A Decent Factory

A Decent Factory

"The one and only social responsibility of business is to make profits."
Milton Friedman, Nobel Prize Winner in Economics

In an increasingly globalized economy, more corporations are 'outsourcing' their production to countries with cheaper labor costs and less legal protection of workers' rights. Some corporate managers, whether out of sincere moral concern or because they must respond to the considerations of investors and shareholders, are attempting to balance profit-making with social morality.

A DECENT FACTORY focuses on such an effort by Nokia, the Finnish electronics firm, which sends a team led by two business ethics advisors to examine conditions at a Chinese factory that supplies parts to Nokia. Filmmaker Thomas Balmès, having conducted three years of research on the subject, follows them on their investigative journey.

The film documents in fascinating detail their inspection of the plant, guided by its European and Chinese managers. During their tour the Nokia team investigates working and safety conditions, payroll records, and potential environmental hazards. They also conduct probing interviews with the factory managers as well as several of the young Chinese female employees who work and live in dormitories on the site.

The advisors' final report to Nokia managers, which exposes numerous violations of even the less stringent Chinese laws on minimum wage and working conditions, confronts Nokia with the dilemma now facing an increasing number of Western firms-how is it possible to balance the profit motive with a sense of social responsibility?

"This intimate view of outsourcing... puts the lie to bromides about the 'knowledge economy' by demonstrating the very real labor costs behind the high-tech revolution."—Utne

"Funny, perceptive... A moral investigation into the profit motive."—BBC

"Fascinating!"—Financial Times

"An in-depth analysis of the complexity of globalization and its famous practice of outsourcing. With his seemingly dispassionate approach, Thomas Balmes provides a pitiless document on a furiously modern world."—Telérama

"Surprisingly entertaining!"—International Documentary

"A Must-See!"—Libération

"An honest, brutal and… humorous look at the culture and climate surrounding today's business world as it collides with consumer desire for ethically-made products."—Chart Magazine

"Pick of the Day!"—The Guardian

"Fun!"—Daily Telegraph

"Chilling! It's like Chaplin's Modern Times without Charlie..."—The New Republic

"An excellent documentary!"—Le Nouvel Observateur


Main credits

Balmès, Thomas (director of photography)
Balmès, Thomas (film director)
Balmès, Thomas (film producer)
Aho, Kaarle (film producer)
Mille, Olivier (film producer)

Other credits

Edited by Catherine Gouze; image, Thomas Balmès.

Docuseek2 subjects

Distributor subjects

Business Ethics
East Asia
Labor Studies
On 35mm


division of labor; foreign direct investment; inequalities; uneven development; Nokia; factory; factories; suppliers; ethical; outsource; outsourcing; film; video; documentary; dvd; low cost labor; worker's rights; working conditions; capitalism; global; manufacturing; Nokia in China; ethics; treatment; supply chain; "A Decent Factory"; Icarus Films; "A Decent Factory"; Icarus Films