In the midst of March Madness, Supply Chain Dive has published an in-depth look at the underreported labor abuses behind most college athletes’ clothing and equipment.
Industry titans like Nike, Under Armor, and Adidas have signed hundred-million-dollar licensing agreements with the nation’s biggest college sports programs. However, those companies’ long histories of sweatshop abuse, have led some to wonder who – if anyone – is ensuring that the resulting goods are being produced ethically.
Most schools require their manufacturers to sign codes of conduct, however, they rarely enforce them. And while some universities also employ third party labor rights watchdog groups, like the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), those groups tend to only respond to obvious signs of mistreatment, and can be denied access to factories by brands.
Such was the case last year when Nike prevented WRC from entering one of their Vietnam factories following a strike by workers. In response, WRC conducted a covert audit, which found widespread human rights abuses. This prompted a boycott from Georgetown student activists, and left other universities unsure about how to proceed with the brand.
Nike, in response, sanctioned the offending factory by reducing orders from 9% production capacity to 3%, in hopes that a financial incentive would get the supplier to adopt more humane policies. However, the brand still refuses to sign Georgetown’s – or any other university’s – code of conduct.
You can read more about it at Supply Chain Dive.