Companies are more than their products; they are the stories and feelings that are associated with their brands. International sporting events represent a unique opportunity for corporations to showcase their international status while connecting their brand to a shared sense of unity and achievement.
Now that the Olympics have closed, sports fans are eagerly awaiting June, when the World Cup 2014 will begin in Brazil. But today’s headlines are just as likely to discuss a more distant event, the World Cup 2022 in Qatar, where allegations have surfaced of migrant worker abuse in the Gulf state as stadium and infrastructure construction begins. These stories remind us of the human impact of this international event.
As high-level corporate partners to the World Cup 2014 companies like adidas, Coca-Cola, Hyundai, Sony, Emirates, and Visa, invest heavily while also putting their brand’s reputation behind this event. But, what story is their brand really selling?
The landmark California Transparency in Supply Chains Act has caused corporations to take a closer look at the risk of slavery in their supply chains, creating an opportunity not only for transparency, but also for companies to embrace and uphold ethical practices. Because of SB-657’s transparency requirements, a company’s policies and practices on slavery have become a part of the story a company tells and sells. In KnowTheChain’s research, we have seen some companies fully embrace that opportunity, while others have limited themselves to the minimum disclosure.
For example, both Coca-Cola and Hyundai are leading sponsoring partners of the World Cup 2014 represented in the KnowTheChain dataset. Both have received checkmarks and are technically compliant with the law. Coca-Cola’s stated commitments extend beyond standard minimum risk assessments and audits. They have demonstrated on a global level the importance of fair labor practices by becoming a founding member of several global initiatives on human rights in business, and by recently promoting ethical labor practices like no-fee recruitment for workers at its suppliers and bottlers. Another sponsor, adidas, achieved the top score in the Responsible Sourcing Networks’ Cotton Sourcing Snapshot, recently featured on this blog.
In contrast, Hyundai is one example of several companies whose disclosure statement acknowledges that they have no policies or practices in place to address the possibility of slavery in their supply chains.
The intersection of World Cup sponsorship with the increased public attention on labor abuses presents a remarkable opportunity for these companies to take a proactive stance towards fair labor practices in and beyond their own suppliers.
The World Cup is the world’s most widely viewed sporting event, bringing together more than 700 million viewers. This summer, soccer stars will not be the only ones featured in an international arena. Companies will have an opportunity to advertise a brand that also upholds ethical practices and human rights.