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BEG: Lack of socially conscious companies poses problems

Photo by Andrew Himmelberg

Photo by Andrew Himmelberg

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To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the “Just Do It” slogan, Nike launched a brand new advertisement campaign at the start of the football season. Colin Kaepernick became the face of the new athletic apparel brand’s advertisement with the tagline “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”

Although some consumers’ outrage reached the point of burning merchandise, the company actually profited from the surge of online sales, according to CNBC. It is momentous to know that a company as well-known and popular as Nike chose to stand behind Kaepernick and support his protest even if it might just be a profit-driven decision. Movements such as Kaepernick’s anthem protests and Black Lives Matter need more widespread acceptance to make greater progress.

Although Nike took such a profound stance for this important social issue, it is disappointing that it is almost impossible to find prevalent companies such as this one being 100 percent ethical.

Nike has confessed to the company’s use of sweat shops and child labor to make their apparel. Three years ago, Nike chairman Phil Knight promised the world that conditions at the company’s global factories would improve. In May of this year, Global Exchange, a labor rights organization, released a report that detailed how Nike failed to improve the conditions of its workers from other countries — or even try.

“Nike has continued to treat the sweatshop issue as a public relations inconvenience rather than as a serious human rights matter,” Leila Salazar, director for Global Exchange, said.

The report outlined employees’ continued work in high-pressure environments for long hours while being harassed and violently intimidated. On top of that, the employees do not get paid nearly enough to even afford basic needs.

Starbucks is another widely popularized, global company that has taken social stances in the past. A week before the 2016 presidential election, Starbucks released a “unity cup” which some took to be a political stance against the divisive remarks of then-candidate Donald Trump. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said the cup was created for “a divisive time in our country” because the company “wanted to create a symbol of unity as a reminder of our shared values and the need to be good to each other.”

Even though Starbucks took the right stance during a difficult time, the company has not always made the most socially responsible decisions. After two black men were arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks this past April, the company decided to complete a mandatory anti-bias training to change the attitude of the employees.

The controversy only got worse when Starbucks brought the Anti-Defamation League aboard to help with the training. The ADL has been known for its rhetoric against African-Americans and other brown people. The ADL also supports Israel despite the country’s oppressive and violent colonization of Palestine.

Due the ADL’s historical refusals to acknowledge the problems of people of color and the LGBTQ community, it showcases that Starbucks is not truly concerned about fixing the problem of racial bias and continues to be tone deaf. Starbucks must take responsibility for its actions and create real solutions rather than getting the aid of discriminatory groups to help resolve a discrimination issue.

Widely-known companies such as Starbucks and Nike believe that they must do what is necessary to stay relevant and beat out other competitors. At the same time, there must be a limit to prevent these brands from making socially irresponsible and harmful decisions. The actions that some companies take violate labor laws and people’s basic human rights, and as a consumer, it is difficult to put my full-fledged support behind them.

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