The World of Wal-Mart
Sep 12, 2013
from 12:45 PM to 02:15 PM
|Where||55 Lexington Ave (enter on 24th or 25th street) Room 14-220|
|Contact Name||Matthew LePere|
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About the Program
Join the Robert Zicklin Center for Corporate Integrity on September 12th as we host Baruch's own Professor S. Prakash Sethi for our first program of the fall 2013 semester. Professor Sethi will present his recent research on Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. and other multinational companies and discuss if they engage in unethical and, perhaps, illegal behavior. The program will be preceded by lunch.
Baruch's William and Anita Newman Library offers a subject guide to compliment Professor Sethi's talk on Wal-Mart. Click here to view.
The issue of low-wage workers and unsafe working conditions in developing economies has been a persistent public concern for more than 20 years. Pope Francis recently commented that these low-wage workers are akin to “slave labour” and are stain on both capitalism and civilized societies. The most recent examples of hazardous work environments include the loss of over 1000 lives in Bangladesh, and unacceptably harsh working conditions in Chinese factories that manufacture Apple products.
Both Wal-Mart and Apple represent two highly diverse situations but maintain similarly abusive conditions for their workers. While Apple sells a very high margin and profitable product, Wal-Mart prides itself for selling at the lowest prices possible. And yet, regardless of affordability, both companies use their market power to pay the lowest possible wages without regard to fairness or affordability.
We use the case of Wal-Mart as a prism through which to examine the management of global supply chains by large multinational corporations, where the most vulnerable component - the worker - is subjected to maximum pressure because of its lack of bargaining power. Our paper offers a unique analysis of the situation with regard to worker exploitation and global supply chain. We argue that exploitation of low wage workers is no longer a question of ethics or morality. Instead, the practice has been so embedded in the current business model that it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to remedy the situation without fundamental changes in how the global supply chain is managed.
Finally, we examine the futility of the so-called factory monitoring programs and offer novel approaches to how this situation can be improved in a manner that would provide workers with safe working conditions and fair wages without overly excessive regulation and increased costs.
In the end, we assert that it is becoming increasingly obvious that the status quo is unsustainable, and without thoughtful and meaningful changes, it will cause violent disruptions in business activity and unnecessary injuries and loss of human life.
About the Speaker
S. Prakash Sethi is the University Distinguished Professor of Management at the Zicklin School of Business and a Senior Fellow of the Weissman Center for International Business. He is also president of the International Center for Corporate Accountability and Forrest Mars, Sr. Visiting Professor of ethics, politics, and economics at Yale University.
Sethi spent over 12 years working and studying the operations of the Sullivan Principles in South Africa and their impact on U.S. corporations who were breaking down the apartheid barriers in South Africa.
His articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Business Week , and other publications. His books include Group Purchasing Organizations: An Undisclosed Scandal in the U.S. Healthcare Industry and Setting Global Standards: Guidelines for Creating Codes of Conduct in Multinational Corporation.
Sethi also serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of the Council's journal, Ethics & International Affairs.
12:00 pm - Registration and lunch
12:45 pm - Presentation