Attacking the Roots: Shiraishi Garments Company and an Evolving Thicket of Business Ethics in China


This case examines management underpinnings of conducting socially purposeful business in contexts where the labor conditions and ethics are questionable. Shiraishi Garments Company was a Japanese entrepreneurial venture in the clothing industry that evolved into a highly successful multinational company. After its supply chain had extended into China, some ethical labor issues emerged. The decision point is focused squarely on the company’s CEO, who must deal with conflicting forces stemming from his personal values and professional responsibilities. In exploring the issues, the case illustrates business risks of superficial standards auditing of international operations. The case also describes how multinational firms are often part of the problem and the solution when it comes to ethical labor issues. On these grounds, the case study reveals some alternative approaches to the audit model based on more meaningful partnerships. Implications pertain to successful and ethical supply chain relationships between foreign entrepreneurial firms and the developing economic systems they enter.

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