Sep 30, 2012

CSR crisis in Oz Football Grand Finals Week - responding to ASQ Fast Changes in Quality

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

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.


See below for comments on

Search Results for "sherrin" "child"

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Sherrin has pulled football manufacturing from India Does this hurt the 3rd world? Jianying Zha could discuss on

World News: Sherrin to employ parents of child stitchers

Fairfax attacks Sherrin for using child labour. Fairfax then attacks Sherrin for not using child labour.

Sherrin doesnt recall its footballs after finding out thousands were made by Indian children but 1 white child is injured & 500,000 recalled

Australian Rules football manufacturer Sherrin says it had no idea stitching on some balls was done using child labour

CEO Andrew Demetriou says it is digusting that child labour was used to make some Sherrin footballs in India:

Australian football manufacturer Sherrin closes down some operations in India after discovering the use of child labour

Sherrin withdraws footballs made with Indian child labor from GF breakfast. Will end practice and donate to World Vision. Congrats The Age.

Fairfax media has discovered kids working as child labourers in Indian slums, hand sewing Sherrin and Canterbury footies destined for Oz.

Good. RT : National News: AFL may sack Sherrin over child labour

A Herald investigation reveals that the Sherrin your child is kicking around could have been made by India's...

: Im beyond appalled dat child labourers get paid $1/day to make Sherrin footballs.FIX THIS IMMEDIATELY.


Posted via email from kerrieannesfridgemagnets's posterous

Sep 2, 2012

ASQ global voices blogger - Quality Culture and Pigs might fly.

Quality Culture and Pigs might fly .... Paul Borawsky, head of ASQ, asked the ASQ Gobal Influential Bloggers to reflect on what a quality culture means. I was inspired by my home town, Thirroul, in its transition - a metaphor for many businesses facing paradigm shifts - change or die.

 Pre the early 1960's Thirroul, 80 kilometres (50 miles) south of Sydney, was a Workingman's town of coal mines, nearby steel mills/coke ovens /industrial brickmaking and a railway maintenance yard, with clothing factories to employ the women. Still largely recognisable from that depicted by the English author D H Lawrence in his 1920's novel Kangaroo - where he also spoke of the local rugby league football club, the Butchers, who today are playing their end of season Grand Final.

Thirroul up until even the early 1980's meant a couple of pubs and three workingman's style clubs (including the RSL - Returned Servicemen's Club). The food served at each was unpretentious and dominated by large quantities of meat with chips (fries) or a few heavily boiled veges. Plus some milkbars, hamburger joints and a couple of fish and chip shops. A Chinese cafe provided the exotica.


The World War 1 Soldiers Memorial facing winter afternoon sun in Fred Woodward Memorial Park, Thirroul, outside the now closed RSL (Returned Servicemen's) Club.

Flash ahead 10 years, closure and/or downsizing of coal mines, steel mills and factories, electrification of the State Rail line to Sydney, the Women's Lib movement, and growth of a nearby University, had generated change. An influx of young professionals and arty types moved into this Workingman's town - and a couple of young Thirroul women, came home from travelling in Europe. They decided to offer a different cafe.

So Pigs might fly was born (in fact its real name was just a little different). Serving alternative style (semi vegetarian and quiches) food to the usual Thirroul fare. Their largely professional class  customers loved it, eschewing the smokey bars and poker (slot) machines of the clubs. They lingered there over Saturday morning coffees, read the Saturday newspapers and chatted to mates.

Pigs might fly had met a key quality requirement - satisfying their customers in an ambiance and culture that their customers wanted. And the owners relished this. It was really the first inkling of a CAFE SOCIETY in Thirroul. As a 6th Generation resident, engineer, and the  local City Councillor married to a Sydney IT professional commuter, I straddled both old and new worlds in Thirroul. Pigs might fly was one of my favourites.

Time came for the owners of Pigs might fly to move on. They sold the business, generously offering their recipes to the new owner. He declined with some reputedly derogatory remarks about their menu.  Pigs might fly began to serve not dissimilar meals to one of the Workingmen's style clubs not 5 minutes walk away, and at slightly higher prices. The former clientele fell away, not liking the new ambiance and culture, as the fledgling Thirroul CAFE SOCIETY receded for a few years.

After a while Pigs might fly was replaced by an Italian cafe and renamed. I went there once for a late Sunday lunch with two family members - we were the only customers. I was still the local City Councillor and we were squashed onto a tiny table - told to leave the bigger tables alone  for any larger groups that might arrive. They didn't. We were the only lunch time guests. Sometime later the Italian cafe also changed hands and offered mid-week "all you can eat pizza and pasta". Later it closed too. A real estate agency, selling homes, moved in - the cafe restaurants were gone. From the 1980's the town was changing - but its evolution was unrecognised or resisted by some.

Ironically, ten years on, Thirroul has truly become a CAFE SOCIETY. A place for Sydneysiders to come down for a Sunday drive (or train ride) and a wander, followed by a coffee and light meal at one of the 8 to 10 cafes serving great coffee throughout the town. And lots of Thai restaurants too but no Starbucks yet !

 These new cafes had learned what previous successive owners had missed. The key customer focused quality paradigm well understood when Pigs might fly first opened. Satisfy your customers plus get that ambiance and culture right. Truly a metaphor for businesses across the economic spectrum who are facing paradigm shifts - change or die.