Corporate globalization and human rights abuses in the sweatshops of pakistan, indonesia and vietnam

Corporate Globalization and Human Rights Abuses in the Sweatshops of Pakistan, Indonesia and Vietnam

(The Context of Children Rights, Rights of Citizenry, Gender Equality and Labour Rights)

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Martin Luther King.

“If we cannot make globalization work for all; in the end it will work for none”

Kofi Annan.

Amjad Nazeer[1]


Borrowing its name from an ancient goddess of victory in war, Nike is now the official brand-name of the largest sports and apparel corporation in the world. ‘Blue Ribbon Sports’ was its genesis that later on transformed herself into Nike in the beginning of 1970s. Symbolized by the sign of ‘swoosh’ Nike is now a name synonymous with the world of sports. In his search for light, sportive yet robust athletic shoes, Phillip Knight, the founder, CEO and chairman of Nike picked up the idea from a Japanese shoe manufacturer Onitsuka while working in partnership with the Oregon University coach Bill Bowerman in the sprouting years of 1960s. Starting with as minor a distributor of shoes as from the back of his car, Nike’s success is skyrocketing. Its sale moved from $10 million to $270 million in 1970s. ‘A fitness and flying revolution for feet’ what the American athletes were looking for, is the secret of Knight’s Nik’s popularity. Within two decades Nike emerged as an athletic shoe juggernaut in 1980s and 1990s.

Come the age of free market, sprawling mantra of media, advertisement and transnational investment in the 1990s the Greek goddess ‘symbolized by swoosh’ became ubiquitous trespassing the ring of sports. May it be the city centre of Northern metropolis or the supermarkets of Southern towns; Nike’s sign is conspicuously present. No surprise that its’ annual return shot up to the phenomenal amount of $12 billion in 2000s and exceeding $22 billion late 2008/9. Nike’s CEO Phil Knight is the 5th richest man of America, worth $5 billion[2]. Headquartered in Oregon USA, Nike is still a top sportswear with its attractive jingles, ‘run on air,’ ‘just do it,’ and ‘running’. Star sportsmen like Michael Jones and Tiger Woods are paid as high as $8-10 million dollars just to wear a Nike swoosh. Bear in mind, the amount exceeds the salary of 700,000 workers for a month in a Nike factory in Indonesia, Pakistan or Vietnam. Suppose Mr. Knight gives up his one year’s profit the salary of all Nike workers could be doubled. Thanks to globalization, free trade zones and cheap labour supply in third world countries[3].

Lead by USA and Britain in 1980s neo-liberal approach of economic development began to dominate the national and international landscape of political priorities. Cutting down the role of the state, free flow of capital, profit maximization and private provision of employment was adopted as the driving force behind economic development. End of cold war in 1989 unleashed new opportunities and territories for global investors. Developing countries began to look for foreign investment for their national growth employment generation. Tariffs were slashed; free trade zones set up, taxes toppled over and labour laws and environmental concerns were only a remote consideration in their investment negotiations. Multinational and Trans-national Corporations i.e. MNCs and TNCs materialized the opportunities and rapidly transplanted their production-units and supply-chains in the poor countries where labour supply was abundant and material cheap. So much so around 60,000 TNCs are now operating across the globe with 800,000 supply-chains all over the world[4].

The Case Description:

Following the suit, Nike’s 900 supply factories are situated in 50 countries, all poor and underdeveloped. In order to have a focused discussion and better analysis, I will confine my reference to Indonesia, Vietnam and Pakistan only. Given the horrible conditions of work, ridiculously low wages and exploitation of child-labour Nike’s factories were critically renamed as sweatshops. The issue came to fore when USA’s ‘Life Magazine’ published the story of a 12 years old Tariq in 1996. Stitching diligently and immersed in the pile of Nike footballs, as was shown in the picture, the boy worked for a Nike factory in Pakistan for 12 to 14 hours a day. It was the first story ever that unmasked an ugly face of ‘the goddess’ to American public. Several articles, news-stories and documentaries followed, unfolding the dreadful reality of globalized production and supply.

75 to 80% of Nike labour comprises on 10-14 years boys and mostly girls. Girls usually outnumber boys save on the supervisory positions. Most of the girls are struck if they get married, otherwise fired at the age of 35 to replace with a young and energetic lot. Unionization is strictly prohibited. Normal working hours run from 12-16 hours and overtime is a must. The day is interspersed with one hour lunch-break; toilet use is permitted twice a day and water intake is rationed. Young workers keep in-hailing machine fumes, toxic glue and lather and cloth wool. 77% of them get lung cancer or acquire swear respiratory diseases[5] and turnover is high.

According to internal pricing and production documents[6] each worker should produce one shirt every 6.6 minutes and against each shirt or a pair of shoe which is sold from $150-250 a worker is paid 30-40 cents around 310th to 460th part of its retail price. On average every worker sews one pocket every 17 seconds, means 3338 pockets in a day[7]. Though occasionally, if the poor workers demand higher remunerations they are either beaten up by the supervisors or by the local police. Verbal abuse is a norm to speed up the work. In a typical Vietnamese factory only 1 doctor is available to 6000 workers and only for 2 hours a day. Young workers keep collapsing due to unbearable heat, toxic air and poor nutrition. In April 1997, 10000 out of 13000 workers went on strike demanding a pay raise. One worker was locked-up in a factory room for the whole week and was interrogated by the military for organizing labour[8].

Box 1.Once Indonesian Noble peace prize winner Jose Ramos-Horta said that ‘Nike should be treated as enemy, in the same manner as we view army and the government as the perpetrator of human rights abuses.’ What is the difference between the behaviour of Nike and Japanese imperial army in WW II. Yes! Nike has created 115000 jobs in Indonesia but only at subsistent wages which hardly contributes towards sustainable economic development’. Source, Ibid.

Nike prefers hiring young girls in its apparel factories as girls in Indonesia, Vietnam and Pakistan are normally obedient and docile due to cultural orientation. What else Nike is doing, if not contributing towards the feminization of poverty. A gender neutrality assumption of globalization is proves false[9] on visiting any of the Nike’s supply factories.

Box 2. The famous American basketball player Micheal Jordan, sponsored by millions of dollars to wear Nike outfits, once happened to see other side of Nike in China and Indonesia where 12-14 years old girls were forced to work for 12-14 hours a day. He was moved so much that he gave all 26 million USD that he made that year for the sweatshops welfare in China and Indonesia[10].

In Vietnam sweatshops, if a worker fails to produce her monthly quota, she is struck with a punishment of 15 to 20 % deduction from her salary. Beating, harassment and sexual abuse is not uncommon. The factory owners are brutal and wield police force and local mafias to harass, beat up and at times kill the workers who demand a higher remuneration or try to unionize. An atmosphere of fear noticeably features workers’ behaviour. Misconduct and manhandling of one in front of other workers serves as an instrument to set example for others to remain in limits[11]. In 2008, around 20,000 Nike workers organized a strike in Vietnam against the poor wages and awful working conditions[12], but in vain.

Children Rights, Women Rights and Labour Rights in the Context of Globalization:

Although experts and scholars disagree on the chronology, causes and consequences of globalization but in the present context, I will emphasise transnational investment, production and supply aspect of globalization. According to Frederic Jameson, ‘Globalization reflects the sense of an immense enlargement of world communication, as well as of the horizon of the world market, both of which seem far more tangible and immediate than in early stages of modernity’. David Held defines ‘globalization’ as ‘a process which embodies a transformation in the spatial organization of social relations and (economic) transactions – assessed in their terms of extensity, intensity, velocity and impact-generating transcontinental or inter-regional flows and networks of activity, interaction and the exercise of power’.[13]

In reference to TNC’s practices in their supply-units we find them guilty of violating all international human rights principles stated in various conventions. The Article 25 (1) states that ‘everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well being of (her)self and of her family.’ Similarly the right to an ‘adequate standard of living’ also makes a conspicuous appearance in Article 11 of IC-ESCR stating that, ‘the state parties recognize the right of every one to an adequate standard of living for (her)self and her family’. The Convention on the Right of the Child also recognizes ‘the right of every child to a standard of living adequate to the child’s physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development’ under Article 27. Work related rights and decent standard of living is also recognized in all other regional conventions as well[14]. Slavery and slave-like practices are prohibited both in customary and the treaty law. Slavery is prohibited together with the slave trade, servitude and forced or compulsory labour in the Article 4, 5 and 6 of the American and other regional Conventions. Article 1(1) of Slavery Convention defines slavery as ‘status or condition of a person over whom any or all forms of powers attached to the right of ownership are exercised’. The condition implies violation of the right of every one to be recognized as ‘a person’ before the law according to the article 16 of IC-CPR. It is widely accepted that trafficking in women, forced prostitution and child labour are modern-day-forms of slavery[15].

‘The right to work, equal pay for equal work, and just and favourable remuneration is recognized by UDHR Article 23. While Article 24 states that ‘everyone has a right to leisure and rest, including reasonable limitations of working hours and periodic holidays with pay’. Article 7 of IC-ESCR states that, ‘states parties recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of just and favourable conditions of work’. The respective rights are enshrined in the additional Protocol of American Convention on Human Rights (ACHR) under Article 6&7. In CEARD, states parties acknowledge ‘the right of everyone….to equality before law in the enjoyment of the right to work, equal pay for equal work and to just and favourable conditions of work’. Likewise CEDAW reiterates same rights as ‘the right to the same employment opportunities, the same criteria of selection, free choice of employment, the right to promotion, job security and all benefits and the right to receive vocational training and equal remuneration and equal treatment and equal respect of work of equal value and equal treatment in the evaluation of the quality of work’ for women are acknowledged[16].

According to the Article 25 of UDHR, ‘everyone shall have the right to social security as a member of society. According to the social security clauses of ILO ‘minimum standard convention 1952,’ every worker has a right to medical care, sickness-benefit, injury-benefit, family maternity benefit, invalidity and survivors’ benefit. Under Article 5 of IC-ESCR states take ‘gender needs and obstacles’ into considerations. The Article 9 & 16 under special protocol of ACHR 1988 provides benefits of work related accidents, occupational diseases, child-birth and special benefits in case of mental or physical disabilities[17].

Convention on the rights of the child adopted in Nov.1989 and entered into force on Sept 1991 is acceded by 191 states, the largest number comparing with any other convention. In the said conventions, the child is considered as a ‘full member of the society’ though family is considered her natural and fundamental group but the child is never a property of the family. The convention assumes child as an active subject of the rights not an object of the adults. In their formative age children are susceptible to any kind of influences and are not in a position to defend their rights. It states that every child under the age of 18 shall be considered as a child and most of the rights acknowledged by the convention are non-derogable. ILO Convention 138 specifies working age as 15 but in many countries the age is 18 or even higher. Under Article 31, ‘every child has a ‘right to leisure, to rest, to play and engage in recreational activities’ being crucial for the development of the child as capable and potential member of the society. The right to education (28), freedom of [removed]13), the right to health & health facilities (24) and the right to social security and insurance (26) and all of these rights are interdependent an interconnected[18]. In reference to the working conditions of Nike factories, not a single right of the workers and children is respected.

Critical Role of NGOs, Media and Academic Experts:

‘Slavery if the shoe fits,’ ‘poverty is awesome,’ ‘we can end sweatshops, boycott Nike’, buy shoes that are made under suitable working conditions, ‘dot it just’, Nike the King of Sweatshops,’ were the main slogans of NGOs and media resistance to Nike. Several strategies such as letters, emails, sign petitions, naming and shaming campaigns and seminars were organized to compel Nike from avoiding its shameful and abusive practices in Asian countries. It is their efforts that established the fact of TNCs’ involvement in a range of labour rights and workplace abuses but it is the child-labour issue that mainly the attention of global media and transnational NGOs. Foul Ball Campaign and Global March against Child Labour gave further impetus to the gravity of the situation to be addressed. John Patret an MIT graduate wanted to customise Nike shoes with the label ‘Sweatshops’. His order was cancelled. How ironic! But there fact was revealed.

World Visions (WV) and Community Action Abroad (CAA) – which is now Oxfam-Australia – were the first two NGOs that started campaigning against Nike sweatshops. WV later on engaged with Nike to devise an education project for its workers in Asia but Oxfam had reservations. Currah, the Director of CAA wrote to WV in 2000 that, ‘my concern is that ‘the corporation’ is using its relationship with WV to undermine the campaign to persuade it to improve the working conditions in its supply-factories.’ The Director of WV wrote back to CAA that ‘it still supports the cause and this engagement must not be seen as WV’s connivance to some of its’ controversial operations’. It is clear that despite having a common goal in mind the two NGOs had diversified approach to deal with the problem[19]. Succumbing to the pressure and after repeated denials and blatant lies, it was for the first time in 2002 that Nike concedes the detestable working conditions in its supply factories.[20]

On the other hand a new product politics is emerging with the efforts of conscientious citizens and civil society. The customers are beginning to brood-over what they buy and how it affects the end producer. Clean Clothe Campaign against exploitative garments factories in Europe and No Sweat campaign against Nike in America is slowly but gradually changing the behaviour of brand-conscious TNCs[21].

Additionally, the increased transitional economic operations, technological development and social intensification processes, protests and consumer boycotts are also turning international. NGOs and internet campaigners are increasingly convincing world consumers to boycott Nike – and other TNCs products – producing their goods under unfavourable working conditions. It is a new way of ‘punishing’ the abusive producers[22]. But knowing the possible hazards of their operations the corporations still try to trivialize acts and events of rights abuses. International Multi National Monitor came up with a list of top 100 corporate criminals in 1990 and Nike is one of them.

State Behaviour of Indonesia, Vietnam, Pakistan and & USA in Particular:

With a deregulated economy, massive unemployment and legal ambiguity of TNC’s accountability to home or host country, Asian states remain either helpless or unwilling to impose any restrictions. Government of Pakistan is taking every measure to attract FDI whatsoever. Say, all Nike products have free shipping facility. When Nike severed its contract with the supply chains of Pakistan close to 2000s, Government of Pakistan made umpteen efforts to pull it back and it finally returned in 2007. Pakistan’s former president used to say that FDI and TNCs are like birds on a tree, any minor disturbance might cause them fly away. In a similar tone the former prime minister would say that Pakistan offers the best environment for FDIs as we providing them a hundred percent equity in profit and returns, implying zero taxation on foreign companies[23]. Already existing trade unions were made ineffective, directly or indirectly.

The Socialist Republic of Vietnam has a state owned trade union and is extremely hostile to other trade union and turns a deaf ear to any organization voicing labour concerns and injustices. Vietnam police brutally quashed protest demonstration against Nike in 2008 and 100 union leaders were fired from job. In Indonesia, a new Manpower Bill prohibits independent unions and strikes on public places while allowing arbitrary ejections from companies, and required advance submission of names of strike leaders to a military dictator who had murdered millions of civilians. Roughly 30% of Nike’s total business cost goes to ayoffs for Indonesian generals, government officials and cronies[24]. The USA constitution states it very clearly that any corporation found guilty of using slave labour to produce its products will be prosecuted but Nike and no other TNCs has ever been brought to justice for their slavery-like practices in 3rd world countries.

Nike’s Response:

After prolonged denials, debates and consumer actions Nike agreed to come up with some favourable policies and collaborative efforts to support its workers abroad. In 2004 Nike rolled out its elaborate plan to improve conditions in its supply-chains which describes that by 2011, CSR will be a driving force behind  of Nike’s operations, excessive overtime in contact factories eliminated, compulsory educational training arrangements made, freedom of association ensured, multi-brand collaboration on compliance issues in 30% of the supply chains achieved, lean manufacturing in all our supply-chain removed, collective bargaining training provided, true value of labour and adequate wages promised, workers rights protected and collaborative efforts between, governments, trade unions NGOs and corporations enhanced and possible support in this regard extended. According to Nike herself compliance quality in contact factories is gradually improving[25]. Despite every effort it is difficult to change corporations over all approach which is more charity oriented than based on rights and dignity of a persons. The following graph is an apt illustration of that.

The number of companies with health & safety policy is higher than overall number of those with human rights policies as corporations see them to be unrelated issues, Source: Benchmarking corporate policies on labour & human rights goals Occasional Paper Series, Capital Matters, Harvard School of Law, N0.5, Nov, 2009

Another such admirable effort was Nike’s – along with few other TNCs – accreditation to the Fair Labour Association (FLA) in 2008. The most distinctive recognition by FLA, which is still awaited for Nike, demonstrates the corporation’s commitment and systematic efforts to bring its contact factories to the levels to labour compliance standards[26].

Nike Foundation and Save the Children’s (USA) partnership to empower adolescent girls was one such effort. The Nike Foundation awarded Save the Children $1.58 million grant for a three-year project. The Foundation began part of its work with leading local, national and international organizations aimed at education, improvement of health removing injustices to adolescent girls and creation of economic opportunity for girls. Maria Eitel, the president of Nike Foundation said that ‘we are excited for working with Save the Children….and to demonstrate the benefits of investing in girls, both as a means to improve the lives of girls themselves and the positive impact that this will have on their communities’ [27].

On November 2009 in Washington D.C, Nike, and four other top U.S Companies agreed to back up an international programme for the improvement of compliance with labour standards and competitiveness in their supply-chain-factories. The made a commitment that Nike, Gap, Levi-Strauss, Walmart and the Walt-Disney will together contribute 1$ million to a joint programme, ‘Better Work’ of ILO and International Finance Corporation – a private sector lending arm of the World Bank. The programme will contribute towards assessment and training for better compliance with labour standards. Better work brings Governments, Corporations, Employees and Workers together to assess labour standards’ compliance, take remedial measures and publish periodical reports[28]. According to Climate Count Scorecard Nike scored on top in 2009 for its voluntary efforts to reduce its climatic contamination efforts. Climate Scorecard evaluates 90 corporations on their voluntary efforts to minimize their environmental degrading operations23.

In June 2009 Greenpeace name and shamed supermarkets and hose manufacturers whose mindless consumption of raw material is denuding forest and causing climatic shifts in the Amazon .Recently a group of TNCs including Nike came up with a moratorium with Greenpeace that they would stop buying leather from Brazilian Amazon region – the largest cattle range in the world – as the suppliers are clearing more and more forest to clear pastures for their cattle. Tatiana Carvalho, a Greenpeace campaigner termed it as a great step but he warned that tracing the origin of leather is difficult act as it is bought and sold in the open market. Without an effective tracking system, it is difficult for the producer to know where a piece of leather is coming from deep from the Amazon or from the forested land or from the grazing lands of the country. But still it is demonstrates Nike’s commitment to reduce deforestation in the Amazon. The moratorium is moving towards success and in July 2009, Greenpeace made its fourth consecutive report public[29].

The Analysis:

World has enough for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed’.

Mahatma Gandhi.

Business friendly economists stress that controversies and campaigns over large corporations’ overseas operations such as sweatshops’ hue and cry adversely affects the companies’ smooth supply of products, inflicts damage to their reputation and downturns share prices. Others argue that fair corporate-supply chain relations and compliance with labour standards actually reduces employees’ turnover, improves supply chain production potentials and multiplies long term returns[30].

Business creates both positive and negative impact on society. Since long, the questions, though not with the urgency of present times, have been raised about social responsibilities of business such as the legitimacy of the profit, limits of public control, profit dividends to the shareholders, redistribution of wealth, and obligations to the community and the place where resource are extracted or labour is harnessed and lastly who should have the right to decide about and how far. Such questions gave birth to the notion of corporate sustainability, corporate social responsiveness, corporate social performance, corporate social responsibility, and ‘corporate citizenship’ quite recently. Precisely, in the words of European Commission’s Directorate for Social Affairs, ‘CSR is a concept whereby the companies integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations and interactions with the stakeholders on voluntary bases'[31].

State vs. voluntary self-regulation debate is historical and is still on. Several public litigations have been filed against TNCs for violating human rights and ILSs in USA and rejected under the clause that ‘human rights observance is the responsibility of the state’ where a TNC is operating. Nevertheless the growing influence and power of TNCs in the absence of any binding regulation of corporate governance demands that corporations should take the responsibility along with the home and the host state. Although corporations have always been asserting for self-regulation than state-imposed legislation but whatever changes we have seen or the code of conduct and compliance principles corporations adopted are the result of NGOs and citizen’s pressure or international trade unions[32]. But the point is that along with the globalization of investment-capital, we must stress the globalization of opportunities, fair representation, human values and social justice.

Under the leadership of Kofi Annan UN took Global Compact Initiative and Norms of Business in 1999. Involving more than 100 corporations including Nike, UN came up with 10 principles and 18 norms based on ILS, HRL and environmental principles without creating any compulsory and legislative apparatus. The key objective was to create a sense of Corporate Citizenship and CSR. Being an inter-state organization, UN is not in a position to enforce standards and measure progress, unless the Corporate voluntarily go for any such independent assessment and measure progress[33].

As UN is gradually coming out of its difficulties for being undermined in post 9/11 wars, I think in dealing with the excesses of TNCs like Nike and hundreds of other such species, UN has a special role to play in coordination and support from the home and host-states, NGOs, the Corporations and conscientious citizens. The former commissioner for OHCHR has worked on a project Realizing Rights: Ethical Globalization Initiative that motivated CEOs of the 10 large TNCs in creating Business Leaders Initiative for Human Rights (BLIHR) to work on how human rights can be made consistent with business operations and how can HR principles be integrated into the their business policies. Two of them have already made some progress and working UN is working with other 8 to enshrine HR principles in their business policies[34]. A predominant tendency of the supremacy of the market is to commoditize everything and once you commoditize something you can do anything to it or inflict any sort to violence to it, may it be nature or a human person[35]. What TNCs do is no more than machinize or commoditise workers and eke out as much as production in as minimum time as possible.

As IHR principles were originally devised to be protected and fulfilled by the states through various acts of commission and omission. But in the present times one country’s direct or indirect violation of human rights in the jurisdiction of other countries and the effects of globalizations are seriously challenging the state’s capacity to address these issues. Resource constrain makes the challenge even bigger. Corporations make investment decisions on the basis of taxes, environmental regulations, availability of required material, labour laws and wage levels that diminishes the will and the capacity of the states to regulate the TNCs setting up their businesses in their countries. Poor countries with higher levels of unemployment are usually afraid of imposing any lest the companies choose otherwise[36].

Elimination of child labour from sweatshops has been facing all such difficulties as mentioned above. But some progress was necessarily made in this context. Kneeling down to CSOs pressures on World Federation of Sporting Goods Industry (WFSGI), FIFA and intentional football brands an international meeting was convened in coordination with ILO, UNICEF, Faire Trade Foundation, Anti-Slavery International, Save the Children Fund, Oxfam, Sialkot (Pakistan) Chamber of Commerce and the Government of Pakistan to address the issue in sports industry of Pakistan in November 1996. In February 1997, the Government of USA, WSFGI and Sporting Goods Manufacturing Association proposed a strategy to abolish child labour from sports industry. Thereby sports TNCs and NGOs created a partnership that included registration of all contractors to ensure that no football stitcher is below 14 and establishments of an internal monitoring department to monitor age and arrange required training. A social disaster mitigating programme was devised to rehabilitate children removed from football-stitching and provision of adequate schooling, discouraging new entrants, community awareness on health and growth consequences of child labour, and income generating opportunities to recover the income loss.

Razia and her family regularly received football stitching work from a local contractor at their home. One such morning the contractor told her that he is no more allowed to deliver home-based football stitching for child labour involvement in the family. He also told her that if she is interested in doing football stitching work she will have to come to the factory at the workplace. Living far from the industry and haven four little children, it was not possible for her to commute for work. Her husband was a daily wage labourer who would cooperate with his wife and children in football stitching. Additional income helped them to have batter food and participate in socio-cultural activities of the community. Her husband was a casual building worker and when he would not find a daylong work economic difficulty would further. Within a few days the family has lost a significant portion of their monthly income. After a couple of month or so she came to know that a football manufacturer was planning to set up a village based football manufacturing centre. The news was a sigh of relief for her as she supposed that she will be able to go to village based manufacturing centre but only if her elder daughter who was just 13 could take care of her younger children. Adopted from Source: Bahr A. Kazmi & Magnuse Macfarlane, p.194

The partnership reported implementation of the programme to FIFA, WFSGI and international media on November 1998 on the first day of the World Cup. The programme was implemented in Pakistan’s sports industry with varied effects. Some of the families who lost their supplementary income were not happy. The box above illustrates one such case[37].

Conclusion – Where does the responsibility of human rights lie:

International human rights law was constituted by the states and for the states to respect and promote human rights within its jurisdiction, ill suited to deal with the trans-state or transnational entities, currently known as TNCs or MNCs. The law needs to retailer itself in order to respond to the challenges of globalization. To our dismay, ‘a Corporate’ constitutes an entity of a ‘social citizenship’ hence entitled to the right to life, liberty and property. Therefore, it is by law, difficult to restrain their operations or coerce them to comply with certain standards. The first thing that international law needs to do is to ‘depersonalize’ the corporate to come up with different sets of national and international regulations. They corporate need to be democratized and held accountable to the citizens and the state wherever they operate and where they are registered. It is ‘people’ not the ‘profit’ that should be placed at the heart of all business interventions. The corporations, more than often not only undermine ILS, rather undermine the whole democratic system as well. Working together might help us to win over the corporate greed. Better alternatives are available to process and provide goods and services to fulfil essential human needs. It is not the shareholders whom the corporations are answerable alone but it is the people, the environment, future of humanity and they have a duty to. The corporations must not be immune from democratic and human rights norms and standards. They are subject to same demands as made from a democratic system of governance and that is of transparency, accountability, empowerment of the people and respecting principle of equality and human dignity.

At the end it is futile to expect that MNCs, TNCs and Business Groups and Chains alone can make things better. Without a cooperation and collective action from states, civil society, individual citizens and consumers, NGOs and UNOs, it is never possible to constitute a just and socially responsible society and a dignified life for everyone. As a measure of corporate social responsibility whatever initiatives have been taken by TNCs most of them offer inadequate and poor services coupled with the absence of independent assessment and driven by a charity approach. Even then they leave no stone unturned to manipulate their alliance with global compact, labour standards and other such associations to build their image amongst customers that might yield in bigger sales and larger profits.

In nutshell, social issues, as we have seen, are always complicated and multidimensional and ask for multidimensional and far-reaching solutions, which are sometimes out of the capacity of underdeveloped countries. NGOs too have limited capacity and business organizations, are willing to take, but a partial responsibility, given the very nature and purpose of their investment.


[1] Amjad Nazeer is peace and human rights activist associated with an international NGO in Pakistan. The article was written in January 2010.

[2] The Big One, A Documentary Michael Moore, See:

[3] History of Nike, Iconography explained, Nike’s heritage, Swoosh and Brief History, See:

& Korky Van About.Com: Shoes, From Greek Myth to Sports and fitness powerhouse, See:

[4] Sorcha McLeod, 2005, Business and Human Rights in Rohna K.M.Smith and Christien van den Anker Ed. The essentials of Human Rights, 2005, p.28-29, London, Great Britain.

[5] Sweatshops: Poverty is awesome: See:

[6] The Corporate by Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbott, Joel Bakan, (documentary film), See:

[7] The Big One: A documentary film by Michael Moore.

[8] Facts and FAQs about NIKE’s labour Abuses , See:


[9] Myra Marx Ferree and Aili Mari Tripp, 2006, Global feminism, p. 3-5, Newyork University Press, Newyork.

[11]Nike: The king of Social Injustice…Sweatshop,

[12] Human rights for workers: How our global economy undervalues work andworking people, The durability of Nike’s sweatshops. See:

[13], Manfred B. Steger, 2009, Globalization: a very short introduction, p.13, Oxfaor University Press, Newyork.

[14] Asbjorn Eide 2000, in Human rights: Concepts and standards, Ed. Symonides, Jansusz 2000,  p.128-129, 141-142, Ashgate publishing, England.

[15] Manfred  Nowak 2000 in, Ibid, p.80-81

[16] Katarina Tomasevski 2000, p.240-249 Ibid,

[17] Asbjorn Eide 2000, p.146-147, Ibid

[18] Youri Kolsov 2000, p.160-163 Ibid.

[19] Barbara Rugendyke , NGOs as advocates for development in the globalized world, p.165:

[20] Rob Van Tulder and Alex Van Zwart, International business Society Management: Linking corporate responsibility, p279-284

[21] Michele Mitchelette et al, Politics, products and markets: Exploring political consumerism past  and present, 2004, p.127-129, New jersey

[22] Monore Friedman, Boycotts: Effecting change through market and media, 1999, p. 159-160, Routledge, Great Britain, London.

[23] Nike returns to Pakistan, June 2007,,

[24] Human rights for workers, July 2009, The durability of Nike;s sweatshops,

[25] Responsibility Document, See:

[26] Fair labour assoctiona releases its annual 2008 annual report, FLA highlights new strategies for preventing labour rights violations: October 6, 2009, See :

[27] Save the Children UK, June 28th, 2007, Nike Foundation and Save the Children team up to empower adolescent girls

[28] Nike,Unilver, HP, Tope latest climate scorecard, GreenBiz. Com, See:

[29] Andrew Downie, September 22, 2009, Can Nike and Wal-Mart save Amazon?, The Christian Science Monitor:

[30] Aoran Bernstein and Christopher Greenwald, November 2009, Capital Matters, Occasional Paper Series, No. 5,

[31] Michael Blowfield and Allan Murray, Corporate Responsibility: A critical introduction, 2008, p.13-15. Oxford University Press, USA.

[32] Sorcha McLeod, 2005, in Busnines and human rights 2000, Ed. Smith, R.K, The essentials of human rights,  p.28-29.

[33] Brigette Hamm 2005, The need to strengthen the responsibilities of business for human rights, in Michael Windfuhr, 2005, Beyond Nation State: Human rights in times of globalization, p.255-269 and Mary Robinson, 2005,Corporate social responsibility and workplace standards, p.266-269.

[34] Mary Robinson, Ibid, p.255-269 & 266-269.

[35] Michel Foulcat 2005, Method in The global resistance reader. Ed. by Louise Amoor, p.88-89,).

[36] (Michel Windfuhr 2005, Ibid, p.12-13).

[37] Rory Sullivan, Ed. 2003, Business and human rights: Dilemmas and solutions, p. 179-193, Greenleaf Publishing Limited, Shiefield, UK.

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