Over the years we have heard about market giants practicing unethical business operations. Many accusations have regarded labor exploitation, data selling, and other questionable activities. Some accusations have been proven guilty, and some are still in the spotlight. Amongst many brands that have been in the news for their unethical activities, the three that have created some of the biggest headlines, and their cases, are described below.
Nike has been criticized for using Asian sweatshops as a source of labor. The reports of physical and verbal abuse in Nike’s sweatshops astonished the general public. In addition, it was discovered that up to 50% of the factories imposed restrictions on their employees’ restroom and water usage. Employees were pushed to work more than sixty hours per week and had to face a pay cut if they refused.
This is not the only unethical business practice that has been highlighted for Nike. Because it lacks a clear approach to the use of pesticides and herbicides, Nike obtained Ethical Consumer’s lowest rating for their cotton sourcing policy. Despite covering only 2.78% of worldwide arable land, cotton contributes for 12.34% of all insecticide sales and 3.94% of herbicide sales.
Nike did employ some organic cotton and Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) certified cotton, but not entirely. Companies who care about the environment should make a clear commitment to using 100% sustainable cotton.
Foxconn, a Taiwanese electronic contract manufacturer, has been a manufacturer for Apple and Amazon. The company’s working conditions were deplorable and resulted in loss of human lives. Employees at Foxconn complained that supervisors pressured workers to overwork, toilet breaks were not allowed throughout the shift, and employees were required to attend unpaid meetings. Day and night shifts caused physical and mental problems, and workers were only given one day off every two weeks. Several workers committed suicide, and Foxconn handled the sad events in a highly suspicious manner. After hardly reacting to the incidents, Foxconn spokesperson, Liu Kun, dismissed the theory that the suicides were the result of poor working conditions.
Both Apple and Amazon confirmed the claims and tried to mitigate the problems faced by the workers in the Foxconn factories.
The huge tech giant has captured a lot of attention in the past several years. Facebook is accused of selling data to many other tech companies for the betterment of the business. In 2013, Facebook had fixed the flaw and notified anybody whose information may have been compromised. A flaw exposed the email addresses and phone numbers of 6 million Facebook users to anyone who knew at least one piece of their contact information or had a relationship to them. While the company assured that it was not their fault, there are still speculations that they are to blame.
Similarly, in March 2018, it was revealed that Facebook knew about massive data theft and did nothing. When Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO and co-founder, spoke out about the data harvesting claims on his Facebook page, he avoided using the word “sorry,” but admitted to feeling guilty for Facebook’s failure to protect user privacy.
These are just a few of the many cases out there against large, well-known brands. Are there any other brands you can think of that have faced scrutiny over their unethical practices?