Nike, American Apparel and Ethics
01 October 2013
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In terms of worldwide businesses, it’s always inspirational to see major brands and corporations making efforts to improve the ethical standing in which they do business - to do something positive as well as strive for success.
I have intentionally picked two businesses with checkered pasts.
Nike have been accused of exploiting the foreign workforce of manufacturers who make their products, while American Apparel have taken plenty of criticism, due, in part, to the numerous lawsuits filed against its CEO Dov Charney.
Nike are the most popular sports brand in the world, outselling every other brand of trainers and sportswear on the market. It’s likely you knew that, but you may not have heard about Nike’s Reuse-a-Shoe program. The program takes donated worn out athletic shoes, grinds them down to create a new material called Nike Grind, which is then used to make high-quality sports surfaces including courts, turf fields, tracks and more.
Since 1990, Nike have transformed 28 million pairs of shoes and 36,000 tons of scrap material into Nike Grind for use in more than 450,000 locations around the world.
Many American companies are guilty of hiring illegal immigrant workers, who are often cheated out of wages and overtime, having a negative effect on local communities. American Apparel support both native and immigrant workers, donating money to immigrant rights’ groups, running advertisements supporting citizenship, and designed two special lines of T-shirts as fund-raising tools.
While other U.S. clothing-makers ship their production out to sweatshops in places like Bangladesh, Vietnam, Honduras, and China, seeking the lowest wages possible, regardless of safety or health of the workers at these ‘sweatshops.’ American Apparel make everything in America, employing many migrant workers with the intention of improving their lives, rather than exploiting them, enriching the communities there workers belong to.
Workers at American Apparel can get subsidised health care, subsidised meals, free loaner bikes, free massages, free English lessons, discount bus passes, and free international calls back home and earn much higher wages than typical garment workers.
These two examples illustrate a wider point, that regardless of other factors surrounding , all businesses can make efforts to have a positive impact on the wider world. Whether if it’s by subverting the unethical, accepted norms of the garment industry like American Apparel, or by changing your ways and using sport to help developing countries like Nike, any industry, including SME finance and Mergers & Acquisitions, can have ethical morals at their core.
These examples are reflective of my larger business ethos. My current project seeks to ensure the principled buyout of companies in the UK that have existed for decades, formed by post World War Two “baby boomers”. These companies enrich their local communities, they provide jobs, security and stability to surrounding areas, all of which would be lost if a large, faceless corporation bought the business out.
My aim with my latest endeavour is to make sure societies are unchanged or improved by a transition of owners of a business, avoiding redundancies that have a massive effect on local families. I’ll explain more about how I’m trying to bring an ethical approach to business buyouts in a later post, something I have been working towards for the last three years.