Tuesday, June 15, 2010

An open letter to ASICS: What can you do about your shoes?

Chances are that whatever clothes you are wearing (and especially athletic shoes), at least some came from a factory in SE Asia or Oceania somewhere. The chances are also very good that the factory responsible for that product engages in some form of poor treatment of their workers, poor wages, intimidation, beatings, and so on. The issue is complex, and I am no expert, but Jim Keady is. Read all about his organization, Team Sweat, at their website.

Since learning more about this issue and what I can do, I have settled on making a donation to Team Sweat every time I buy shoes. I do this because I would be willing to pay more for shoes that I know were manufactured in a socially responsible manner, however, I want that money to go to the laborers, not the corporation. Since I cannot give directly to those laborers, I choose instead to donate to Team Sweat, which is one of many organizations working to establish social justice for people working in the factories of SE Asia. Along with my donation, I read about and give feedback to the manufacturer of my chosen shoe brand, ASICS. Quoted below is the letter that I sent to them today.

June 15, 2010

ASICS America Corporation
Nobou Oda, Chairman and CEO
29 Parker, Suite 100
Irvine, CA 92618
Tel: (800) 678-9435

Dear Nobou Oda,

In my letters to you dated November 20, 2009 and January 19, 2010, I detailed my passion for running and my enjoyment of running in ASICS Gel Enduro trainers. Further, I expressed my concern about conditions common to many clothing and shoe manufacturing facilities.

In my first letter, I mentioned that I was unable to find any information about working conditions at your factories. In my second letter, I mentioned new information I found about your efforts to audit the factories you contract with and your work with the Fair Labor Association to overcome the challenges of producing products ethically and responsibly given the limits of fair trade labor laws in underdeveloped countries. However, in January, your website was out of date with mention of the Beijing Olympics at having not yet occurred.

Presently, your website is still not updated. It states that the results of your audit should be available by the end of 2008. As I mentioned previously, while I am glad to hear of your efforts, I was disappointed to not find any new information about your audits or efforts to correct wrongdoings that they uncovered.

As a consumer, I am willing to pay more for products that are committed to social justice. As I have been doing with my previous ASICS purchases, I will again demonstrate this commitment with a donation to Jim Keady and Team Sweat (http://www.teamsweat.org) as they continue their efforts to support workers in manufacturing jobs in underdeveloped countries.

In sound mind and body,
David E. Winchester, MD

Jim Keady
Captain, Team Sweat

Steven Walker
Host of Phedippidations

Fair Labor Association
1707 L St. NW, Suite 200
Washington, DC 20036
Fax: (866) 649-0624

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