Edited by Ronald Paul Hill and Ryan Langan
Chapter 7: The CSR conundrum: understanding consumer response to corporate social responsibility
In May 2011, Hu Nianzhen jumped to her death from a sixth-floor window of Mattel’s manufacturing facility in Donguan Province, China, after being repeatedly harassed by her supervisor and made to work in dangerous conditions (chinalaborwatch.org). Since 2007, Mattel has been cited yearly by China Labor Watch (CLW) for poor working conditions and unfair labor practices, including citations for workers not being able to read contracts prior to beginning work, earning an average of US$0.63 per hour, forced overtime, sewing workers regularly having fingers crushed, and employee exposure to high levels of dangerous chemicals. These citations are interestingly juxtaposed against six years of Mattel making the list ‘Fortune Top 100 Best Companies to Work For’. Mattel’s website proudly states that it is a company dedicated to fair and ethical leadership, and goes on to note, ‘every Mattel employee is responsible for acting with integrity, treating others with dignity and respect, being honest and fair in all transactions, and consistently striving to do the right thing’ (mattel.com). Mattel exemplifies the CSR conundrum – one that presupposes consumer’s interest in CSR and ultimately asks consumers to decide if firms make a net positive or net negative impact on society. Mattel’s brands remain strong worldwide with sales increasing and unprecedented levels of customer loyalty for Barbie and Fisher Price, even in China where CSR infractions abound (reuters.com/mattel).
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