Codes of Conduct

One of the purposes of this blog it to try to help consumers make ethical purchasing decisions. By teaching others to ask questions about what they purchase, we might limit the amount of exploitation that goes in creating those products. However, finding out which companies leave the smallest ethical footprint is not an easy task. Corporations purposefully and consistently gloss over and distort not only the presentation of their goods, but also the way in which they display, or fail to display, the origins of said goods. For example, take a look at Nike’s Website.
Plastered everywhere are colorful shoes, clothing, accessories, all of the athletic products offered by Nike incorporated. Crafted with the sole purpose of increasing profits, these images try to influence the purchasing decisions of consumers. But where do these products come from? Does Nike ever hint to the conditions under which its shoes are made? I tried to answer these questions by navigating around and searching on Nike’s website. However, no matter where I looked, there seemed to be no information on how Nike obtains its items for sale. All the information on the site was related to advertising and consuming—any search inquiry lead to the most nearly matched name of a shoe. I could not locate anything that outlined Nike’s guidelines as a company, the code of conduct with which the company tries to operate.  So I tried an indirect approach: I used Google to search for Nike’s code of conduct. I found  only a two page PDF file from 2007 that, admittedly, did describe the company’s stance on issues such as Forced Labor, Child Labor, and Compensation. However, some questions still persisted in my mind. Why did I have to use a search engine to find Nike’s code of conduct–why is this code not somewhere on Nike’s main website? How many people actually see it? And finally, does Nike actually live up to the standards proposed by its own ethical code?

First, I looked to see how well Nike follows its own standards. I found an article describing recent findings on Nike. According to the article, ” … between 50 and 100 percent of Nike factories require more working hours than those permitted by the Code of Conduct. In 25 to 50 percent of factories, workers are required to work 7 days a week, and in the same percentage of factories, workers are still paid less than the local minimum wage”. Not very well it seems.

For my other questions, I again turned towards Google, this time Google trends. Because a Google search of this term seems to be the fastest way to find it, I tried to compare the search trends of Nike versus Nike code of conduct, to get a grasp of how many people take a concern over Nike’s supposed rules of conduct. Here are the results:

nike nike code of conduct

As you can see, the amount of searches for Nike code of conduct does not even compare to the number of searches for Nike. In fact, it is too small to be pictured. Obviously, the question of the ethics of Nike does not present itself very often in the minds of consumers, at least those who use Google. Try repeating this procedure–looking on company websites, then using a Google search–with other companies. Adidas, Puma, Under Armour—all seem to glance over the issue of origin and ethics on their websites.

All of this highlights an important aspect of the corporations that produce the things we wear, eat, and use daily. The very question of “who and where” in assembling the stuff that makes our society possible is concealed, hidden behind veils of flashy advertising, public figures, and humorous commercials.