Friday, December 26, 2008

What's Nike Up To?

Hope everyone had a great holiday! I got a sweatshirt made by Nike. The sweatshirt includes a few tags containing a few tidbits of information which, as far as I know, are required by law.

One tag discloses materials: 80% cotton, 20% polyester. That tells me something useful. I like cotton.

Another tag tells me where the sweatshirt was manufactured, with a simple statement: Made in China/Fabrique en Chine.

This is a bit useful to know, but my curiousity is piqued: where, exactly, in China was my sweatshirt made? Was it sewn together by an underaged, underpaid school girl? Is the factory a horror show of worker safety and environmental abuse?

Or is it a good place? One that adheres to Nike's codes of conduct for their suppliers? Nike is aiming to improve the world, "one factory at a time". There are almost a million workers in hundreds of factories around the world piecing together goods for Nike. Is the factory that made my sweatshirt one of those that has raised the bar? Or is it one that needs some raising?

Nike, of course, wouldn't tell where the sweatshirt was made (I haven't asked them, but trust me, they wouldn't tell). But why not? Why keep the place of manufacture a secret?

Think about it. If the information was public, there would then be a veritable army of citizens, workers, journalists, NGOs, and just plain folk who could make the connection between a piece of clothing on their back, and the actual factory where that item of clothing was made. An army of people who could assist Nike in overseeing their important code of conduct, and in making sure the code is much more than just words on paper.

But if Nike continues to keep the factory information a secret, than we have little choice but to take their word that they are doing good deeds. And when sweatshop conditions come to light at a Nike factory (as they inevitably do from time to time), we are asked, again, to take them at their word when they say that it's simply an aberration rather than the way things are being done at Nike suppliers around the world.

But of course, their list of suppliers is top secret. So who's to really know?

I imagine Nike will see this post at one point or another. They are, of course, more than welcome to respond.

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