Nike's Response to Human Rights Abuse Claims in China

by: Andrew Hoffman

Publication Date: May 10, 2021
Length: 20 pages
Product ID#: 5-843-548

Core Disciplines: Ethics, International Business, Leadership/Organizational Behavior, Operations Management/Supply Chain, Social Impact, Strategy & Management, Sustainability

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Teaching Note

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In 2019, Nike and other brands were accused by the media, human rights advocates and organizations, and members of the U.S. government of potentially having supply chain ties to human rights violations of the Uyghur people in Xinjiang, China. Nike had spent decades investing in improving its supply chain reputation, building trusted partner relationships with suppliers, and taking bold steps to publicly act as a leader in corporate responsibility. But now the company was again being forced to respond to an accusation of failing to uphold human rights due to alleged forced labor.

Were any of Nike’s long-standing manufacturing partners willingly or unwillingly employing slave labor or using raw materials obtained through slave labor? Nike had oversight of its suppliers to adhere to the International Labor Organization standards, but how much influence did the company have over the Chinese government to follow them? If the accusations were true, should Nike leave China as a supply base and market?


Teaching Objectives

After reading and discussing the material, students should:

  • Recognize the entwined nature of global supply chains in geopolitical crises and conflicts.
  • Evaluate the global scale of retail supply chains.
  • Assess the history of labor exploitation and human rights challenges in the apparel industry.
  • Identify the potential influence of government policies and interventions on business supply chain strategies.
  • Formulate and weigh the impact of possible options for Nike’s response to accusations of human rights and labor exploitation in its supply chain.