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Analyzing PUMA's Sustainability and Ethical Behaviors

Updated on July 6, 2017

Introduction

PUMA, formally known as PUMA SE is a multinational company based in Herzogenaurach Germany, designs and manufactures casual and athletic footwear including accessories and apparel. Rudolf founded PUMA in 1948 although he had formed the company jointly in 1924 with his brother Adolf Dassler. The two brothers decided to split to form PUMA and Adidas in 1948 after they disagreed. Rudolf had originally registered his company as Ruda, which he changed to PUMA. This paper will critically analyze PUMA’s ethical behavior to ascertain if it is ethical with regards to its code of ethics with reference from some ethical theories.

PUMA and Ethics

Sustainability and ethical behavior are central to how any company carries out its business activities. A business cannot be sustained without trust, which is founded on the ability of a business to exhibit its daily commitment to managing business responsibly. PUMA signed its first charter for ethics in 1996, and substantial progress has been recognized in the way it reinforces its ethical pledge continually. This is backed up by the several milestones such as publishing the PUMA code of ethics in 2005 and 2009 and distributing it to all PUMA employees. This reflects the ethical theory of deontology which declares that for an action to be termed as bad or good, wrong or right, it must imitate a duty that is discerned by reason. In this respect, Puma’s action of developing a code of ethics and distributing it to its employees reflects a sense of duty towards its employees and its environment, Additionally, PUMA created a department for sustainability, ratified the Global compact and also created the Kering foundation which advocates for women and fights against violence. PUMA has strengthened its leadership especially on sustainability and adopted concrete and ambitious objectives for the future. This portrays Puma’s seriousness and determination in approaching ethics (Puma, 2014).

The third edition of PUMA’s ethical code provides a platform for every employee to restate their beliefs as well as principles that guide them as they carry out their daily endeavors. This code of ethics is designed by stakeholders and lays down references which guides the actions of every employee. The ethical code covers such things as gender equalityin the professional realm, child labor, respect for employees, fighting corruption and fraud, environmental conservation, applying fundamental contracts of the labor Organization International, and paying attention to civil stakeholders and keeping the local community and the workforce together (Matthews, 2012). PUMA has enriched the code with this in mind by adopting the precautionary principle for environmental protection and by including their Supplier charter. Additionally which this code, the company has developed an ethics organization and with it the probable recourse avenues for any individual who suspects failure in complying with the ethical principles whether they are witnesses or victims. This is in line with the care theory of ethics which claims that an action is good if it involves care for another person, supports, furthers or maintains an existing relationship and is insightful of empathy, especially for the vulnerable members of a society. To this end, Puma’s actions in the code of ethics are right as it cares for the well-being of its employees, shows compassion and reflects empathy in all possible ways.

PUMA encourages continuous improvement, tenacity and vigilance, especially with the emerging new challenges and issues. As the company transforms to a world leaderin accessories and apparel in sport, and as it adopts its name “Kering”, it focuses on reminding everyone that it does not and cannot do anything outside the set ethical framework. As such, the company encourages all its employees to incorporate the ethical code whenever they are performing any duties in order to embody the Kering spirit. In a business environment, ethics tends to cover several issues which sometimes may be contradicting, especially considering different brands being sold to different continents which have countries with diverse cultural lives and different economic development levels. Though, a number of powerful but simple principles can structure these differences, and the actions of everyone can be guided in this case in the spirit of common sense and responsibility (Smit, 2009).

There are however a number of claims that PUMA is not ethical due to some instances especially in its factories. To begin with, a research projected that the retail price for one Shirt from PUMA is $69, while a worker who produced it is only paid 60 cents while working under harsh conditions. The research observed that PUMA does not do the required to ensure the rights and privileges of workers are respected within their factories. While the workers in factories are expected to adhere to particular social standards, the same workers are not paid decent wages and they are forced to work overtime since like all other brands for sport, PUMA requires a high product turnover within the shortest time. In this regard, it is evident that the priority for workers is adequately low (Puma, 2015). Yet, Puma clearly came out to refute the claim and even produce documents to show the contract it signs with its workers and it doesn’t contain a clause that requires them to work overtime.

Similarly, another research claimed that even though PUMA does not support child labor, its factories employ children in the clothing department. This is attributed to the fact that Puma can only afford to pay such young workers. There has not been any cases of forced labor with Puma. Yet some situations seem to suggest that the company has gone against business ethics. For instance, though their workers have not been forced to work over-time, they have been compelled to and have even not been allowed to leave the premises until a specific time. This may seem like a rule but at the end of the day, it goes against ethical standards.

With regards to the environment, the safety level and health of the workers at Puma has kept a reliable profile. The necessities and essentials which are listed in Puma standards are provided, but the company does not keep up entirely to the standards with the workers safety. According to some workers, first aid was not delivered to them when they urgently needed it, and sometimes they were in a dangerous and harmful environment but were not alerted. Some others have claimed that they were simply not looked after in their work environment. Puma however does not take any responsibility for any of these claims as it stipulates that this is the work and responsibility of the factories. In its code of ethics, Puma has stated that they should meet the standards of the environment which is appropriate for workers, and it holds that it has adhered to this to the later.

The theory of utilitarianism declares that, for something to be wrong, right or bad, it must produce great pleasure or lack of pain for a larger number of people. To break this down, something should produce maximum positive income for a lot of people and negative outcome for very few people (Smart, 1973). In this respect, the number of people who might have been affected by any of the instances mentioned in the research is very low compared to the number of people who benefit from PUMA on a daily basis. As the theory advices one to choose an action which will result to greater happiness than sadness, Puma remains ethical since the people who benefit from it are much more than a few who it has inconvenienced.

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