Nike and International Labor Standards
Nike is an organization which has experienced a distinctly mixed set of outcomes with regard to human resources. Its growth in the area of footwear marketing has been fairly incomparable. Indeed, Nike’s visibility and name brand recognition are a massive global force. The social recognition of the Nike ‘swoop’ emblem and the automatic association made between the brand name and such incontrovertibly beloved sports stars as Michael Jordan have assured Nike a degree of cultural popularity in perpetuity that extends from its very positive public image. The conception of Nikes as effective sportswear, fashionable footwear and cultrally appealing image presentation all tend to resonate with potential buyers. This has stimulated a growth which is largely centered on the achievements made in the area of marketing. Advertisement and public association are likely the greatest distinguishing factors between Nike and its competitors or other comparable brand names.
That stated, Nike does have a problem both of image and motivation which relates to well-known discourse on its abuse of labor rights in the global community. This has had the impact of driving down motivation, productivity and the quality or the product, let alone Nike’s public image. In response, the company has spent the last decade going to highly visible lengths to return itself to the good graces of the public and its core production personnel.
As a result, the company has sought to emphasize “examples of effective human resource policies used at Nike IHM Inc.” (Brady, 1) Most particularly, a code of management conduct has been enforced which is designed to improve the standing and value of the everyday employee. Management is trained to institute safe, healthy and fair working conditions that might both improve motivation and help the company align with global human rights standards.
We do find, however, that the ability to improve personnel conditions and instigate a heightened motivation are both difficult to attain given some of the failed approaches taken to internal oversight. For instance, an ‘independent audit’ of Nike factories, conducted by a prominent human rights activist, Andrew Young, of Goodworks International, had serious deficiencies because Young was paid by Nike, to conduct a series of management conduct tours utilizing interpreters which were also hired by Nike. In his report Young concluded that Nike was doing a good job in implementing its codes of conduct, but that it could do better. But his report did not address the deficiencies and neglected the subject of widespread exposure of shoe workers to glue solvents and overtime work, which exceed the limits imposed by law and by Nike’s code. (Lu, 1)
As the CEO of Nike, I would favor an adoption of membership with Fair Labor Associations, which would be designed to help Nike directly oversee the equity and labor standards displayed in its factories. As the force of greater economic influence that its contracted factories and facilities, it is Nike which bears the influence to help improve worker rights and conditions. As the President of a progressive University such as the Oregon’s, I would take an interest in organizing students toward the exposure to the American public of Nike’s participation in the abuses of human rights.
We can see in this regard then, that even as Nike continues to experience growth and mark important achievements in this area and in the area of marketing, the laboers and personnel who make this possible still continue to experience neglect and even abuse. The motivational issues which we have identified at Nike are serious and have implications beyond productivity. Indeed, for Nike, improving its motivation issues is directly akin to accommodating improvement in global human and labor rights standards. As a leader in its field, Nike should also be a leader in stimulating these improvements.
Brady, K.T. (2003). Human resource specialists weight in ideas at seminar. St. Charles County Business Record.
Lu, S.P., ‘Corporate Codes of Conduct and the FTC: Advancing Human Rights through Deceptive Advertising Law’ (2000) 28 Col. J. of Transn’l L. 603