Reebok: Managing human rights issues "ethically"?


Ramon V. Del Rosario College of Business

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Archival Material/Manuscript

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This paper looks into the question of ethics in a global environment by assessing the efficacy of the Human Rights measures taken by Multinational Corporations (MNCs) like Reebok. Using the Moral Philosophy Model as a guide, it discusses Reebok's attempt to balance profit motives and human rights in its footwear operations in China. For its conclusion, the paper makes practical recommendations for Reebok given the current situation. Technological advances in transportation and communication have allowed Reebok to lower production costs by distributing operations to contract­manufacturers in developing nations. While Reebok and other MNCs are valued for the economic benefits they bring to these host countries, the companies have been under heavy criticism due to a perceived disregard for human rights abuses in their production facilities. Reebok is involved in many projects related to human rights. Central to their Human Rights Programme is the Reebok Human Rights Production Standards. Reebok requires that all its contracted manufacturers adhere to the code's production standards. However, opposing moral philosophies resulting from differences in culture and economic ideology challenge the implementation of Reebok's code in China. China's socialist economic ideology and eastern culture produces a utilitarian dominant moral philosophy, which seeks value for the greatest number of people over individual rights. Workers in China lack an understanding of their legal rights, or rights implicit in Reebok's code of conduct. They have few powers under the law and are compelled by economic circumstances. Reebok is also confronted by challenges. Apart from cultural differences, there is poor law enforcement of workers' rights; issues of accountability; and rising labor costs. As Reebok, and other MNC's, become more interdependent with China's growing economy, a convergence of sorts takes place, which may result in changes to the dominant moral philosophy. It remains to be seen how the influence of the various stakeholders involved will affect the outcome for human rights and labor rights in China. There are concrete measures that Reebok can take, including direct ownership of factories, punishment/reward schemes that influence behavior, or reinvestments of earnings towards improving factory efficiency.



Business Administration, Management, and Operations | International Business


Business ethics—China; Employee rights—China

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