Impacts of Corporate Code of Conduct on Labor Standards: A Case Study of Reebok’s Athletic Footwear Supplier Factory in China

Yu, Xiaomin
September 2008
Journal of Business Ethics;Sep2008, Vol. 81 Issue 3, p513
Academic Journal
This study examines the social impacts of labor-related corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies or corporate codes of conduct on upholding labor standards through a case study of CSR discourses and codes implementation of Reebok – a leading branded company enjoying a high-profiled image for its human rights achievement – in a large Taiwanese-invested athletic footwear factory located in South China. I find although implementation of Reebok labor-related codes has resulted in a “race to ethical and legal minimum” labor standards when notoriously inhumane and seriously illegal labor rights abuses were curbed, Chinese workers were forced to work harder and faster but, earned less payment and the employee-elected trade union installed through codes implementation operated more like a “company union” rather than an autonomous workers’ organization representing worker’ interests. In order to explain the paradoxical effects of Reebok labor-related codes on labor standards, I argue the result is determined by both structural forces and agency-related factors embedded in industrial, national and local contexts. To put it shortly, I find the effectiveness of Reebok labor-related codes is constrained not only by unsolved tension between Reebok’s impetus for profit maximization and commitment to workers’ human rights, but also by hard-nosed competition realities at marketplace, and Chinese government’s insufficient protection of labor rights. Despite drawing merely from a single case study, these findings illuminate key determinants inhibiting the effectiveness of labor-related CSR policies or codes in upholding labor standards, and hence two possible way-outs of the deadlock: (1) sharing cost for improving labor standards among key players in global supply chain; and (2) combining regulatory power of voluntary codes and compulsory state legislations.


Related Articles

  • LIABILITY UP THE SUPPLY CHAIN: CORPORATE ACCOUNTABILITY FOR LABOR TRAFFICKING. DRYHURST, KARIN // New York University Journal of International Law & Politics;Winter2013, Vol. 45 Issue 2, p641 

    The article examines corporate liability for human trafficking. The author is primarily concerned with the ways in which this form of forced labor can be undermined through a combination of corporate and individual liability. She examines how international human rights standards can inform...

  • What Is Corporate Social Responsibility and How Can I Incorporate It into My Practice? Peyser, Roxane; Filutowski, Alexandra // International Law News;Spring2010, Vol. 39 Issue 1, p8 

    The article provides information about corporate social responsibility (CSR) and its relevance to legal profession. It defines CSR as a concept that embraces notions of corporate philanthropy, human rights and labor standards. It discusses basic approaches that can be used by lawyers to help...

  • Business and Human Rights. Park, Jacob // Journal of Corporate Citizenship;Spring2004, Issue 13, p24 

    Suggests the need to bring issues of human labor rights centrally into business practices. Proliferation of human rights standards, guidelines and best practices to govern the business of multinational corporations; Connection between business and human rights; Problem with charging any company...

  • Globalisation, Divestment and Human Rights in Burma. White, Judith A. // Journal of Corporate Citizenship;Summer2004, Issue 14, p47 

    With increasing globalisation, over the last 15 years several multinational corporations (MNCs) from the US, UK, France, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Canada and elsewhere have invested in Burma, thus forging the requisite economic partnerships with the Burmese military government....

  • It's all about people. Eide, Espen Barth // OECD Observer;2013 1st Quarter, Issue 294, p7 

    The article discusses the importance of adhering to the democratic principles for forming economic policies of countries that further helps in achieving desired economic growth as well as culminate gender inequality issues. It also highlights the role of civil society, businesses and individual...

  • Human Factors.  // InsideCounsel;Dec2014, Vol. 25 Issue 276, p36 

    An interview with Stefan Marculewicz, an authority on international labor standards and labor-related issues, is presented. Marculewicz discusses when human rights entered the corporate social responsibility (CSR) arena. He explains why human rights has emerged as a hot topic in multinational...

  • SHAPING THE AGENDA OF SHAREHOLDER ACTIVISM: INSTITUTIONAL INVESTORS AND GLOBAL CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY. Proffitt Jr., W. Trexler; Spicer, Andrew S. // Academy of Management Annual Meeting Proceedings;2005, pH1 

    What role have activist institutional investors played in shaping an agenda of corporate social responsibility? We examine this question through an analysis of all shareholder proposals introduced from 1969 to 2003 on the topic of international human rights and labor standards, a topic we call...

  • Corporate Social Responsibility: Awareness Level Among Undergraduates. MOORTHY, M. KRISHNA; AROKIASAMY, LAWRENCE; CHELLIAH, THAMIL DURAI A/L // Interdisciplinary Journal of Contemporary Research in Business;Jun2010, Vol. 2 Issue 2, p440 

    Recent economic crisis which caused the collapse of many companies around the world has once again alerted the business world about the importance of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Millions of employees of national and multinational companies were worried about job losses and...

  • Compliance, Collaboration, and Codes of Labor Practice: THE ADIDAS CONNECTION. Frenkel, Stephen J.; Scott, Duncan // California Management Review;Fall2002, Vol. 45 Issue 1, p29 

    Comprising networked organizations that span advanced and developing countries, the athletic footwear sector is at the cutting edge of globalization. An important dimension of corporate responsibility is setting and maintaining labor standards for contractors' employees in countries where...


Read the Article


Sorry, but this item is not currently available from your library.

Try another library?
Sign out of this library

Other Topics