consumerism fair trade human rights

Sportswear brands still failing on labour rights

Yesterday I walked past the new 2012 store in St Pancras Station, gearing up to sell Olympic branded gear two years ahead of the actual London games. There’s a lot of money to be made in sportswear, and a pile of it is being made right now at the CommonWealth Games. Last year Nike had a turnover of £13 billion, Adidas of £8.5 billion. So why, a decade on from the big boycotts, are they still using sweatshop labour?

Last week the Independent published the results of Nike, Adidas and Puma’s own factory audits. Of 479 factories that Nike use, 168 didn’t meet their agreed standards on such matters as days off, contracts for workers, allowing union activity or overtime. You can read the article here.

As usual, the answer is not necessarily to withdraw business from factories that do not meet the standards. The answer is to raise the standards. The brands all have to pay the legal minimum wage in whatever country they operate it, but these are kept low to attract foreign investment and aren’t enough to live on. The Independent’s consumer affairs editor, Mark Hickman, points out just how little this would actually cost if sportswear companies took it seriously. Paying a fair wage “might add 30p to a pair of trainers”.

If you are a regular customer of theses companies, or any clothing company for that matter, get in touch with them. Say that you welcome the advances they’ve made, but that you want them to do more. And say that you don’t mind paying a little extra.

  • To see how your favourite sports brand shapes up, see Playfair’s index.
  • Labour behind the label have regular reports on the fashion industry more generally.
  • And to return to 2012, check out this little game encouraging a sweat-free Olympics.

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