Module 2 – Case
CULTURE, TIME, AND BUSINESS ETHICS
This Case Assignment for this module looks at an update of Nike and the ongoing issue of sweatshops. The case is found in:
Byars, S., & Stanberry, K. (2018). Impact of culture and time on business ethics, chapter 5. Business Ethics. Rice University, OpenStax. Retrieved from http://cnx.org/content/col25722/1.3 p. 138. CC BY 4.0 license
How can the purchase of a pair of sneakers be seen as an ethical act? Throughout the 1990s, the U.S. shoe and sportswear manufacturer Nike was widely criticized for subcontracting with factories in China and Southeast Asia that were little more than sweatshops with deplorable working conditions. After responding to the criticisms and demanding that its suppliers improve their workplaces, the company began to redeem itself in the eyes of many and has become a model of business ethics and sustainability. However, questions remain about the relationship between business and government.
For instance, should a company advocate for labor rights, a minimum wage, and unionization in developing countries where it has operations? What responsibility does it have for the welfare of a contractor’s workers in a culture with differing customs? What right does any Western company have to insist that its foreign contractors observe in their factories the protocols required in the West? What, for example, is sacred about an eight-hour workday? When Nike demands that foreign manufacturers observe Western laws and customs about the workplace, arguably this is capitalist imperialism. Not only that, but Western firms will be charged more for concessions regarding factory conditions. Perhaps this is as it should be, but Western consumers must then be prepared to pay more for material goods than in the past.
Some argue that demanding that companies accept these responsibilities imposes cultural standards on another culture through economic pressure. Others insist there should be universal standards of humane employee treatment, and that they must be met regardless of where they come from or who imposes them. But should the market dictate such standards, or should the government?
The rise of artificial intelligence and robotics will complicate this challenge because, in time, they may make offshoring the manufacture and distribution of goods unnecessary. It may be cheaper and more efficient to bring these operations back to developed countries and use robotic systems instead. What would that mean for local cultures and their economies? In Nike’s case, automation is already a concern, particularly as competition from its German rival, Adidas, heats up again.
For the Case 2 assignment review:
TeamSweat. (2011, July 28). Nike sweatshops: Behind the swoosh [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1097&v=M5uYCWVfuPQ.
Bain, M. (2017). Nike is facing a new wave of anti-sweatshop protests. Quartz. Retrieved from https://qz.com/1042298/nike-is-facing-a-new-wave-of-anti-sweatshop-protests/
Mintz, S. (May 2012). Social responsibilities of a U.S. company doing business abroad. Retrieved from https://www.ethicssage.com/2012/05/social-responsibilities-of-a-us-company-doing-business-abroad.html
St. Clair, J. (September 2018). Nike’s bad air. Retrieved from https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/09/10/105150/
Address the following in a 3- to 4-page academic essay that demonstrates your critical-thinking skills. It should be written for an audience of employers who are looking to expand their business overseas where labor costs are less than in the U.S. As an ethics expert, you have been asked to address the following:
Should a company advocate for labor rights, a minimum wage, and unionization in developing countries where it has operations?
What right does a Western company have to insist that its foreign contractors observe in their factories the protocols required in the West?
What ethical responsibilities do individual consumers have when dealing with companies that rely on overseas labor?
Should businesses adopt universal workplace standards about working conditions and employee protections? Why or why not?
This assignment should include third-person voice. Write a well-integrated paper with a strong introduction and conclusion, and use a few section headings (e.g., do not simply follow a Q & A format).
Bring in your Module background information. Whether or not you bring in sources outside of this Module is up to you. For all sources used, provide in-text citations and a references list.
General References Useful for Preparing Graduate-Level Papers:
For a list of general reference sources related to locating library sources, using APA formatting, applying critical-thinking skills, and so forth, see General References Useful for Preparing Graduate-Level Papers. It is not required that you read these sources page-by-page, but rather you use them as guides.
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