Objectivity - How do we enact findings and experiments that are free from bias? Nietzsche argues that everyone has a bias. Bias is something that occurs in both qualitative and quantitative work (see Kincheloe & McLaren in Handbook of Qualitative Research (hereafter, HQR, p. 165 for more on this point). Every researcher brings their biases into the research setting. In qualitative work there is an active attempt to become self-reflective on bias issues and to look at the setting from multiple points of view. In quantitative work, there is also bias and attempts at objectivity are arrived at through triangulation. To establish objectivity we propose to include the perspectives of researchers from different disciplines and to enlist researchers who have reached positive and negative conclusions in prior studies of logo corporations in this industry. We also intend to include the voices of workers, managers, government, union, and NGO in the study. There have been studies that have been quite positive about this industry and those that are critical. We will invite study group members from each of the following areas (for list of academic work in the area, see Appendix B).
The notion of `perspective' is I think more relevant than bias. Perspective can account for different positionings in relation to identity politics and experiential background, could serve as a more appropriate framing concept that bias, especially when it comes to the present research topic. In terms of representation, it attracts a far less negative connotation than the word `bias'.
The issue of objectivity is however an important one. As Van de Ven (letter in Appendix E) comments it is what " separates the "wheat from the chaff" among the hotly-contested views of many partisan groups. Of course, there is always the possibility of scholars being seduced to take the position of a partisan interest group, but we know and trust that you and your interdisciplinary colleagues will implement the methods of scientific discourse that prevent this from happening." In order to: establish objectivity, the desired outcome could more productively be re-defined as seeking: balance through diversity in including alternative perspectives and voices. We have therefore included academics who have published and presented work that is more positive and others who are more critical about Apparel Industry logo corporation monitoring of subcontractor labor practices. We also seek to enact action research that moves from basic research findings to stakeholder dialogue and change.
(1) Review of Academic Work that is Supportive of Corporate Efforts - Positive studies may be viewed by logo corporations and others as more "objective" since the findings agree with the self-presentation of these corporations. Mihaly and Massey (1997), for example, supervised Dartmouth MBA students in wage studies in Vietnam and Indonesia that confirmed that Nike pays not only a legal wage, but a living wage that allows employees to put away savings and purchase items such as motorcycles and televisions. Kahle, Boush and Phelps (2000) from the Sports Marketing Department of the University of Oregon in a study of one factory in Vietnam confirmed the positive findings of former Ambassador Andrew Young's visits to three Vietnam factories (he also visited China and Indonesia). The finding was that Nike behaves more ethically than its competitors and there was absolutely no evidence of sweatshop, poverty wage or any other questionable conditions in the factory they toured. Kahle et al (2000) found the pay issue complicated and used descriptive summaries. Clearly more empirical research on pay and living conditions is called for even by studies claiming positive work and environment conditions. We propose to invite these researchers into the current study design. And we propose to include researchers who have drawn negative conclusions (see Appendix B for list of works)/
(2) Review of Additional Academic Research that Raises Concerns - First a brief overview of the Academy of Management All Academy Session where several academics presented concerns about Nike, followed by academic studies raising concerns about Nike Corporation will be presented. These may be questioned as not being "objective" since they disagree with the viewpoint of the Nike Corporation and academic studies with positive findings. Panel member Amanda Tucker of the Nike Corporation responded to concerns of the panel by recommending they and the audience consider recent and more positive academic studies such as, the one above by Kahle, Boush and Phelps (2000).Logsdon and Wood (2000), for example, argue from a business ethics and social responsibility perspective and raised questions about Nike at the Toronto meetings of the Academy of Management meetings (Jeanne Logsdon is past president of the International Association for Business and Society). Boje (2000a, b, c, 1999, 1998a to h) from a narrative and discourse perspective raised critical issues about Nike's ability to effectively monitor its overseas factory conditions. Landrum's (2000a,b) perspective during this session focused on narrative strategy and situates Nike in comparison to Reebok but also presents critical findings concerning the differences between espoused statements in annual reports and actual labor conditions. Work presented at this session by Wells and Greenberg (2000) and Knight and Greenberg (2000) form a political science perspective was critical of the ability of the Fair Labor Association and audit firms such as Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) to audit labor conditions effectively. Oakes (2000) from an accounting perspective also raised issues about PWC and Nike's program for monitoring its overseas practices. Amanda Tucker of Nike responded to each critique pointing out the work that Nike is doing to control the issues raised and raised problems with the panelist's conclusions (See Appendix D for a list of the Academy of Management "Time and Nike" presentations).
There is other research beyond the Toronto Academy of Management session that has raised concerns. For example, Carty's (1999) is the perspective of a sociologist, who looks at the relationship between Nike's postmodern culture strategies to effect brand popularity and its post-industrial subcontracting practices. Carty's work extends a line of inquiry by Gereffi and Korzeniewicz (1990), Korzeniewicz (1994), and Donaghu and Barff (1990) into global commodity chains, which has also taken a critical perspective on Nike. She is critical of both the Andrew Young and the Mihaly and Massey (1997) studies for various research method shortcomings (These range from use of Nike translators, pre-arranged factory tours, relying on factory wage statistics, to not doing interviews away from the managers' gaze). Boje (2000b) has critiqued Kahle, Boush and Phelps (2000) for repeating the same research method flaws in their study. Barry (1999) also looks at strategic and narrative discourse of Nike and has come to critical conclusions. Anita Chan's (1996, 1998, 1999 with Chen Meei-shia) perspective contextualizes Nike within the entire athletic apparel industry operating in China. Her perspective has been critical but also suggests that Nike is no worse than other athletic apparel manufacturers. Cole's (1995 with Amy Hribar, 1996, 1997) perspective situates Nike advertising claims and postmodern consumption within the African-American community in the US. She has been critical of the relationship between Nike advertising and inner city violence perpetrated to acquire Nike and Reebok shoes. Venkatesh (1999) from a marketing perspective has also drawn critical conclusions about Nike's advertised claims. Hancock's (1996, 1997) perspective is more ethnographic, doing extended field visits to two factories in Indonesia. His research has been critical of Nike for closing the better of two factories that exhibited, in his view, sweatshop conditions and paid less than livable wages. From an accounting perspective, Macintosh, Shearer, Thornton and Welker (1997), and Oakes, Townley, Chwastiak ( 1997) have raised critical issues about Nike's and PWC's auditing research methodology of its overseas subcontract factory operations. O'Rourke (2000) has just completed the first known study of PWC auditing practices and raises concerns with the reliability and validity of their methodology. Finally, in the most recently published journal article Stabile (2000) from a communication studies perspective has reviewed Nike's rhetoric in its press releases, web sites, and speech making, and reached critical conclusions (see Appendix B for list of works).
In sum, to control for objectivity and bias, we propose to include researchers on the study team who have previously drawn positive and negative conclusions. We will also include team members who have had no prior research experience this industry. Finally, we believe that there are action research opportunities here and have invited academics with skills in facilitative groups with differing perspectives and views so that we might offer round table forums involving not only academics of differing views but also subcontract factory owners and managers, government representatives, unions, NGOs, workers, logo corporation executives, and other stakeholders. In this way we propose to do more than research the questions raised, but create forums for dialogue and concerted experimentation that will lead to positive change.
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