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Response to War on Want’s “Race to the Bottom” Report on Working Conditions in Bangladesh

Herzogenaurach, 5 March 2012 – At the beginning of March 2012 War on Want, a member of the Playfair 2012 campaign, a UK coalition of trade unions and labour rights organisations, published a report called Race to the Bottom. The report claims that the adidas Group, together with other Sportswear companies, are exploiting workers in Bangladesh.

The report suggests to the reader that products manufactured in Bangladesh are used for the London Olympic Games. The adidas Group does not source Olympic product from Bangladesh. A full list of suppliers and countries making product for the 2012 London Olympics has been publicly disclosed by adidas and can be found here.

We are the only London Olympic sponsor to have made such a disclosure of our supply chain.

Several of our business units and their agents do hold contracts with Bangladeshi suppliers, mainly for ready-made garments such as t-shirts, and for caps. The Race to the Bottom report makes some very serious allegations about working conditions in factories making for major sportswear brands, from legal breaches in working hours, to supplier’s failure to pay minimum wages and, most disturbingly, to reported cases of physical abuse and harassment. The War on Want report makes reference to interviews having been conducted with workers at six factories, of which two have been identified by the NGO as adidas Group suppliers.

At the adidas Group we regularly monitor our suppliers and since 2006 we have retained the services of a women’s NGO in Bangladesh to interview workers and independently report on their concerns and issues. We also operate a hotline to capture worker complaints. We are deeply concerned by the allegations which have been made in the Race to the Bottom report and we have mobilised a team of labour specialists to investigate these claims. Our preliminary findings do point to some verbal harassment, but we have been unable to corroborate any claims of physical abuse. Our investigations are not conclusive and are continuing. We have also reached out to War on Want to ask them to provide us with their factory-specific findings, so that we can review and address each of their concerns. Our first priority is to safeguard workers from any situation where they are subject to abusive behaviour and to uphold our commitment to ensure that all legal entitlements are met, in full, including wages and limits to working hours.

We will update this statement as soon as our investigations conclude.