In Europe, pressure to have verifiable quality ratings recognized throughout the European Union has corporations working hard to obtain the ISOs necessary to sell their goods throughout the E.U. and keep pace with the competition, but with increasing numbers of suppliers located in developing, non-unionized countries, certifying sources and achieving anything close to socially responsible procurement is still a problem throughout the continent.
Since the 1990s, community groups have engaged in individual campaigns primarily aimed at boycotting both European and foreign manufacturers who violated human rights or harmed the environment. These actions made companies and consumers aware of the social liability of doing trade with ethically dubious corporations, but did not result in stronger networks that worked with and rewarded compliant suppliers. Local and regional governments began to respond to citizen pressure for ethical practices in government procurement and since 2003, an increasing number of local governments throughout Europe have been working jointly to establish and enforce mandatory ethical standards for their suppliers. One such network is “Clean Clothes Communities“, which is focused on workers´ rights in the textile trade.
“Clean Clothes Communities” are communities who have pledged to apply stringent screening of their textile suppliers, starting with their sources for work clothes. While uniform procurement may seem to be an economic drop in the bucket, CCC´s figures are impressive. Phase one of the project was dedicated to data gathering concerning the procurement carried out by government administrations at every level in Europe, from sanitation departments to the armed services. The buying of goods by local authorities and other public bodies is estimated to represent 14% of the EU’s Gross Domestic Product. The European work wear market was worth US$3.59 billion in 2001, a figure expected to rise to US$4.27 billion by 2008. According to the CCC, “This translates into a significant opportunity for public authorities, as consumers, to influence the behavior of companies to improve working conditions in the manufacture of work wear. Therefore, a number of the European Clean Clothes Campaigns have been working to ensure that public authorities develop ethical sourcing policies, and become Clean Clothes Communities.” Considering that these are ongoing, necessary, purchases, the social and environmental implications of implementing CSR principles in both public and corporate supply chains could be profound. Many European cities have already committed to developing responsible purchasing policies. As of September 2005, there were already 72 communities in tiny Belgium and over 250 in France who had pledged to implement CCC guidelines. Books about how to carry out socially responsible procurement have been published and distributed in the Netherlands and Sweden and multiple projects are underway in the U.K.
In Catalonia, where I live, three cities, Barcelona, Manresa and Badalona, have taken the CCC pledge. Barcelona had already developed a three-prong strategy for creating more sustainable and socially responsible procurement systems, concentrating on issues of Fair Trade, responsible timber procurement and in the purchase of city workers´ uniforms from manufacturers and distributors who can certify fair labor practices. The idea was to establish a precedent for other municipalities in Spain and to set an example for socially responsible purchasing in the private sector.
Although relatively small in the grand scheme of things, municipal and regional expenditures can add up to significant contributions to emerging markets. Fair Trade coffee sold in the vending machines in Barcelona city public institutions, for example, represents 19% of all Fair Trade coffee sold in Catalonia. City legislation concerning responsible timber procurement has resulted in at least fourteen successful public tenders for material used in public works projects from park benches to the reconstruction of Barcelona’s emblematic neighborhood public markets.
Last Fall Barcelona was host to an international “Clean Clothes Communities” conference, where it not only compared textile procurement strategies with other members of the CCC international network, but shared its experience in supporting renewable forestry and fair trade, as well.
The lone participant of an American organization at the Barcelona conference was Bjorn Claeson, Director of Sweatfree Communities, U.S.A. A member of his consortium, The Pittsburgh Anti-Sweatshop Community Alliance (PASCA) has recently concentrated on a different type of work clothes – the baseball uniform – and related licensed sportswear marketed by teams. This July PASCA led a major consciousness-raising campaign aimed at the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Some of PASCA’s members are alumni of the United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), who had previously been activists in campaigns to clean up the lucrative supply chain for sports uniforms and university logo sportswear sold throughout the U.S. Their tenacious support for PASCA anti-sweatshop campaigns related to the Pirate’s procurement practices was key in convincing Pittsburgh city government that it should not blindly support a professional sports team whose commercial sideline involved sweatshop suppliers. According to an article by Dave Zirin and Derek Tyner that appeared in the July issue of The Nation, the Pittsburgh City Council finally sided with PASCA, passing a resolution urging “companies and organizations that…have benefited from the continuous support of this city…to behave in a way…consistent with the morals and values of the people who provided them with the opportunity to succeed.” To date, the Pirates have not signed any specific CSR pledge, but team management has stated that it will review its procurement policies at the end of this year’s season.
Developments in Pittsburgh could be of interest to responsible procurement activists here in Barcelona. The Football Club Barcelona Nou Stadium and museum tour is the number one tourist attraction in the city. With 1,160,000 visitors a year, according to its website, FC Barcelona is a major marketer of sportswear and tourist trinkets, the majority of which are probably not produced in union factories in Spain or elsewhere.
In May Barca superstar forward Ronaldinho signed an agreement with the United Nations to serve as a spokesman for the U.N. ´s Development for Sport and Peace Program, part of the U.N. ´s greater Millennium Goals Campaign to eliminate world poverty. To mark the event, the club announced a donation of approximately 2 million euros (.07 % of the club’s yearly gross, to give a vague idea of the corporate success of the FC Barca brand) for activities related to the Sport and Peace Program.
According to a study by consulting firm BBDO Germany, Ronaldinho’s name is commercially worth an estimated $56.4 million, which would make him the world’s most commercially valuable soccer player. FC Barca has never regretted the $37 million in fees it shelled out to facilitate Ronaldinho´s transfer from Paris Saint Germaine in 2001. Since his arrival in Barcelona, the team has done nothing but shine.
Nike, with whom Ronaldinho has a ten-year endorsement contract, has admitted its own poor labor rights record and has agreed to implement fair trade demands made by American college organizations. If Nike has considered the fair trade advice of college kids, it would certainly listen to a football star as valuable as Ronaldinho, if as a U.N. spokesperson, he were to speak out for fair labor practices where Nike shoes and sportswear are manufactured.
Although the Development for Sport and Peace Program envisages new sports training centers in the underdeveloped world and doesn’t mention a word about the rights of workers turning out the uniforms, t-shirts and sports shoes that Barca uses for its team, licenses for retail sale, or that its stars personally promote, it might be the right moment to talk about FC Barca´s corporate responsibility in procurement. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the influence the team could exert upon its suppliers. If they decided to implement a procurement system similar to the Dedicated Suppliers Program used by American universities, it would be a case of real joga bonita in the U.N.´s fight against world poverty and a landmark boost for CSR in sports.
In the meantime, the 700 employees of Barcelona’s Parks Department are scoring the first goals for the fair trade work clothes movement and the city hopes to extend the policy to the fire, police and sanitation departments as suitable suppliers can be brought online.
For information about Clean Clothes Communities, including a PDF. report in English of the November 2005 Barcelona conference and information concerning campaigns supporting workers who manufacture sports shoes and sportswear visit:
For more information concerning Sweat Free Communities U.S.A., including a link to Zirin and Tyner´s article in The Nation about the Pirates´ procurement, visit:
– Jenni Lukac