Important Notice Concerning Nike

To:WRC Affiliate Universities and Colleges
From:Scott Nova
Date:November 17, 2015
Re:Important Notice Concerning Nike

I write to make you aware of an important matter concerning Nike.

Nike has informed the WRC that it will no longer allow the WRC access to its collegiate factories for the purpose of assessing compliance with university labor codes.

Nike stated the following in a message to the WRC on October 29, in response to our request for access to Hansae Vietnam, a factory disclosed by Nike as a producer of university logo goods:

“Nike has a rigorous due diligence and criteria-assessment process to determine third party auditors, through which representatives of the Fair Labor Association and Better Work have been approved to conduct audits of those contract factories manufacturing Nike product. However, Nike does not permit other third parties to conduct such assessments.”

On this basis, Nike refused to allow the WRC access to Hansae Vietnam, a factory where the WRC had learned of an ongoing strike, which workers had reportedly launched in protest of the factory’s labor practices. The WRC was thus unable to effectively investigate the circumstances of the strike. Nike subsequently stated that the issues at the factory had been “resolved in compliance with [Nike’s] Code of Conduct,” and argued that this reassurance should be satisfactory to universities.

We were surprised and concerned by Nike’s statement that it “does not permit” any “third parties” (other than the FLA and the IFC/ILO Better Work program) into its factories. The statement indicated not just an unwillingness to allow the WRC access to Hansae Vietnam, but a policy of refusing the WRC access to Nike’s collegiate factories in general.

We responded by asking Nike to clarify whether it is, in fact, now Nike policy that it will not permit the WRC to inspect its factories, even when those factories are producing goods for WRC-affiliated universities and colleges. Receiving no response, we reiterated the request for clarification. We stressed to Nike that we wanted to make sure we were not misunderstanding the company’s statement.

On November 13, Nike responded by stating, again, that the only outside parties it will allow into its factories are the Fair Labor Association and Better Work.  Last week, I formally notified the WRC Board of Directors of Nike’s position that it will not allow the WRC access to the factories on its university disclosure list.

Nike’s unwillingness to grant factory access will make it impossible, in some circumstances, for the WRC to conduct comprehensive assessments of compliance with university labor codes. Physical access is not essential in every investigation – depending on the labor rights issues in question and the viability of other forms of inquiry – but there are investigations where access is needed.

Because of the implications for code compliance monitoring, and because Nike’s position is in conflict with what we understand to be universities’ requirements and expectations of licensees, I wanted to make you aware of the situation.

It is our hope that Nike will reconsider its position and allow the WRC access to its collegiate factories.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Scott Nova 
Worker Rights Consortium 
5 Thomas Circle NW, 5th Floor 
Washington DC 20005 
ph  202 387 4884 
fax 202 387 3292 
[email protected]