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NIKE: BESIDES SOCIAL DISCRIMINATION, NOW PRODUCT DISCRIMINATION?

Nike tries to divert the attention of their poor social record, by pointing to a victim of false allegations of Greenpeace

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Nike is the largest seller of sports shoes in the world. They have only a few own factories, most of the production is done in so-called "Free trade zones" of countries with low wages and poor social conditions like Indonesia and Malaysia...

Several Flemish Chlorophiles, myself included, were personally involved last year in a country-wide action against the social malpractices in these production facilities (see the action against the social malpractices in shoe factories). Nike and other shoe firms were invited to sign a contract that they would only sell shoes that were made in factories that respected at least a minimum of social rules. As far as I know, they have not signed such a contract...

Now, Greenpeace has announced that Nike will rule out PVC in its products. So the social discrimination meets the environmental discrimination. The poor social and environmental record now will be enforced by the use of products that even may be worse for the environment...

Nike uses a lot of different materials like (natural and synthetic) rubber and PUR (polyurethane). Only very little PVC is used. As far as I know, Nike has not made any comparison between these materials and PVC for environmental performance. So this move is solely based on the dubious allegations of Greenpeace. This (not-so-)green multinational PR-firm promotes alternatives for PVC that do pollute up to 20 times more if used for the same purpose (see the life cycle of PVC and alternatives in gas distribution systems)...

We have the impression that Nike is worried by the world wide move to point to them as exploiting the poor social conditions in some countries to make a lot of profit. For that reason they probably want to divert the attention to environmental points, in this case as dubious as their social points...


To end with some remarks from third parties:

In a recent update of their investigation, the CSIRO (the renomated Australian research institute), has renewed the comparison of PVC and alternative products for building purposes. This again comes to the conclusion that PVC is not worse for the environment than any other alternative [49].

In the UK, Greenpeace and a number of retailers formed a working group to discuss the (further) use of PVC in packaging and construction. After a number of presentations, the group decided to appoint "an independent scientist to review the evidence concerning the impact of PVC on human health and the environment on the balance of properties".

The National Centre for Business & Ecology (NCBE) assembled a small team to provide a sufficiently broad skill base for the task. Their conclusion [27]:

"The study team was unable to find conclusive scientific evidence linking the production, use or disposal of PVC compounds where best industry practice is utilised to substantial harm to human health. Likewise conclusive evidence of serious environmental harm resulting from manufacture, use or disposal undertaken to the highest standards was not found, although past and some current production/disposal falls short of those standards. Where there is evidence of harm to human health or the environment, evidence that PVCs form a major factor set against other processes or products was not found."

Their comment on the Greenpeace web site information:

"One problem with the Greenpeace literature, however, is its lack of selectivity or of any critical appraisal. All studies, ranging the methodologically-hopeless to those of the highest quality are all quoted as if they are equivalent sources of damning information on the PVC industry"

No further comment...

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Created: September 6, 1998.
Last update: December 13, 1998.

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