Hockey Canada introducing ethical sourcing policy for garments
THE TORONTO STAR
By: Rick Westhead Staff Reporter, Published on Wed Dec 04 2013
By next summer, any suppliers wanting to pursue partnerships with Hockey Canada, the country’s most powerful governing body for amateur sport, will have to sign a new ethical sourcing agreement expected to include employment standards, factory disclosures and inspections.
According to a draft copy of the organization’s outline for a new corporate social responsibility policy, obtained by the Star, Hockey Canada plans to hire a third-party watchdog group this month to advise how to implement the policy.
When the Star contacted Hockey Canada in October asking how it ensures the companies that have corporate sponsorships and licensing agreements with the organization maintain high ethical standards, executive vice-president Scott Smith said Hockey Canada didn’t have an ethical sourcing policy, and agreed it needed one. Since then, staff have started laying the groundwork.
“Our staff recognize it’s part of the evolution of an organization of our size with the scope of our influence,” Smith said in an interview.
Hockey Canada’s commitment comes amid increased scrutiny of the international garment industry. Eight months ago, the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh killed 1,129 workers. Since then, western retailers, sports governing bodies and even governments have been adjusting and explaining how they source their suppliers abroad.
Hockey Canada generates about $50 million a year in revenue and roughly half of that comes from marketing partnerships with some 50 licensees and suppliers. That means an ethical sourcing policy would force dozens of private businesses to rethink how they buy products if they plan to continue their relationship with Hockey Canada.
Hockey Canada suppliers and partners include a number of companies that make apparel, including Bauer, Old Time Hockey, Levelwear, Mighty Mac Productions and Elmau & Associates Trading Co.
Nike is also a Hockey Canada partner, although workers rights activists say the company is among industry leaders in being transparent about where it buys and makes it clothing.
Smith said the organization’s staff has been supportive of introducing an ethical sourcing policy.
In the next few weeks, Hockey Canada staff will contact labour rights groups such as the Workers Rights Consortium in Washington, and the Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production, a program enlisted by retailers and manufacturers to certify suppliers are meeting their standards.
Once a consultant has been selected, the draft copy of Hockey Canada’s “action timeline” says it would “conduct current industry analysis-risk assessment, develop ethical sourcing framework/details, implementation strategy, and communications standards, in consultation with HC staff.”
The Hockey Canada board of directors’ executive committee has approved plans to introduce a policy, which includes a detailed timeline for completion, and will be asked to endorse the details at the organization’s annual general meeting in May.
Staff have already started informing suppliers and licensees of the impending change. Smith said he didn’t know their reactions. While some organizations may have clauses in their contracts that indicate they pursue high ethical standards, Smith said that was too ambiguous.
“I think we’ve seen circumstances around the world that demonstrate there are risks for an organization, potentially,” Smith said.
According to the draft, the goal of Hockey Canada’s policy is “to support HC business partners in a manner that will positively improve the social, ethical and environmental consequences of HC branded products, services and supply chains.”
In November, Hudson’s Bay Company,, which holds the licence for Canadian Olympic clothing, announced it would disclose the names of the factories it uses to make garments, both Canadian Olympic branded and private label, becoming the first large Canadian retailer to do so.
The Canadian Olympic Committee insists that it, too, has an ethical sourcing policy that requires partners to monitor the garment factories they hire for rights violations, although it refuses to post the policy online or release it publicly, refusing the request from former Canadian Olympian Bruce Kidd to do so.
COC spokesman Dimitri Soudas said all of the COC’s board members have been advised of the organization’s stance.
“I assure you, officially, on the record and without reservation, that each of our board members is thoroughly briefed and fully aware of our policy, sir,” Soudas wrote in an email.
COC board member Richard Pound said he has no idea whether the COC has an ethical sourcing policy.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if the COC had such a policy, but there’s no reason not to put somebody’s feet to the fire and say if you have it, let’s see it, and if you are pretending you have it, it’s time you had one,” Pound told The Star.
Some members of COC’s board have asked executive director Chris Overholt to give them more details of the organization’s policy in January, the Star has learned.