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Written by Sandra CastaƱeda Elena - Tuesday, 01 June 2010

For some strange reason (I might be change adverse?), I strive to keep my old time learnings alive and kicking. That includes the welfare state, control over the market until it really serves the people - which is its only legitimate purpose, and so on. However, somewhere in my brain I know I have to keep a window opened for these principles to be challenged. I keep telling myself being open minded is also one of those values I was raised under. So, in the last two days, during the OE/Made By seminar in Stockholm, something extraordinary happened. I heard Swedish fashion brand Indiska's Head of CSR - a > strong, long time hard core activist - stating she had seen more positive change on the ground, in developing countries, over the last five years working for the private sector than over the previous twenty-five in development cooperation.

I was stunned and it hit me hard, like some reality you know might be there but you'd never dare to admit on your own. That same day, while socializing in the evening over a glass of wine, I had an informal chat with one of Nike's EMEA managers. The Dutch head office leads Nike's football division, since it is more a European than a US sport, and they also lead the company's usage of sustainable materials. And, by the way, they dress Barcelona Football Club (FCB) from head to toe... In just a second, everything started clicking in my mind. A couple of weeks ago, as I learned the cheered and all admired FCB was doing business with Uzbekistan, I exchanged a couple of emails with UNICEF Spain president and their CEO to see what UNICEF, which name reads big and clear on every player's chest since 2006, was doing about the team partnering with one of the world’s most repressive regimes, with a very dark record in terms of childrens' rights. To my amazement, I got no clear answer so far. I told the story to Nike's manager, he was horrified. He had no idea this kind of business was going on and he asked me for the links to the information so that they could take some action. By the end of the day I got really confused... Excuse me... Someone switched roles here?

Comments (1)Add Comment
oikos PhD Fellow
written by Martin Herrndorf, June 14, 2010
Hi Sandra,

Two things might be at work here: First, general differences in professionalism, with Nike being better in follow-up, and having a more "entrepreneurial" culture where your counterpart can and wants to take action, compared to "bureaucratic" UNICEF where issues are dealt with according to 5-year-plans.

Second, the downside for NIKE ist much bigger. People like UNICEF, and especially the their typical private donors (buying UNIFEC children cards) might not dig too deep into these (indirect) relationships, having no idea how the situation in uzbekistan would be linked to FC Barcelona. NIKE however has been repeatedly exposed to criticism for its social practices, and would be very much aware of the risk of being associated with such shady deals.

thanks for the enlighting article! and keep buying veja ;-)


PS: Seems like the link to the FCB page is not working any more. the story has also made it to the mainstream media:

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