PSY 533 U05: Shopping on Wish.com, who is ethically responsible?

Globalization has been a benefit to many companies looking to reduce costs.  Many of these companies move production to places that have less cost of manufacturing. We have also benefit from this by being able to shop at reduce costs.  Wish.com is an internet shopping tool that sells many items at extremely low costs.  Have you ever considered the effects of shopping with them? Are we unethical by shopping from companies that use factories in China that have unethical practices?

China reports that factory workers are working over 11 hours a day with less than 60 minutes break for lunch. Practices which violate labor laws in the US and in China.  Workers are paid wages that are too low to live on.   Chinese women work mainly in the factories under male managers.  Forced to always obey the male figure.

Many companies adhere to ethical codes that are international.  These codes are in place to protect the outcome of their actions towards society. The APA and Canadian Code of Ethics are two that are very similar and take into consideration all aspects ethical practices in a company.  China’s factories that provide the increased demands for these products are not functioning under these code of ethics and violating many other ethical practices. Ethical practices like safety of employees and social responsibilities.

Globalization is a connection between countries that has allowed us to benefit from better communication, lower costs of products and access to a wider market.  Globalization under the unethical practices of these factories is a responsibility of not only the company that provides the products but of the consumers that purchase them.

 

References:

War on Want: Sweatshops in China, Taken from, http://www.waronwant.org/sweatshops-china

New York Times, 2008: In Chinese Factories, Lost Fingers and Low Pay, Taken from http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/05/business/worldbusiness/05sweatshop.html

 

 

2 Comments

  1. April Eustice April 24, 2017 at 1:41 AM #

    Hi Madeleyne,

    This is a very interesting topic and I think that it is certainly one that brings up a lot of ethical questions. It has become very common for companies to take advantage of cheaper labor in countries such as China that are not keeping a close eye on how workers are treated. We all end up purchasing good from companies like Wish.com who exploit workers from China. This is something that violates ethical codes and human rights laws and we really cannot continue to encourage this type of exploitation.

    It is a tricky situation of course, as globalization and international trade are good for business and good for developing countries. There are people in China and other countries who may not have any work if they did not have this low paid factory work and perhaps this is better than nothing for some people. However, the standards need to be higher and we cannot accept this as a good enough excuse. Ethically, U.S. companies should be required to abide by ethical codes like the APA and human rights laws. Therefore there should be an international minimum wage that U.S. companies are required to pay workers from other countries and the U.S. companies should pay to improve factory working conditions.

    Thank you for your post!
    April

  2. Hope Anne Dellastua April 23, 2017 at 5:55 PM #

    Hi Madeleyne. Thanks for the post. It sparked my thinking about globalism, interconnectivity, cultures, values, and conflict. I am in no way advocating for poor factory conditions, the abuse of people, and the many other unacceptable conditions that often come hand in hand with countries, such as the U.S. going in to underdeveloped countries and taking advantage of cheap labor, relaxed laws, etc. but recent travels of mine sparked thinking around this topic such as industrialization of third world countries by foreign countries. I have experienced the good and bad of this. Prior to my recent travels I was very positioned about the unethical approach of developed countries going in to third world countries and taking advantage of their poverty, their people, etc.; our media does not help with this topic, in my opinion.

    I want to share some thoughts I had while on a recent trip to Burma, now Myanmar. I decided to join a missionary trip to work at an orphanage for four weeks. While there, I was able to travel to several towns throughout the country. It was unlike anything I had ever seen or experienced before. Many of these towns were untouched by the modern world and suffered from extreme poverty. Most towns and cities in Burma do not have running water, sewer systems, garbage control, hospitals, medicine, etc. To reinforce their extreme poverty and isolation: One day while with the orphans and the many women who take care of them, I took out a small mirror I had in my bag, as the adult women and children looked in the mirror they were very confused by what they were seeing. They had never seen their own reflections before. Most areas in Burma do not even have metal or other shiny objects in place of a mirror to allow people to get a glimpse of themselves. As simple as this scenario may sound it caused a slew of mixed emotions for me. I was sad that these people were so isolated and that they lacked basic human needs such as water, food, shelter, hygiene items, access to medicine, doctor care, etc.; I was angry that I allow myself to get caught up in so many material things in my life; I was happy to be sharing the experience with them; I was also very happy to be present with these people in the most simple way of life even without running water, food, etc. Coming home was bitter sweet for me: even without the luxuries of food being readily available, decent shelter, electricity, running water and so much more I felt guilty to go back to my life and leave these people yet, they were very happy and did not know about the luxuries they do not have (and have not been exposed to). A few days before leaving Burma I spent time in their capital which borders the Thailand. Rangoon is a city that is beginning to have the luxuries of electricity, water, etc. due to wealthy investors particularly those from Thailand building factories and trying to spark tourism. Rangoon has several factories as a result of these investors. Yes, I went into these factories and the conditions were not great, in fact the exposure to chemicals will inevitably introduce a rise in cancer diagnoses; this of course is one of the bad things about businesses building factories in third world countries. Here is what I also saw as a result of these factories: families that traditionally farmed in order to survive, including their young children, were now able to send their kids to school in the hopes of their children having a better life; people were receiving medical care, vaccinations, and dental care; birth control was being offered to young girls allowing them to pursue educations, etc; clinics were popping up all over giving out eye glasses to people of all ages; simple things such as Tylenol for headaches and fevers were being handed out; people are being taught about hygiene to stop the spread of disease; and I could go on and on. In the towns without these factories young children were forced to work on farms at very young ages all day, they were forced to move rocks all day as many towns are trying to make gravel roads; young girls were having babies; medical care was not available; people were starving; and again, I could go on and on. Rangoon was, and is, in the early stages of offering medical care and education. As sad and infuriating as I was by a lot of what I observed there was also many new things going on that will hopefully continue to lead to more good things for the people of this country. Certainly, by our standards they are being taken for granted but I am not sure if the majority of the Burmese people would see it this way; I think there would be a mix of responses. I am thinking a fourteen year old girl now being offered birth control and an education as oppose to working a farm, having a baby of her own and not a lot of food would have a different point of view on the factories and all that they bring. I think an increasing amount of families not having to worry about where their next meal is coming from might also feel differently, etc.
    Hofstede (2001) states, “culture is the collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another”. To say that in other words, culture is the shared values of a group of people that make that group different from another group (PSY, 533). In 2001, Hofstede’s research described four cultural dimensions but through later research he added two additional dimensions. Further, these dimensions have a scoring that is indicative of either individualism or collectivism. Individualism/collectivism refers to the tendency of a culture to value the individual’s efforts (or the group’s efforts); this dimension is often reflected by who is rewarded the “hero” or the “team”. This made me think about the different ethic’s theories we learned about in the beginning of the class: normative, virtue and meta-ethics. Meta-ethics is concerned with how right and wrong are determined, and meta-ethical theories typically focus on the creation of ethical standards rather than behaving in an ethical manner as in normative theories of ethics. I went back to the lecture on these theories and reviewed ethical egoism and ethical universalism; the difference is in the question “how do we balance rights of the individual with the rights of all?” Ethical egoism refers to the idea that happiness is a moral obligation of the individual. This idea does not align with most modern normative ethical theories (although the case could be made it is the basis for virtue theories), but it is actually a value that is held by many people. Ethical egoism also underpins much of modern business and economic theory, and it is reflected in everyday ideas and language such as merit pay and promotion. People get treated differently because there is something fundamentally different about their ability, characteristics, or actions (PSY, 533). Ethical universalism refers to the idea that concern for society or groups at large is paramount for determining what is right or wrong. This leads to common sayings such as “Sacrifice one for the good of all” and “Choose the lesser of two evils,” which may sometimes be heard when people are making political or organizational decisions (PSY,533). Going back to Hofstede two of his dimensions stood out to me regarding your blog, ethical theories and my Burma experiences: long-term/short term orientation and indulgence/restraint. Long-term/short-term orientation is the tendency of a culture to focus on the future. Cultures with a long-term orientation plan far into the future and often have a great appreciation for the past. Cultures with a short-term orientation are more concerned about what is going on at the moment. I would describe many in Burma as focused on the here and now: for starters, they have to be for survival and second, although hopeful they cannot fully appreciate what is going on, for good or bad. Indulgence/restraint is the tendency for a culture to value life’s pleasures (or moderation). Indulgent cultures are those that like good food and are boisterous. Restrained cultures appear more reserved. I would describe most Americans as indulged; I know I take for granted many things and probably would not really know the depths of this until I went to Burma. Going back to the example of the girl now being offered an education even with poor factory conditions, she might feel very indulged, lucky, etc; even though I say I can appreciate this idea, the reality is I probably cannot based on my upbringing and the country/culture I have grown up in.

    To connect my above thoughts: In an ideal world, factories would be set up with high standards like we would expect in accordance to our culture and ethics, the reality is they are not and often it takes years for countries like Burma to start setting standards making it more expensive for companies to come in. A lot of damage can be done in these years; so is some good that might not otherwise occur. Like I said earlier, prior to Burma I only saw these factories as bad; I was able to see the good from this trip. I think it is hard for most Americans given our culture and quality of life to view this topic as anything other than unethical. We have decades, if not centuries, of history that have built us up to our standards which changes how we perceive what is right, what is wrong, who is responsible for right and wrong, what is acceptable quality what is not, etc. If we take the topic of these factories and our view of their exploitation, and really try to see them through the eyes of people who have absolutely nothing I think their perception of right, wrong, responsibility, and quality will vary; even if they were to learn about all the potential good and bad the future will bring. Perhaps the answer is to not boycott these companies but demand they raise their standards and give back more from their profits to these countries to improve their quality of life.
    Thank you for the thought provoking blog!
    References

    Hofstede, G. (2001). Culture’s consequences: Comparing values, behaviors, institutions, and organizations across nations. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

    PSY 533 (2017). Lesson 03: Vices. Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1834796

    PSY 533. 2017. Lesson 13: Ethical Climate. Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1834796

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