Submitted by: Ashley Low, Syeda Zehra and Syed Shah
Submitted to: Professor Massecar
Submitted on: Sunday October 26th, 2014
Course code: PHIL*2600 DE
The GAP has been confronted with a serious ethical dilemma that affects the wellbeing of numerous stakeholders. As a company, we have faced previous obstacles with child labour in the production of clothing that has damaged the company’s reputation and required considerable damage control.1 A similar issue has arisen where child labour is used to produce cotton in Uzbekistan. This report will analyze different options for action using ethical theory and conclude that the best course of action is to reduce the purchase of Uzbek cotton as well as make considerable initiatives towards corporate social responsibility.
Option 1: Continue purchase of Uzbek cotton As a large multi-national corporation, the GAP has economic, legal, ethical and philanthropic expectations.2 The economy is the basis for all subsequent corporate social responsibilities, as its stability is required for the good of the other parts.3 Therefore, we must first consider the most viable option for economic sustainability. Due to globalization, the economies of both countries depend on our decision. First, the low price of cotton in Uzbekistan allows our spending to remain low, receive a great return on our investments, provide Western employees with good wages and provide customers with reasonable prices. Therefore, it is in the Western economy’s best interest to continue purchasing Uzbek cotton. In comparison, it is also in the Uzbekistani economy’s best interest to continue the business. Uzbekistan is the second largest exporter of cotton in the world but its Gross National Income (GNI) per capita is extremely low.4 Although the working conditions are undoubtedly dismal, the economy would be even worse if we took away a main source of income. Currently, the issue of child labour regarding cotton occurs during harvest-time once per year.5 If we do not continue the purchase of cotton, it could be used throughout the year in even worse conditions to provide enough economic growth to support the nation. Furthermore, our economy is driven by shareholders attempting to maximize profits.6 Even if the GAP stops purchasing from Uzbekistan, other companies may not and our attempts to stop child labour would be ineffective. Unfortunately, the premise of boycotting the purchase of cotton does not support the conclusion that child labour and poor working conditions will be alleviated. In order to stay in business and keep all of the stakeholders happy, it is essential that the GAP makes profits. Accordingly, our costs would be higher than the benefits if we decide to purchase materials from a country with a higher cost of cotton. If the GAP chooses not to continue the business with Uzbekistan, it will not make a positive difference to the nation’s conditions, nor will it be beneficial for all of the stakeholders. The second required component of corporate social responsibility is legality.7 The International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention ensures that Canada has child labour laws in the country’s legislation.8 However, Canada does not have laws preventing companies from purchasing from countries that use child labour. In September 2008, the Uzbekistan government signed ILO conventions banning child labour and children under the age of 16 from picking cotton.9 Therefore, the GAP purchasing cotton from Uzbekistan should not technically be illegal. However, it is clear that the government is not abiding by these laws, which creates a deeper issue than legality. According to ethical relativism, ethical decisions are based on personal character and culture rather than abstract moral principles.10 Although Canada has strong moral concerns regarding child