When Nike was founded in 1964, just 4% of U.S. footwear was imported.
Five decades later, that figure has skyrocketed to 98%, and Nike has likely played a role in driving it up.
Now one of the world’s biggest retailers of athletic shoes, Nike manufactures a vast majority of its footwear and apparel outside the U.S.
The company’s founder, Phil Knight, came up with the idea of outsourcing manufacturing jobs to cut costs while attending Stanford Business School in the early 1960s, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The company now has 68 factories in the U.S., representing just 9% of its manufacturing facilities. Those U.S.-based factories employ just 1% of its total workforce, or 13,922 employees.
Becoming an early adopter of outsourcing has helped propel Nike into one of the biggest athletic footwear and apparel companies in the world.
But the practice has also made Nike a symbol of abusive labour practices, after reports of unsafe conditions at many of its foreign factories began emerging in the 1990s.
In a May 1998 speech, then-CEO Phil Knight was forced to admit that Nike had “become synonymous with slave wages, forced overtime, and arbitrary abuse.”
The company has since established a new set of working standards, as well as a vigorous new auditing system to monitor labour practices in its factories and restore consumer faith in its brand.
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