to the extent promised by the former CEO, Phil Knight.  New laws have been put in place and monitoring programs have arose, but the outcome is that many of the managers of supply factories are still employing underage workers with fake identification and excessive working hours.  I know that this can be played from both angles that Nike is being ignorant and knew that these events were still going on, but perhaps they are having trouble actually enforcing these in the factories.  If the managers of the supply factories are not willing to cooperate fully with the regulations that Nike has put in line, then to how much fault it Nike at? The company also took the time and risk to publish this article and let the world be reminded of the poor working conditions that were used to create their products ten years ago and I think this is a very respectable task.

I am sad because no matter what Nike does, they will still receive the negative criticism of activists such as Jeff Ballinger and others looking to dig up an old story.  When searching for blogs related to this topic, I stumbled upon a blog that was fully addressed to just bashing Nike! It was written by a former Nike employee and literally every post was pointing out the flaws in the company.  Perhaps I am not looking at the complete situation or letting my memories get in the way, but I do feel sorry for Nike and think that some of these criticisms should just take it down a few notches.

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This entry was posted in Business, Cases (Real World), Equality, Ethics and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Feeling a little sad for Nike…

  1. Jordi says:

    Edit: playing sports in the world class equipment, “in”?

  2. Jordi says:

    I am fascinated by the former employee blog. Wish I had more time to look at it. I noticed one post complained about the amount of money wasted by admin assistants; hardly what you would you call leftist rabble-rousing. “Down with Nike! They should be more prudential and efficient!”

    Don’t beat yourself up too much; i am sure visiting the “campus” in Beaverton was super fun as a kid.

    From a branding perspective, did Nike set itself up for the dogged criticism by asking so many people to be like Mike (and hence, like Nike)? They sold more than a shoe, right? They sold an emotional experience, and when all the awesomeness of the best sport can bring out was paired with a kind of naked cost-cutting capitalism, the strength of the brand identity became the very vector of a stinging criticism.

  3. mnickels says:

    I never really thought of the situation through the point of view you just described, as the managers not being cooperative and employees having fake identification. If this were, or still is, the case, then I can see how Nike can not be held fully responsible for all of the factories workers. I still think they are partially responsible for the conditions of the factories and making their best effort in making sure employees have a fair wage and are of age to work. There are definitely two sides to a story though,and maybe even more in this case since so many people have opinions on the matter and maybe have information on it that others don’t know. I think it is great that Nike did admit that the conditions of the factories have not improved to the extent previously promised by Phil Knight. At least they admit they do have some faults and they aren’t trying to deny everything.

  4. Slade says:

    While I am a fan of Nike myself, I also understand both sides of the story. Yes, it was irresponsible of Nike to allow this to continue under the knowledge that work conditions were not changing in all the ways it promised, but it is difficult to monitor everything when the factory managers continue to run things less favorably for their workers. I also never thought about the point Jordi made in his comment. Nike did market an emotional experience and its consumers were disappointed to discover these issues, but at least they admitted to their faults and are trying to work at it.

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