Published 11/13/17

Students explore tension between profit and corporate responsibility

Jim Keady is committed to bettering the lives of sweatshop workers. As part of this fall's annual ethics event, he presented “Behind the Swoosh: An Ethical Dilemma: Profit Maximization vs. Corporate Social Responsibility."

"A small difference can make a big change."

Keady, 46, has worn many hats, including one as a coach at St. John's University, where athletics had a multimillion-dollar sponsorship from Nike. He left coaching behind in order to advocate for fair working conditions for Indonesian Nike workers. His transition was informed by his experiences living for a month in Indonesia on the net wages earned by Nike factory workers – about $1.25 per day. His Indonesian home was a 9x9 cement box that lacked furniture and featured open sewers.

Although 90 to 95 percent of shoes and apparel sold domestically come from sweatshops – where workers lack minimum wage, overtime, fair working conditions, and freedom from verbal and physical abuse – Keady puts Nike practices in the spotlight. With 620 factories in 42 countries, Nike had $32.4 billion revenue in 2016. He called upon Bryant students to scrutinize corporate messaging and to boycott Nike.

“Business ethics is more important than money."

How did students react? Bryant should strive to support companies that don’t use sweatshops, said Hernan Garcia ‘21. “I give Bryant credit for bringing [Keady] in. ... A small difference can make a big change.”

While Jacob Goodwin ’21 had known of the Nike sweatshop situation, he found the factual information eye-opening, especially when he compared data Keady shared against Nike’s public relations campaign. He doesn’t know what action he’d like to take in response, but said that “business ethics is more important than money. Greed is a very powerful thing. Get past it. Do the right thing.”

The ethics event was sponsored by Academic Affairs and Student Affairs in partnership with The Ronald K. and Kati C. Machtley Interfaith Center.