Scandinavian Shoe Business beneath Ethical Contempt

The report ”Hur skor vi oss”? (How do we shoe) by the Swedish network of organizations “Rena Kläder” reveals that the Scandinavian shoe chains fail to control the ethical guidelines, they have made.
Many places in Asia the workers are exploited to work under slave-like conditions, and very often it is children sewing embroideries on shoes by hand.

Far behind
“The shoe industry is far behind when it comes to ethics and environment,” head of the “Rena Kläder” Campaign Carin Leffler says to Dagsavisen.
The report concludes that chains like Swedish Nilson and Din Sko, Norwegian Eurosko, and Danish Ecco to a very small extent follow up on their own rules and actually look into the conditions for the employees.
“The shoe industry is very likely even worse than the clothes industry, because there is a strong environmental part in the production of shoes. To treat leather chemicals are used and the workers are not protected sufficiently against these,” Leffler says.
According to the report Eurosko doesn’t control the working conditions or environment at the suppliers’ factories. Nilson Group performs inspections of its own at direct suppliers, but they don’t control working hours or wages. Ecco makes no unannounced inspections and doesn’t meet the workers outside of the factory.  
None of these companies collaborate with trade unions or ideal organizations when it comes to follow-ups or environment certification of the production.
Eurosko admit that they haven’t made any controls of their suppliers.
“But we collaborate with ethical trade. We consider following up on wages, working conditions and environment. We realize that membership of an ethical collaboration is merely just a piece of paper, and that follow-ups are necessary,” says Elin Andreassen, who is responsible for ethics at Eurosko.

“The Report is wrong”
Ecco claims to make controls and to have employees who are only concerned about controlling working conditions and wages. They believe the presentation in the report is wrong.
“We own most of our factories and we control them regularly,” says Claus Kjærsgaard, Market Director at Ecco.
Carin Leffler from “Rena Kläder” doesn’t believe ethical guidelines established by the industry itself will solve the problem.
“The rules must be followed and controlled by optional organizations and trade unions. If the trade union did its job to begin with many of these problems could have been avoided,” she says.
According to her costumers can contribute by asking the shoe chains about ethical guidelines and where the shoes are produced.
“Pressure from consumers will be noticed,” she concludes.

Figures from “Fremtiden i våre hender”:
In Cambodia leaders of trade unions are killed for their engagement.
In 2007 Norway imported 339 tons of shoes from Thailand, 2397 tons from Vietnam and 532 tons from Indonesia.

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