Friday, 11 January 2008

Ethical brand profile - Adidas

Sparked by my last post, it seems a good idea to do a little bit of digging into the status of the brands that Pier 32 have access to so that our customers can make a better judgement on whether they fit in with their own ethical statements. Ethical behaviour towards humans and in terms of looking after our planet.

Adidas, who acquired Reebock recently, is the world's second biggest sports brand behind Nike. You'd expect them to be under the microscope and they know it. On their corporate website they have a section labelled sustainability "For the adidas Group, being a global leader in the sporting goods industry means improving working conditions in our suppliers’ factories and reducing our environmental impact as a business." with lots of information on all sorts of initiatives on the supply chain, human rights and the environment.

Leaving aside the case studies (we are always inclined to do this because of the ease of cherry picking when you have a mega budget) was is available is the "Supply Chain Code of Conduct" where they set out their standards and we we need to go to get to grips with their stated intentions on ethical purchasing.

"Outsourcing our production in no way absolves us of moral responsibility for the way our products are manufactured and the conditions they are produced under."

"Recognising this responsibility led us to create a set of guidelines for our suppliers that set minimum social, environmental and health and safety standards"

"Based on International Labour Organization conventions, the 'Workplace Standards' describe clear rules of conduct for issues such as the environment, safety in the workplace, child labour, and hours of work."

On the environment, adidas also look at their suppliers (95% of the environmental impact of adidas's operations is in the hands of suppliers) and have setting up supplier energy efficiency workshops. On VOC emissions "Our footwear suppliers have reduced VOC emissions from 140 grams/pair in 2000 to 19.3 grams/pair in 2006".

Globalisation impacts the environment through transport of goods not manufactured locally - adidas give the following statistics:

Sea freight contributes 17.5 grams carbon dioxide CO2/km t

Road freight by truck contributes 147 grams CO2/km t

Airfreight contributes 903 grams CO2/km t.

adidas explain that the 2006 World Cup meant "time sensitive products had to be transported via air freight to meet customer requests" which implies at least that most products are transported by sea. Here's the backup data -

adidas are using carbon offsetting to lessen the impact of air travel by some of its people - but since this is the SEA team, involved in monitoring their sustainability targets etc it's just a drop in the ocean....

All in all, from my brief review adidas seem serious about what they are trying to do. And you'd expect nothing less. They will not be perfect by a long way but for a major multinational I expect what they are doing will be close to those setting the pace on ethical and environmental issues in clothing production.

Briefly digging for dirt, disclose "Children in Pakistan were found stitching Adidas footballs, a major sponsor for the 2002 FIFA World Cup." Then it all get's all a bit murky and this article discloses "Adidas says Global March Against Child Labour photographed a counterfeit operation." The end result of all this was a major investment by FIFA in tracking abuses; and counterfeit operation or not, some good seems to have come out of this whole episode. My brief Google search on "adidas child labour" did not disclose any more recent episodes.

(As with all these brand profiles I'd be delighted for further information or help from readers).

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