Today I’m wearing Spandex.
That’s right Spandex. I just got done jogging.
Before you take your mental picture of me wearing Spandex too far, I better inform you that I’m wearing shorts over my Spandex. Anyone that wears Spandex as an outer layer that is not a biker or a wrestler, is either so vain you probably think this post is about you (Don’t you? Don’t you?) or has let themselves go to such an extent they just don’t give a darn anymore.
Specifically, I’m wearing Under Armour. I’m a big fan of Under Armour. I wore them under board shorts when I worked as a dive instructor in Key West. Trust me, if you spend your days in salt water, sun, and sweat you need all the right armor in all the right places.
Before my run today, I was checking the tags on my three pair of Under Armor. One pair was made in China, one in Taiwan, and one in Honduras. I know that brands source from multiple countries and even multiple factories within a country, but it strikes me a little odd that three identical items were made in three different countries. You’d think brands would have trouble maintaining uniformity across their products. Of course, as Paul Midler points out in his new book “Poorly Made in China,” quality fade in Chinese factories can result in the lack of uniformity even in products from the same factory.
Okay, let’s get down to business.
Under Armor’s Corporate Code of Conduct wasn’t that hard to find and seems fairly involved.
Several things caught my attention in the Code of Conduct for Suppliers section:
They mention both suppliers and subcontractors which is good. The most egregious labor violations are typically found at subs. I’m not a lawyer, but it seems odd that they mention complying with the laws of the United States. I’m not sure how this would apply to a factory in Taiwan.
On Child Labor…
I had a job at 15. But there’s a big difference between a 15-year-old worker in a developed country vs. a 15-year-old worker in a developing one. I saved money to buy a car and pay for college. While I worked, I day dreamed of how cool I was going to look in my TransAm. A 15-year old working in China, Taiwan, or Honduras is no doubt thinking about putting food on the table and supporting their families.
On Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining…
If you’re in sports apparel this is a must right now. Russell Athletics is taking a beating.
On Hours of Work…
On Global Labor Standards …
Just so you know, I may not be perfect either. Then again, I may be.
Overall, their Code seems pretty good. In order to uphold it they must have to do an awful lot monitoring, right? But alas, after reading page after page of where the code stands on labor laws, child labor, working hours, and more, this is the entire section on monitoring….
Drats! The whole “we self-police our factories and use unnamed monitoring firms” bit doesn’t exactly give this engaged consumer much confidence that the Code is being upheld.
Let’s scan the headlines and see how the company is faring…
Under Armour has received five reports of cups breaking, including an injury involving cuts and bruising.
I wonder where those cups were made? Perhaps this is a result of Chinese quality fade. Maybe they should moved their production to Taiwan or Honduras.
The other headlines are far less entertaining. It seems that Under Armour is doing well even during these bad economic times. A couple of college labor rights group have waved their fingers at them, but it doesn’t seem like they have anything concrete to be upset about.
So, with that…
Dear Under Armour,
I’m a big supporter of your compression shorts. I’m also an engaged consumer who cares about the environmental and social impacts of the products I buy. Your Suppliers’ Code is one of the better ones that I’ve seen, but seems to fall a little short with regard to monitoring. How often are your suppliers monitored? What third party inspectors do you use? I think sharing this info on your site would show that you are truly making the effort to look after those who make your products.Also, I scanned your site and noticed that none of your products list their country of origin. Instead, the specs just say “Imported.” If I order a new pair of compression shorts, the tag will tell me where they were made. It would be great if you could let your customers know this upfront.
I’ve worn your shorts 200’ beneath the ocean’s surface while diving and 18,000’ above it while hiking. I’m a big fan and I hope your company will continue to make a quality product that I can support.