Globalization: Shoes and the Rain Forest

August 4, 2009

So do the shoes you buy affect the rain forest and global warming?  The answer is yes to both points.  Leather from Brazil can be sourced from cattle that graze on deforested rain forest land.  The destruction of the rain forest contributes to the problem of global warming.  Yes, we are identifying global warming and real and a problem.  Leather is used to make shoes.  If the leather in your shoes comes from deforested land in Brazil, you are contributing to global warming.  Welcome to globalization, a key subject of Chapter 14.  Manufacturers source raw materials from around the world.   Put another way, supply chains stretch around the world.  Who manufacturers use in their supply chain does matter.  Suppliers vary in their treatment of worker rights, indigenous people, sustainability, and impact on the environment.  Nike’s linger “sweat shop” stigma is a case in point.  Corporations need to make informed decisions about suppliers.

Nike is taking action to be at the forefront of global warming and leather.   Nike plans to have suppliers provide proof their materials do not come from illegally created pastures.  Here is part of the Nike news release:

” Nike has had extensive conversations with its leather suppliers to gain the most accurate picture possible of our leather sourcing footprint. Nike can say with a high level of certainty that leather used in Nike products is not sourced within the Amazon basin.

However, recognizing that there is no current leather traceability system to track the origins of leather with 100 coming year. In addition, we have also signed Greenpeace’s ‘Commit or Cancel’ principles which call for a moratorium on deforestation.

Beyond traceability, Nike would also call for the establishment of an enforceable certification system for all industries involved in the Brazilian meat and leather supply chain. Nike values collaboration and continued dialogue on important issues in order to implement change for a more sustainable future.

To this end Nike will continue to work with the industry’s Leather Working Group, Greenpeace and other stakeholders to address this issue across the supply chain. Moving forward, we will also require all suppliers of leather for Nike product to join the Leather Working Group by December 2009.”

Nike is connecting itself with protecting the planet from global warming and Greenpeace.  As the news release notes: “Nike and Greenpeace share a common interest in addressing the causes of climate change.”   For additional information on the subject, see Nike’s Amazon Leather Policy at


Greenpeace has provided support for Nike at its web site.  Here is the last section of their comments on Nike’s new policy:  “The demand for leather means more Amazon rainforest cleared to graze cattle – leather that can end up in popular brands like Timberland, Adidas, Reebok, and Clarks. Nike has stepped up and taken the necessary action to eliminate Amazon destruction from its supply chain. Take action now >> Thank Nike for setting a good example of protecting the Amazon and the climate.

Unfortunately, the other shoe companies linked to Amazon deforestation in our report continue to offer nothing but excuses. With rival Nike having made a commitment to protect the Amazon, it’s time for these companies to step up and do the right thing.”


Notice Greenpeace is providing a link to have people thank Nike as well as praising Nike for being a leader on this issue.

Questions to Consider

  1.  How can Nike use its Amazon Leather Policy to bolster its reputation?
  2. What other policies/practices does Nike have about sourcing products that relate to CSR and reputation building?
  3. How does this case fit with the legitimacy procurement model in Chapter 13?
  4. How does this case illustrate identifying and preventing expectation gaps?
  5. How does this case illustrate the effects of globalization on public relations (Chapter 14)?
  6. How could Nike use online channels (Chapter 7) to promote this CSR effort beyond just posting to its web site?
  7. What role might activists (Chapter 5) have played in shaping this policy?

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