Researchers' Sportswear blog
The inside view on our latest buyers' guide
Bryony Moore and Tim Hunt give the inside view on their latest buyers' guides to sportswear and trainers.
1) Did you have a dialogue with the companies? Which were the best/worst companies at responding to requests for information?
We had a good response and some dialogue with Adidas. I think perhaps this is because they have such a good workers' rights policy and wanted to make sure that we let people know about this. This isn't of course to say that problems don't exist in their supply chain - the current campaigns from Play Fair and War on Want show that they still have a lot of work to do.
We also had responses from a number of small ethical companies: Paramo, Vericott (owns Gossypium brand) and Eco-T (THTC brand). Plus Howies didn't reply to our questionnaire but replied to a direct Q about their sandblasting policy.
Decathlon also responded to our questionnaire – the only one of the five retailers to do so.
2) What areas of interest were you forced to leave out of the final report due to lack of space?
We'd have liked to have included a detailed review of the different sustainable cotton sourcing initiatives which companies are taking part in currently. They include a variety of standards and it is often confusing for consumers just looking to buy an ethical piece of clothing.
3) Is there anything you'd like to research further?
We'd like to map improvements to the the major brands' supply chain management strategies in relation to sweatshop scandals over the past 20 or so years, up to the present day. Sometimes it's hard to know exactly the effect that campaigning is having – sweatshop exposés still crop up regularly, but is the problem getting worse, or are companies just getting bigger? It'd be great to put together some quantified data on the subject. If anyone would like to help us with this we always have room in the magazine and on the site for interesting features so get in touch.
4) Are ethics improving in this sector?
The sector has come along way since the big Nike campaigns of the 1990s. Some companies are now at least taking supply chain and environmental issues seriously. It's also good to see companies responding well to campaigns, as best demonstrated by commitments from large companies following Greenpeace's research into toxic pollution from garment factories in China
5) Did anything surprise you?
There is a lot of campaigning going on at the moment around the Olympics. From Playfair2012 to the Greenwash Gold campaign. There have been a lot of sustainability commitments from the London organisers but this was sadly a case of too little too late. They don't seem to have really taken workers' rights issues seriously which is a massive shame.
6) What would or do you buy?
I think Ethletic trainers are great – although you probably wouldn't want to run a marathon in them. But then I'm not a running-a-marathon type person so that's fine!
7)What would be your one wish in this sector for:
To start to pressurise the big companies by getting involved with some of the campaigning that's going on. For example the campaign from War on Want around Adidas is great. There are many ways to get involved whether you can spare a few days or a few minutes of your time.
I think they need to bridge the gap between the reality and the rhetoric. On the one hand you have some really promising policy statements but on the other you have some very damning research from groups on the ground.
Visit our buyers' guides to sportswear and trainers.
Read our feature on the 'Great Olympic Tax Swindle'