A case study of ethical issue at Gucci in Shenzhen, China

Li WANG, Robin Stanley SNELL

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Gucci is a multinational company with over 270 directly operated stores worldwide, serving customers of elite goods, and generating billions of dollars revenue per year. It has an iconic, even noble, luxury brand image in the Greater China region, where its revenue increased by 35.6% in the first half of year 2011. Gucci has expressed its intention to accelerate the process of opening stores on the Chinese mainland. Recently, however, the company came under fire after five former employees from its flagship store in Shenzhen revealed information online about inhumane working conditions and labor mistreatment in the company. This paper focuses on events that took place in a Gucci flagship store located in Shenzhen, China. This paper has two main research objectives. The first is to analyze why labor abuses (as exemplified in the Gucci case) are allowed to occur and persist in foreign-invested firms that are located in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The second is to develop a multi-stakeholder approach to preventing further abuses of this kind. The next section provides a description of the case, focusing on the ethically problematic labor management practices and arrangements and noting some legal violations. We shall then present three propositions regarding why some foreign firms operating in the PRC and host local governments ignore and/or tolerate labor abuses of this kind. We follow this with a section in which we apply two different approaches, traditional Confucian ethics on the one hand and modern labor rights theory on the other, to provide a robust ethical basis for stakeholders to argue from, while taking action to persuade others that such malpractices are ethically unacceptable. Next, after identifying four stakeholders for the Gucci case, we suggest how each of them may play a role in discontinuing and/or preventing future labor abuses. We conclude with some further theoretical and managerial implications.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-183
Number of pages11
JournalAsian Journal of Business Ethics
Issue number2
Early online date9 Oct 2012
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2013


  • Chinese Government
  • Foreign Firm
  • Multinational Company
  • Foreign Government
  • Confucian Ethic


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