Social Impacts of the Nike Sweatshirt: Production

Production- Corrie King, #10

Nike has greatly increased their ethical practices on the production side of their company. Recycled polyester and organic cotton are used in the Nike sweatshirt, which greatly reduces the environmental impact of the clothing. Pesticides, fertilizers and water are limited with the organic cotton. Additionally, the Better Cotton Initiative (which Nike joined in 2011) seeks to improve livelihood of the farmers. The polyester is made from beverage bottles, equivalent to 280 million bottles from the waste stream. states that Nike has improved working conditions for the laborers. Previously, there have been many cited cases of physical abuse in sweat shops. “In response (to the criticism of the abuse), Nike last March created a code of conduct for its independent shoe contractors throughout Asia. Recently, wages at the factories have increased, albeit modestly” (Holstein).

According to, Nike does not own any of the factories where its shoes are produced but instead contracts the work to various factory owners. “In April 1997, 10,000 Indonesian workers went on strike over wage violations. In the same month, 1,300 workers in Vietnam went on strike demanding a one-cent-per-hour raise and in 1998, 3,000 workers in China went on strike to protest not only low wages, but hazardous working conditions” ( Today, the rights of laborers have greatly increased, both in the fields for the materials and in the factories assembling them.

Nike now has a sustainable index to measure the eco-consciousness of the company.  By using what are known as Environmentally Preferred Materials, or EPMs, the company now has a lower impact on environment. To ensure these materials, Nike works close with the suppliers from 51 different countries around the globe which employ over a million workers in total.

Additionally, Nike is working with suppliers to end verbal harassment of laborers. Lastly, annual inspections are done by the Fair Labor Association to ensure that the practices meet certain standards. The Fair Labor Association sets the wages of Nike’s employees to a just wage that is determined on twelve different aspects, including comparability to other countries, overtime, and inflation. Updates have been made in the company’s Code of Conduct to comply with these changes.

The health and safety of the factories are also monitored for issues such as electrical safety and childcare.

Despite all of the efforts, there have still been instances of labor protests in Cambodia in May 2013 and Mexico in June 2008. Both were protesting for better labor conditions. In Mexico, laborers fought and won their right to a union. It may take small steps, but it seems like Nike and its workers are trying to seek equilibrium.


Factory worker in Mexico. Source:

Social Impacts of the Nike Sweatshirt: Production

2 thoughts on “Social Impacts of the Nike Sweatshirt: Production

  1. It is mind-boggling to me that continuing anything overseas can be considered sustainable! Another caution: poly wearers are exposed to plastic next to their skin, plus any type of agents used in the recycling and dye process. Our skin is porous and a big defense against disease. Continuous exposure can’t be in our best interest. Not convinced Nike is on an honest track if they are going for sustainable in the truest definition. Sounds like they are PR savvy, though.

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