The recruitment and retention of qualified occupational health and safety staff has been an ongoing challenge for our suppliers, especially in those countries where there is a lack of trained professionals. To address this concern, in 2006, the adidas Group launched the Safety Officer Programme, both mandating that suppliers retain safety personnel and also providing the necessary training to build their internal capacity. The results however were mixed. Although there were short-term improvements to workplace conditions, the factory-appointed safety officers used their newly acquired qualifications to find better paying employment in other industries. Faced with the high turnover in safety officers, it became apparent that the adidas Group-led training was not sustainable and a more institutional approach was needed; one that would build capabilities at an industry level.
Forming the academy
In 2007, the Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC) - a US-based development NGO - approached the adidas Group, General Electric (GE) and a number of other global companies, with the idea of creating an Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) Academy, to expand the pool of qualified EHS managers in southern China. The initiative had the backing of USAID and the GE Foundation. A partnership was formed with Lingnan (University) College's Business Faculty in Guangzhou, who offered to host the EHS Academy. In 2009, the Academy received official endorsement from the Guangdong Bureau of Labour and Social Security and is now developing a professional, government-sanctioned EHS certification.
The adidas Group's contribution
From the outset, the Academy drew on adidas Group's industry leadership in supplier-focused health and safety training and our extensive knowledge and experience in working with suppliers in southern China. One of the major contributions made by the adidas Group to the programme was the sharing of our health and safety training modules and our subsequent work with the ISC/EHS Academy team to refine these materials into the EHS Academy's core curriculum. We continue to be deeply involved as a key partner of the EHS Academy and a member of the Academy's Steering Committee.
Developments in 2010
Since the launch of the Guangzhou-based EHS Academy, a second facility was opened in Jiangsu Province in 2010 to cope with the demand for building the capacity of EHS managers in northern China. The Jiangsu Academy has focused in particular on environmental aspects and energy management. Building on the lessons learned from the setting-up of the two EHS Academies in China, the adidas Group has been liaising closely with ISC over the prospect of establishing a similar training centre in other sourcing countries in Southeast Asia.