Several weeks ago the Head Teacher from a high school which is located close to the site of the London 2012 Olympic Games, wrote to adidas to thank us for engaging with her students on the topic of workers’ rights.
Why an interest in labour rights? adidas UK had asked the school for permission to use part of the grounds to distribute sports products to visiting athletes. The student body, which plays an important part in decision-making at the school, was asked whether the school should allow adidas to use the grounds. That prompted students to question adidas Group’s efforts and approach to managing our global supply chain.
I had the pleasure to meet some of the students and teachers from the school, and together with colleagues from the Social and Environmental as well as adidas UK Olympic Team, to answer their questions.
And they were well researched questions: about wages and working hours, about child labour and forced labour and the rights of trade unions. They had read the negative coverage in the UK press, about low pay and long hours in factories in China, Indonesia, Pakistan and other developing world countries. adidas had featured in some of these stories, linked to the making of sports shoes or footballs.
They wanted to know, and be assured, that we were addressing those issues. It mattered to them, deeply. Some of the students were from families that had emigrated from Southeast Asia, who had made a new life in London. They were connected, not just online, but through their extended families.
Tell the story behind the headlines and the TV sound bites
When you work, as I have, for the past decade on addressing labour and human rights issues in supply chains, it is important to know that it does matter to a high school student in East London; and that their interest goes beyond a newspaper headline. As I said to the students, none of our supplier factories are perfect; far from it.
Are they better than many others? I would say, on the whole, yes we have a number of very committed suppliers.
Are we, as a company, working diligently to protect worker rights? Absolutely.
Are there hard to fix issues in the factories? Yes, there are. When you source products from 1,400 factories in 63 different countries globally, which employ over 800,000 workers, you will, every day, have challenges and issues.
Does what we do as a company matter? Does it change lives? Yes, it does.
And as I blog I want to utilize this platform to share with you some insights into how lives are being changed, hopefully for the better. To tell the story behind the headlines and the TV sound bites. To tell it as it is. Come back soon and find out more…