I waited to write this post until after Ed Freeman’s lecture because I had a feeling something would inspire me that was also related to the play. I wasn’t disappointed!
Freeman said that Nike is being pressured to change the working conditions in flower fields. Why? It sounds odd, doesn’t it? Well, Nike uses dyes made from flowers to color their products. These flower fields allegedly utilize child laborers.
This phenomenon troubles me since there are many stakeholders involved in every supply chain. In this example, the supply chain begins with the owners of the flower fields and ends with the consumer that purchases the Nike product (or even further to wherever the products are discarded.) This reminded me of the portion in the Bucknell revised play that stops to feature Jobs’ interview about the Foxconn working conditions. The interviewers were harsh, questioning Apple’s practices. Jobs defended the company saying, “We’re all over this” yet the interviewer persists. Shouldn’t all the stakeholders in a supply chain be responsible for solving the problems that their processes create? Why does it seem to be the responsibility of the most visible entity?
Is this scapegoating? It’s reminiscent of Nike’s persecution over child labor in the early 90’s and Lance Armstrong’s fall from fame after doping accusations. In each of these cases, their peers were acting in the same exact manor: the majority of clothing companies, the majority of professional cyclists, and now the majority of technology companies are guilty of the same behaviors. However, the public and media come down the hardest on the largest entity. Is that fair? Does Spiderman’s “With Great Power” tagline come into effect?
I think the issue is two-fold. Firstly, all peer organizations (i.e. all technology companies) should be held to the same standards. Secondly, all other stakeholders impacted by a particular supply chain are responsible for the results of their processes (i.e. Foxconn, Apple users, U.S. Government, Chinese Government, Apple, Suppliers, Distributors.) It is not something that one piece of the supply chain can solve singlehandedly.
Clearly, these are many questions that I’m still personally grappling myself!