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What Is a Case Study?

When you’re performing research as part of your job or for a school assignment, you’ll probably come across case studies that help you to learn more about the topic at hand. But what is a case study and why are they helpful? Read on to learn all about case studies.

Deep Dive into a Topic

At face value, a case study is a deep dive into a topic. Case studies can be found in many fields, particularly across the social sciences and medicine. When you conduct a case study, you create a body of research based on an inquiry and related data from analysis of a group, individual or controlled research environment.

As a researcher, you can benefit from the analysis of case studies similar to inquiries you’re currently studying. Researchers often rely on case studies to answer questions that basic information and standard diagnostics cannot address.

Study a Pattern

One of the main objectives of a case study is to find a pattern that answers whatever the initial inquiry seeks to find. This might be a question about why college students are prone to certain eating habits or what mental health problems afflict house fire survivors. The researcher then collects data, either through observation or data research, and starts connecting the dots to find underlying behaviors or impacts of the sample group’s behavior.

Gather Evidence

During the study period, the researcher gathers evidence to back the observed patterns and future claims that’ll be derived from the data. Since case studies are usually presented in the professional environment, it’s not enough to simply have a theory and observational notes to back up a claim. Instead, the researcher must provide evidence to support the body of study and the resulting conclusions.

Present Findings

As the study progresses, the researcher develops a solid case to present to peers or a governing body. Case study presentation is important because it legitimizes the body of research and opens the findings to a broader analysis that may end up drawing a conclusion that’s more true to the data than what one or two researchers might establish. The presentation might be formal or casual, depending on the case study itself.

Draw Conclusions

Once the body of research is established, it’s time to draw conclusions from the case study. As with all social sciences studies, conclusions from one researcher shouldn’t necessarily be taken as gospel, but they’re helpful for advancing the body of knowledge in a given field. For that purpose, they’re an invaluable way of gathering new material and presenting ideas that others in the field can learn from and expand upon.


nike exploitation of workers case study

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nike exploitation of workers case study

Nike is one of the largest athletic footwear and clothing companies in the world, but its labour practices have not always been ethical. Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the company was accused of using sweatshops to make activewear and shoes. Despite an initial slow response, the company…

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Nike is one of the largest athletic footwear and clothing companies in the world, but its labour practices have not always been ethical. Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the company was accused of using sweatshops to make activewear and shoes. Despite an initial slow response, the company eventually took measures to improve the working conditions of employees in its factories. This has allowed it to regain public trust and become a leading brand in the sportswear sector. Let's take a closer look at Nike's Sweatshop Scandal and how it has been resolved.

Nike and sweatshop labour

Like other multinational companies, Nike outsources the production of sportswear and sneakers to developing economies to save costs, taking advantage of a cheap workforce. This has given birth to sweatshops - factories where workers are forced to work long hours at very low wages under abysmal working conditions.

Nike's sweatshops first appeared in Japan, then moved to cheaper labour countries such as South Korea, China, and Taiwan. As the economies of these countries developed, Nike switched to lower-cost suppliers in China, Indonesia, and Vietnam .

Nike's use of sweatshop dates back to the 1970s but wasn't brought to public attention until 1991 when Jeff Ballinger published a report detailing the appalling working conditions of garment workers at Nike's factories in Indonesia.

The report described the meagre wages that the factory workers received, only 14 cents per hour, barely enough to cover basic living costs. The disclosure aroused public anger, resulting in mass protests at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. Despite this, Nike continued making its plans to expand Niketowns - fa cilities displaying a wide range of Nike-based services and experiences - which fuelled more resentment within consumers.

For more insight into how a company's external economic environment can impact its internal operations, take a look at our explanation on the Economic Environment .

Nike child labour

In addition to the sweatshop problem, Nike also got caught in the child labour scandal. In 1996, Life Magazine published an article featuring a photo of a young boy named Tariq from Pakistan, who was reportedly sewing Nike footballs for 60 cents a day .

From 2001 on, Nike started to audit its factories and prepared a report in which it concluded that it could not guarantee that its products would not be produced by children .

Nike's initial response

Nike initially denied its association with the practices, stating it had little control over the contracted factories and who they hired.

After the protests in 1992, the company took more concrete action by setting up a department to improve factory conditions. However, this didn't do much to resolve the problem. Disputes continued. Many Nike sweatshops still operated.

In 1997-1998, Nike faced more public backlash, causing the sportswear brand to lay off many workers.

How did Nike recover?

A major shift happened when CEO Phil Knight delivered a speech in May 1998. He admitted the existence of unfair labour practices in Nike's production facilities and promised to improve the situation by raising the minimum wage, and ensuring all factories had clean air.

In 1999, Nike's Fair Labor Association was established to protect workers' rights and monitor the Code of Conduct in Nike factories. Between 2002 and 2004, more than 600 factories were audited for occupational health and safety . In 2005, the company published a complete list of its factories along with a report detailing the working conditions and wages of workers at Nike's facilities. Ever since, Nike has been publishing annual reports about labour practices, showing transparency and sincere efforts to redeem past mistakes.

While the sweatshop issue is far from over, critics and activists have praised Nike. At least the company does not turn a blind eye to the problem anymore. Nike's efforts finally paid off as it slowly won back public trust and once again dominated the market.

It is important to note that these actions have had minimal effect on workers' conditions working for Nike. In the 2019 report by Tailored Wages, Nike cannot prove that minimum living wage is being paid to any workers. 6

Protection of workers' human rights

Nike's sweatshops undoubtedly violated human rights. Workers survive on a low minimum wage and are forced to work in an unsafe environment for long periods of time. However, since the Nike Sweatshop Scandal, many non-profit organisations have been set up to protect the rights of garment workers.

One example is Team Sweat, an organisation tracking and protesting Nike's illegal labour practices. It was founded in 2000 by Jim Keady with the goal of ending these injustices.

USAS is another US-based group formed by students to challenge oppressive practices. The organisation has started many projects to protect workers' rights, one of which is the Sweat-Free Campus Campaign . The campaign required all brands that make university names or logos. This was a major success, gathering enormous public support and causing Nike financial loss. To recover, the company had no choice but to improve the factory conditions and labour rights.

Nike's Corporate Social Responsibility

Since 2005, the company has been producing corporate social responsibility reports as part of its commitment to transparency.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a set of practices a business undertakes in order to contribute to society in a positive way .

Nike's CSR reports revealed the brand's continuous efforts to improve labour working conditions.

For example, FY20 Nike Impact Report, Nike made crucial points on how it protects workers' human rights. The solutions include:

Forbid underage employment and forced labour

Allow freedom of association (Forming of workers' union)

Prevent discrimination of all kind

Provide workers with fair compensation

Eliminate excessive overtime

In addition to labour rights, Nike aims to make a positive difference in the world through a wide range of sustainable practices:

Source materials for apparel and footwear from sustainable sources

Reduce carbon footprint and reach 100% renewable energy

Increase recycling and cut down on overall waste

Adopt new technology to decrease water use in the supply chain

Slowly, the company is distancing itself from the 'labour abuse' image and making a positive impact on the world. It aims to become both a profitable and an ethical company.

Nike sweatshop scandal timeline

1991 - Activist Jeff Ballinger publishes a report exposing low wages and poor working conditions among Indonesian Nike factories. Nike responds by instating its first factory codes of conduct.

1992 - In his article, Jeff Ballinger details an Indonesian worker who was abused by a Nike subcontractor, who paid the worker 14 cents an hour. He also documented other forms of exploitation towards workers at the company.

1996 - In response to the controversy around the use of child labour in its products, Nike created a department that focussed on improving the lives of factory workers.

1997 - Media outlets challenge the company's spokespersons. Andrew Young, an activist and diplomat, gets hired by Nike to investigate its labour practices abroad. His critics say that his report was soft on the company, despite his favourable conclusions.

1998 - Nike faces unrelenting criticism and weak demand. It had to start shedding workers and developing a new strategy. In response to widespread protests, CEO Phil Knight said that the company's products became synonymous with slavery and abusive labour conditions. Knight said:

"I truly believe the American consumer doesn't want to buy products made under abusive conditions"

Nike raised the minimum age of its workers and increased monitoring of overseas factories.

1999 - Nike launches the Fair Labor Association, a not-for-profit group that combines company and human rights representatives to establish a code of conduct and monitor labour conditions.

2002 - Between 2002 and 2004, the company carried out around 600 factory audits. These were mainly focused on problematic factories.

2004 - Human rights groups acknowledge that efforts to improve the working conditions of workers have been made, but many of the issues remain . Watchdog groups also noted that some of the worst abuses still occur.

2005 - Nike becomes the first major brand to publish a list of the factories it contracts to manufacture shoes and clothes. Nike's annual report details the conditions. It also acknowledges widespread issues in its south Asian factories.

2006 - T he company continues to publish its social responsibility reports and its commitments to its customers.

For many years, Nike's brand image has been associated with sweatshops. However, since the sweatshop scandal of the 1990s, the company has made a concerted efforts to reverse this negative image. It does so by being more transparent about labour practices while making a positive change in the world through Corporate Social Responsibility strategies. Nike's CSR strategies not only focus on labour but also other social and environmental aspects.

Nike Sweatshop Scandal - Key takeaways

Nike has been criticised for using sweatshops in emerging economies as a source of labour .

The Nike Sweatshop Scandal began in 1991 when Jeff Ballinger published a report detailing the appalling working conditions of garment workers at Nike's factory in Indonesia.

  • Nike's initial response was to deny its association with unethical practices. However, under the influence of public pressure, the company was forced to take action to resolve cases of its unethical working practices.
  • From 1999 to 2005, Nike performed factory audits and took many measures to improve labour practices.
  • Since 2005, the company also published annual reports to be transparent about its labour working conditions.
  • Nike continues to reinforce its ethical image through Corporate Social Responsibility strategies.
  • Simon Birch, Sweat and Tears, The Guardian, 2000.
  • Lara Robertson, How Ethical Is Nike, Good On You, 2020.
  • Ashley Lutz, How Nike shed its sweatshop image to dominate the shoe industry, Business insider, 2015.
  • Jack Meyer, History of Nike: Timeline and Facts, The Street, 2019.
  • A History of Nike’s Changing Attitude to Sweatshops, Glass Clothing, 2018.
  • Tailored Wages Report 2019,

Frequently Asked Questions about Nike Sweatshop Scandal

--> what was the nike sweatshop scandal about.

Nike has been criticised for using sweatshops in emerging economies as a cheap source of labour that violated the human rights of the workers.

--> When was the Nike sweatshop scandal?

The Nike Sweatshop Scandal began in 1991 when Jeff Ballinger published a report detailing the appalling working conditions of garment workers at Nike's factory in Indonesia.

--> Does the Nike sweatshop scandal involve human rights violations?

Yes, the Nike sweatshop scandal involved human rights violations. Workers survive on a low minimum wage and are forced to work in an unsafe environment for long periods of time. 

--> What is the main reason Nike is considered unethical?

The main reason Nike was considered unethical is Human rights violations of workers in its offshore factories.

Final Nike Sweatshop Scandal Quiz

Nike sweatshop scandal quiz - teste dein wissen.

what year was Nike founded?

Show answer

Show question

What was the nike sweatshop scandal about? 

Nike has been criticized for using sweatshops in Asia as a source of labour. The company was accused of engaging in abusive and verbal behaviour toward its workers. 

Does nike sweatshop scandal involve human rights violations? 

Yes. A report by the Washington Post in 2020 stated that Nike doesn't have evidence of a living wage for its workers. The same year, it was revealed that the company uses forced labor in factories. 

What is the main reason Nike is considered unethical? 

Nike has been criticized for using sweatshops in Asia as a source of labor. The company was accused of abusing its employees. In addition, some of the factories reportedly imposed conditions that severely affected their workers' restroom and water usage. 

Was Nike involved in child labour? 

In what year did Nike created the Fair Labour Association, which was created to oversee the company's 600 factories?

In what year did the company started improving the conditions of its factories?

Where was the first Nike store to be open?

First Niketown store to launch open in Portland, Oregon. 

When was Nike first founded?

Life magazine in America did a report on child labour in 1996, which included a shocking photo of a 12-year-old boy sewing a Nike football. What country was he from?

What is corporate social responsibility?

Corporate social responsibility (CSR)  is a set of practices a business undertakes in order to contribute to society in a positive way.

How does Nike try to make a positive difference through sustainable practices?

What is Nike doing to address the human rights issues that they face?

Prevent discrimination of all kind 

Provide workers with fair compensation 

Other than the sweatshop problem what was one of the unethical practices employed by Nike?

Child labour

What does Nike's CSR report entail?

Nike's CSR reports disclosed the brand's continuous efforts to improve labour working conditions. 

What are sweatshops?

 factories where workers are forced to work long hours at very low wages under abysmal working conditions. 

Why did Nike outsource production to deveoping economies?

To save costs because these economies have lower labour wages.

When did Nike start benefitting from sweatshops?

From the 1970s.

When did the use of sweatshops by Nike gain public attention?

How was the public made aware of sweatshops?

Jeff Ballinger published a report detailing the appalling working conditions of garment workers at Nike's factories in Indonesia.  

Who was the CEO of Nike during the scandal?

Phil Knight  

When and why was Fair Labour Association established?

It was established in 1999 to protect workers' rights and monitor the  Code of Conduct in Nike factories. 

Name one of USAS's campaign.

Sweat-Free Campus Campaign.

A set of practices a business undertakes in order to contribute to society in a positive way is knwon as ____________

Corporate social responsibility (CSR).

Fill in the blanks:

Nike's solutions to protect workers' human rights include:




Fil in the blanks:

Nike's sustainable practices include:

What is the significance of the year 2005 for Nike?

Nike became the first major brand to publish a list of the factories it contracts to manufacture shoes and clothes. Nike's annual report detailed the conditions. It also acknowledged widespread issues in its south Asian factories.  

Human rights groups acknowledged that efforts to improve the working conditions of workers had been made in the year ____.

How much did Nike initially pay their Indonesian labourers?

14 cents an hour

Who was Andrew Young?

Andrew Young was an activist and diplomat, gets hired by Nike to investigate its labour practices abroad.  

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nike exploitation of workers case study

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