On Tuesday 18th October a journalist and a photographer from the local English language paper “The Phnom Penh Post” joined me on tour of the Shenzhou apparel factory in Cambodia. It was a sultry 30 degrees Celsius and had been raining. This was the first visit by the media to a London 2012 Olympic production site, making products for next year’s London Olympics. The journalist’s interest in the factory was stimulated by our publishing a London 2012 Olympic Suppliers List and by a request from a UK campaign group for adidas to give access to the newspaper’s photo-journalist, to photograph the working conditions in the factory.
A general commitment to transparency
adidas remains the only sponsor and brand to publicly disclose suppliers making goods for major sporting events, globally. We did so in 2010 for the FIFA World Cup in South Africa and we made a commitment to civil society groups in the UK to do the same in mid-2011, a year prior to the London Olympics (read an article of the Guardian on this topic here: “2012 Olympic organisers urged to support sustainable merchandise push”). Our engagement with non-government organisations, campaign groups and trade unions, and the access to factories which is being granted to the media, is part of our general commitment to transparency; a commitment that began way back in 2001, when we were the first company to publish a Sustainability Report.
Cambodia – an attractive place to do business
At Shenzhou, the journalist was keen to write an article on what it means for Cambodia to have Olympic production – the first time the country has been chosen as a sourcing location for such product. He was pleased to have the opportunity to visit the factory, which is modern and well-run, but a little disappointed to learn that although Shenzhou is a competitive manufacturer, with a friendly workforce, what really made Cambodia “special” as a sourcing location was its trade benefits with the European Union. Not a topic that lends itself to front page news. But from a social perspective there is another factor which makes Cambodia an attractive place to do business for brands such as adidas, and that is the role the UN’s International Labour Organisation has played, over the past decade, in monitoring and protecting worker rights. They have done this through a programme called “Better Factories Cambodia” or BFC. All of adidas Group’s apparel suppliers in Cambodia are part of BFC.
adidas has been a longstanding supporter of ILO’s work and it is BFC that desires a gold medal.
Check out the article “Kingdom factory goes for the gold” (Phnom Penh Post) which was published as a result of the factory visit.
You will find the list of the adidas Group’s authorized suppliers for London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games here)