As a buyer for a discount retail chain, you find yourself caught in a maelstrom. Just last month, your chain began selling an economy- priced line of clothing endorsed by a famous movie star. To be price competitive, you have followed the rest of the industry and sourced the clothing from a low- wage region of Asia. Initial sales have been brisk; however, the movie star has recently called you screaming and crying because an investigative news outlet has reported that the clothes with her name on them are being made by children. Outraged, you fly to the outsourcing manufacturing facility only to find that conditions are not quite as clear-cut as you had originally imagined. You feel uncomfortable riding through the streets. Poverty is everywhere. Children are chasing foreigners and begging for money. When you enter the plant, you observe a very clean facility. The completely female workforce appears to be very industrious, but many of them do appear to be young. You confront the plant manager and explain your firm’s strict international sourcing policies. You demand to know why these girls aren’t in school. The manager provides the following response: “ The truth is that some of these workers may be underage. We check IDs, but the use of falsified records is commonplace in this country. Plus, you don’t understand the alternatives. If you shut this plant down, you will literally take food off the table for these families. There are no other opportunities in this town at this time, and there’s no comprehensive welfare system in our country. As for the young women, school is not an option. In this town, only boys receive an education past the sixth grade. If you shut us down, these girls will be out on the street, begging, stealing, or prostituting themselves. Your business offers them a better existence. Please don’t take that away!” What do you say to your company, the movie star, the media, and the protestors picketing your stores? Is the best option to shut down and try someplace else?
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