CEO on CEO Crime

Scene: A debate between Nike CEO Phil Knight and Whole Foods CEO John Mackey. The are speaking to an audience dealing with adversity or company criticism

Debate Moderator: I’d like to thank Mr. Knight and Mr. Mackey for volunteering to show up this evening and discuss their views on running a business. Mr. Knight, I’d like to start with you, if you don’t mind.

Knight: Not at all

Debate Moderator: In the past, Nike has been accused of having children illegally working in their Indonesian factories. How did Nike respond to those accusations?

Knight: That’s a very interesting question, and I’m glad that you asked it. As a company, Nike has taken many steps into changing the perception that Nike uses illegal child labor. We hired numerous auditors to inspect our companies and we changed our factory regulations in the contracts of the factories we do business with.

Mackey: Why did Nike wait so long to make substantial changes? You’d been under criticism for years about your work factories’ conditions, yet it wasn’t until your earnings were hit hard that you decided to truly change.

Knight: I don’t consider that a correct evaluation of our company.

Mackey: Why not?

Knight: We believed that the actions we took in the early 90’s would solve our child labor problems.

Mackey: I disagree. As I said before, it wasn’t until your company was financially hurt that you took serious action. In 2003, Whole Foods was accused of not having organic enough food, and instead of hiding behind our product and profits, I decided to look into the matter. In only three months time, I realize that my critics were right. I decided to change the way Whole Foods processed our food, so that it would make our customers happy. I believe if your company was not as concerned with earning a profit, and more concerned with fostering love and caring, you would have realized what horrors you were putting your workers through.

2 thoughts on “CEO on CEO Crime”

  1. This post does a good job of highlighting the differences in how Mackey and Knight run their companies. I like how you had Knight say “As a company, Nike has taken many steps into changing the perception that Nike uses illegal child labor”. Knight uses the word “perception”, instead of just admitting he and Nike were wrong. This strikes me as the same way Knight would handle the situation in real life.


  2. Like Zack, I think the points you had Mackey and Knight discuss show glaring differences in their managerial philosophies and the approach they took when faced with criticism. Do you really think Knight thought the “changes” he made would solve their child labor problems though? Seems pretty obvious to me that he initially tried to calm the storm without making many major business changes.


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