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Business Ethics Now, 4e
Video Lecture Notes
Chapter 3: Organization Ethics
Fire Kills Over 100 Factory Workers in Bangladesh
Run Time: 2:17
Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RTy2ykKBxIY
Retail giant Wal-Mart was on the defensive after more than 100 workers were killed in a
fire at a factory that produced its private label clothing. The fire was especially deadly
because the factory lacked basic escape routes leaving workers with only the option of
heading directly into the flames or jumping from the roof. The factory where the fire broke
out was located in Bangladesh, a country that has become a key supplier of garments to
numerous well-known companies in the United States and Europe.
With wage rates as low as $0.21 per hour, Bangladesh is one of the cheapest places in the
world to produce clothing. Companies like Tommy Hilfiger, the GAP, and Wal-Mart are
among those who are sourcing their products in the country. However, conditions at many
of the factories where the garments are produced, including the one that where the fire
broke out, are deplorable, and would be considered illegal in much of the world.
Documents show that Wal-Mart was aware of the dangerous conditions at the factory for at
least year before the fire. Yet, despite this knowledge, the company apparently continued
to buy products made in the factory. Wal-Mart claims that it did not know that its supplier
was still using the factory in question.
Discussion Questions
1. Wal-Mart is known for its focus on being a low cost player in the market. How might this
culture have contributed to the tragedy in Bangladesh? If Wal-Mart was willing to pay
higher prices for the products it sells, would there be more incentive to improve factory
2. Documents show that Wal-Mart was aware of the sub-standard conditions at the factory
in Bangladesh well before the fire. Do companies like Wal-Mart bear any responsibility for
ensuring that their suppliers are following basic safety protocol? Is it ethical for Wal-Mart
to simply source its goods without knowing their provenance?
3. What role do shareholders play in disasters like the one that occurred in the factory in
4. As a consumer, do you play any part in the catastrophe in Bangladesh? Is your behavior
as a consumer ethical when you shop at Wal-Mart?
5. How can companies like Tommy Hilfiger and Wal-Mart emphasize to their employees the
importance of choosing suppliers that behave ethically? Discuss how an organization’s
culture can help dictate employee behavior.