It's Football Grand Finals weekend here in Australia for two of the major football codes. AFL on Saturday and NRL on Sunday. As in America, fans are wildly enthusiastic about their favourite teams. In the state of NSW, it's not only Grand Final Weekend, but also the Labour Day long weekend - to celebrate workers winning an eight hour working day against exploitative work conditions many decades ago. Ironically, allegations by a Fairfax news media journalist, Ben Doherty, of child labour to stitch AFL Sherrin footballs, almost "blindsided" the AFL and Sherrin during Grand Finals week. This was then capped off with product safety concerns, when needles were found inside some Sherrin AFL footballs.
Some might have argued that CSR/SRO issues are externalities to traditional Product Quality paradigms. Perhaps in the long distant past it could have all been ignored - however as ASQ chief Paul Borawski nailed it :"time ... for a conversation about how the practice of quality could evolve to support the needs of a rapidly changing world." That increasingly includes CSR / SRO impacting the business bottom line, as well as a stronger focus on product safety.
Indeed, a few weeks earlier, in mid September 2012, a university study into variability in performance of Sherrin AFL Match footballs, and their size/shape, was reported in Australian news media. At the time Victoria University's Professor Hans Westerbeek was reported as saying that Sherrin had attributed the variability to quality of the raw material (leather) and "how the different panels are assembled". Sherrin balls have been used in AFL since the 1870's.The publicity generated then, was nothing like that for the allegations of child labour to stitch Sherrin AFL footballs, although these allegations do not seem to have extended to actual Match footballs.
It was alleged that the use of child labour in India for stitching footballs was widespread and systemic - despite independently audited codes of conduct, which outlaw child labour. Another sports product brand, Canterbury, has also been caught up in the allegations and is investigating the matter. The child labour issue was passed along in social media platforms Facebook ( World Vision CEO's article & Great Southern Rail featured a Sherrin ball as publicity ahead of the weekend) and Twitter. A petition was launched on Change.org.
World Vision, a Christian Charity which focuses on Child Sponshorship in Developing Countries, was quickly on the case (article). And initially, the other major football code, NRL, was dragged in as well, however its balls are made by Steeden, and this company was able to demonstrate it was clear of the child labour crisis impacting Sherrin.
Just for the record, in Australia, we don't have a single national football code, but rather have a number : AFL (Australian Football), NRL (Rugby League), Rugby (not to be confused with Rugby League), Soccer, as well as Touch Football, Futsal and Wheelchair Rugby, along with American Grid Iron Football.
The AFL and Sherrin were both shocked at the discovery of the stitching of balls using child labour, which was widely reported in news media outlets across Australia. And their responses to the looming crises were undeniably fast. Corporate Social Responsibility and Product Safety issues can no longer be swept under the carpet - not to mention featuring in discussions on the next version of ISO 9001 as far back as 2010, along with "customers and stakeholders" being extended to "interested parties".
Back to the AFL - traditionally at the AFL North Melbourne pre Grand Finals breakfast, promotional footballs are free give-aways to the guests who pay $A350 to attend. This year they axed the giveaway of Sherrin branded footballs to their guests - caught between the pincer of Corporate Social Responsibility Crisis coupled with the quality-safety issue of the needles found inside some balls. The child workers were reportedly paid a mere 12 cents for stitching each of these balls. Sherrin balls can be bought online for up to in excess of $A100. Other Sherrin AFL balls hand stitched in Australia sell online for similar prices. Sherrin has now offered employment to the parents of the child labourers.
Sherrin announced a recall of all Auskick balls produced in 2011-12, expected to be nearly half a million balls, and also donations to a charity, World Vision's Child Rescue program. They claimed unauthorised outsourcing by their supplier in breach of Sherrin's manufacturing standards. Inquiries have been directed to Spice and Soul Marketing & PR's staff. Sherrin also lamented that the Fairfax news media journalist had been investigating the child labour issue for a year and yet only in recent weeks made these concerns public. This is interesting in that concerns about exploitative stitching of footballs by children in India have existed since the mid 1990's have been aired in 2001, 2008, (more) and 2010 at least. See also Wikipedia article on child labour.
Outsourcing in supply chains is a responsibility for organizations accredited under ISO 9001, and with Globalization, increasingly is impacted, not only by product and safety reliability issues, but now also by CSR / SRO concerns. Social media merely accelerates the sharing of consumer and community CSR / SRO issues. Sherrin's suppliers had been independently audited, raising questions that the effectiveness of audits, and auditors, of CSR/SRO compliance need to be regularly and genuinely reviewed. Organizations aiming for a long term sustainable existence, in the face of consumer and community globalized backlashes, must adapt to this world of "new" and "fast" Quality Paradigms.
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Search Results for "sherrin" "child"
North Melb FC shuns child-labour Sherrin footballs, donates savings to World Vision's Child Rescue. http://www.theage.com.au/afl/afl-news/north-withdraws-sherrins-for-breakfast-20120929-26rpe.html
“@hailants: Im beyond appalled dat child labourers get paid $1/day to make Sherrin footballs.FIX THIS IMMEDIATELY. http://www.theage.com.au/national/all-work-no-play-for-footys-child-labourers-20120921-26cgd.html”