Ethical questions forwarded in the documentary
The global clothing industry is one of the biggest industries in the world. Billions of people across the planet are employed in this industry, which is considered to be among the most profitable industries in the current context. The industry itself is a huge umbrella term that encompasses an array of other sectors and industries that come together to make sure that the clothing industry operates smoothly and without any glitch (Cheng, Ioannou & Serafeim, 2014). This paper looks into the documentary “Blood, Sweat & Tshirts” that delves into the lives of employees of the garment industry who are employed in small factories in the slums of Dharivi, Mumbai, India. The paper relates to the essence of the documentary and the concept of CSR to understand whether these small factories are adhering to the organisational norms and the code of ethics or not. The documentary that is being analysed raises an important issue: to look into the working conditions of the employees that are employed by small clothing factories in the developing countries and to decide whether they have the proper working conditions and are given the basic human rights. The British people who came to India as part of the documentary crew and the fashion enthusiasts said, after being exposed to these small factories and experiencing the working conditions of these factories, that they did not have ideas from beforehand about these scenarios. They were shaken to the core and they said that people who buy products and clothing from the big shops and malls in the western cities do not possess any notions about these conditions in the countries like India and what the employees are made to go through. The documentary has been able to saliently raise the point of CSR and its possible violations in these small factories through this portrayal of the morbid conditions of the workers in Dharivi.
Broad views of CSR
CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) is a set of social responsibilities that every organisation is supposed to meet up to, in order to be an all-inclusive institution. CSR refers to the many social and environmental responsibilities that are part of the organisational operations, which have to be respected and met (Carroll, 2015). The benefits of the many stakeholders of the organisation must be fulfilled by the management to ensure a humane working condition for all. The size, magnitude, expanse and power of the organisations have increased significantly over the past few decades and from perspective, the responsibilities of the organisations have also taken multilateral forms than ever before. Questions have been raised to understand whether the obligations of an organisation are bound only to its own profits and better internal functions or should they also take into consideration the many aspects of the society and try something to help the community within which it operates. Environmental obligations are also highly important and preservation of the ecology is just as important in the modern era. CSR comprises all of these aspects and looks at every function of the organisation through two major ways: narrow and broad (Cao, 2017). Broad views of CSR advocate an all-inclusive approach to the organisational operations, that pay a lot of attention and try to meet the social and environmental responsibilities that they are supposed to meet. A sustainable development must be achieved by the organisations and this can only be done through making sure both the society and the environment are given the necessary attention that they deserve. It must be ensured that the future generations get the advantages that are provided by the environment and the ecology in general, and the present organisations have to take the initiatives for this (Cao, 2017).
Narrow views of CSR
The other way of viewing organisational operations is the narrow way. This method of looking at the operations also concerns itself with how the organisations function. However, this method is more concerned about the business aspects of the organisation and does not consider much about the environmental or social aspects. This method is more focused to make sure that the organisations profits are maximised and is more leaned towards an exclusive way of running the business (Christensen, Mackey & Whetten, 2014). Primary focus is given to generating maximum profit and dictates the operations of the company to be designed and run accordingly. The negative impacts that the organisational operations may have on the surroundings are not paid much heed in this view. However, in the recent times, with the rise of different issues that are wide in nature, the number of supporters of the narrow views of CSR have declined drastically (Crane, Matten & Spence, 2013). Multinational companies have understood that whatever they do, those have significant and long lasting impact on the environment; and with the growing concerns about environmental degradation and global warming, they have also changed their operations accordingly, so that the environment is preserved and the ecology is given a balance.
Foreign clothing retailers and their views: narrow or broad
The foreign retail clothing companies that are buying their products from the Indian factories have been seen to take a rather narrow approach in doing their business. Their approach to CSR has been observed to have a very simplistic way of looking at the business running. The foreign companies are more concerned about making sure that they can avail the products at a cheap rate so that their profit margins are maximised (Kilkenny, 2014). Many industries are taking this path in recent times: to outsource their jobs to poorer developing nations, where they can avail cheap labour who are also skilled. These skilled labours can meet the requirements of the multinational companies and also provide their services for much cheaper rates than what is demanded by the foreign workers. The foreign retail clothing companies do not bother to check whether the Indian factories are maintaining the rules and are in compliance with the international labour laws. Paying attention to the basic human rights and ethical aspects are often bypassed by the small scale Indian garment factories and this is not looked at by the foreign companies either (Preuss, 2013). Even though the retail companies should make sure their products are manufactured in the right conditions where humane working environment is available, the documentary shows that the actual case is very dissimilar to this criterion. Hence, it can be inferred that the foreign retail clothing companies adopt a very narrow view of the CSR when it comes to meeting the requirements that are expected of them.
Justification of the narrow view
It must be clarified at the very beginning that by no means can the narrow view of CSR be justified and the companies that take this approach are also in position to establish that what they are doing is justified in any case. Denying basic human rights to the employees or basic amnesties can be deemed as a crime (Suliman, Al-Khatib & Thomas, 2016). That being said, there are a few arguments that seek to portray the narrow views of CSR as the correct methods to run a business. Probably the best two arguments in favour of the narrow view of CSR may be the physical or geographical barrier and the financial aspects of the prospect of keeping an eye on every employee (Takkar, 2015). When organisations operate across borders and international countries, it is often very difficult to make sure that every factory in every country are complying to the labour norms and are providing humane working conditions in every factory to every employee. There is a physical problem of going to each of these factories to see if CSR is maintained. Moreover, it can cause organisations to incur huge amounts of money if they want to do this (Tai & Chuang, 2014). A lot investment has to be made so that the employees of the companies can be guaranteed a good working environment and that they are being given the human rights that they are entitled to. However, it must be kept in mind that, these arguments are by no means strong enough to establish the organisational operations that is solely focused at maximising the profit margins of the organisation and not pay any attention to the social and environmental obligations that they are subjected to.
Justification of the broad view of CSR
According to the broad view of CSR, in order to become an all-inclusive organisation, companies have some moral obligations towards the society and the environment that they need to attain. In a broad sense, these responsibilities are encompassing both the human society and the environment as well as the entire ecology (Romano, 2017). With the rise with the concerns about various issues like global warming and general environmental degradation, this view of CSR has gained increased popularity. These aspects and other growing human rights concerns have made it important for the organisations to have an established operational norm that would be fulfilling the needs of the environment and the human society in which the organisation functions and operates. Basic human rights must be provided to the employees of the organisation and to the stakeholders as well (Hopkins, 2016). Moreover, it is the duty of the organisations to ensure a safe working environment to the employees. It must be kept in mind to make sure that the organisation is not violating any norms or legal boundaries are being broken. Environmental preservation and wildlife preservation is the moral duty of every individual so that a better world can be given to the future generations. The broad view of CSR adheres to all of these criteria and encourages the organisations to preserve the environment through their operations as well as give something back to the community (Saeidi et al., 2015). This view is starkly opposite to the narrow view of CSR, where only profits dictate the operations of the organisation.
The narrow view of CSR and the documentary
The documentary that is being studied for this paper at hand, gives a narrow view of CSR, where the operations of the foreign clothing retail companies have somewhat been criticised. These foreign companies have been seen not to be much concerned about the conditions of the workers in the Indian garment factories. These companies are visibly being run based on the profit maximising aspect of business and are not much bothered to check whether the Indian factories are at par with the morale and humane requirements of the foreign offshore companies for which they are manufacturing the garments (Emeana, 2013). When the foreign companies are placing an order to the Indian factories, they are in a way hiring those labours as well and this makes their responsibility to ensure that the clothing are not being produced in a dismal working condition, where even the basic human rights is not understood by the labourers. The companies are all motivated by their profit margins and this makes them unconcerned to check the working conditions of the Indian garment factories (Flammer, 2015). The foreign clothing companies are not meeting the social responsibilities that they are bestowed with and hence take on a narrow approach to CSR.
The broad view of CSR and the documentary
However narrow view may be taken by the foreign clothing companies, the fact that such a documentary has been done to educate the people about the hideous conditions in the Indian factories, it can be said that the mentality of the foreign organisations is slowly changing. A broader take on the approach to CSR is gradually taking place and this is absolutely hope instilling. The fact that at least a few fashion lovers have embarked upon the journey to find out how and where their favourite garments are made, makes it understand that people are understanding the necessities for ethical manufacturing of products (Argiolas, 2017). Before the trip began, the British crew and participants were naïve about their approach on the manufacturing process and how they imagined the scenario will be. Upon completing the journey, they were shaken to the core. Even though they had to go through terrible and shocking experiences, they properly comprehended the actual case that is prevailing in the industry and reflected on their personal experiences, saying that from now on they will only buy products that are manufactured ethically and by employees who are working in a humane condition. From an alternate perspective, it may be said that even though the companies have taken a narrow approach to CSR, the documentary itself takes on a more liberal and broader view of the same and they themselves are trying to change the current established conditions in the industry.
The ethics of care
The principle of care ethics says that every social relationship of any kind is a two-way relationship, where the well-being of all the parties involved must be ensured. The care givers are liable to some privileges, just as the care receivers. Every single relationship is a both way relationship, which means that all the parties involved are simultaneously both care givers and receivers at the same time (Shin, 2014). Everyone is entitled to some amnesties in return for the services they provide to others or the community. With this in mind, the current documentary would portray the broader view of CSR as the more ethical and rational one. In accordance to the broad view of CSR, every organisation is supposed to fulfil some social and environmental requirements in return for the various resources they are provided by those two entities. In return of the resources that are supplied by the environment to the humans, the people also have responsibilities to ensure the balance of the ecology and the preservation of the environment and the wildlife, both as individuals and as part of a group or organisation (Preuss, 2013). On the other hand, the society also provides organisations with many resources, labour being the most popular and the most significant among them. The organisation also has to contribute to the societal cohesion and the integrity of the community.
Understanding if making a difference is possible
Professionals of every field have many moral obligations that need to be fulfilled. Any occurrence of disparity and contrast must be at least tried to be mitigated by the professionals and the organisations alike. Poor working conditions like which the Indian garment factory workers are subjected must be changed for the better and this has to be initiated by the professionals in the sector themselves. Standing up for the rights of the workers has to be started themselves. The most important way to make sure that they understand what they are liable to receive is to ensure every person the proper education, so that they can themselves know what they should be getting and what are their rights. However, in a country like India, the sheer magnitude of the number of workers and population makes it immensely difficult to keep track of every worker and every small scale factory is also often not kept in check by the officials. This makes it even more difficult to know if any human rights violations are taking place. It must be ensured that no one or nothing, individual or group or the environment, is harmed when the development of another is taking place. Inclusive growth must be attained.
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