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ETAG's proposals to improve VANOC's BuySmart Program

The Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC) BuySmart program is based on four approaches to companies associated with the Olympics:

  • For licensees, VANOC will require adherence to a Licensee Code of Conduct which sets out minimum labour and environmental standards, and will require third-party auditing of licensees’ supply factories;
  • For sponsors, VANOC will encourage them to align their practices with the Code but it will not be a condition of sponsorship;
  • For suppliers, VANOC will try to identify readily-available alternatives which improve environmental, ethical or aboriginal participation performance and will make those a condition of supply contracts with VANOC. Suppliers will also be required to affirm their adherence to the VANOC Code of Conduct.
  • Where VANOC is not able to identify readily-available alternatives which improve environmental, ethical or aboriginal participation performance amongst potential suppliers, they will expect potential suppliers to identify any added value in these areas through a questionnaire, and potential suppliers will gain points in the bid process for above-average environmental or ethical standards or aboriginal participation.

In June 2007, ETAG wrote to VANOC with a series of concerns regarding VANOC’s proposed “BuySmart” program. ETAG’s principal concerns with the program were:

  • VANOC’s Code of Conduct for Licensees should be strengthened in its hours of work and wages provisions;
  • Factory auditing should include off-site worker interviews;
  • The worker rights standards in VANOC’s code should be applied to suppliers;
  • The BuySmart questionnaire should be altered to better reflect worker rights concerns;
  • VANOC should increase transparency on auditing methodologies, findings and corrective action taken;
  • Licensees should be required to publicly disclose factory locations;
  • Licensees should be required to initiate worker rights training in supply factories;
  • Mechanisms should be created for workers and interested third parties to file complaints if there is credible evidence that the policy is not being followed in a supplier factory, and for independent investigations into credible complaints.

Since that time, VANOC has made some improvements to its program. Specifically, VANOC has promised to:

  • alter the hours of work provision in its code of conduct to be more consistent with ILO Conventions;
  • include off-site worker interviews in its factory auditing process;
  • conduct unannounced audits, although this will happen within a two-week window for which the factory will be given advance notice;
  • apply the worker rights standards in VANOC’s code of conduct to suppliers;
  • provide information on audit methodology, including the name of VANOC’s auditing organization(s), upon request; and
  • alter their BuySmart questionnaire to include better questions on worker rights concerns (although we have not yet seen the final questionnaire).

In addition to the above change promised by VANOC, there are a number of other improvements ETAG believes VANOC needs to make to its program to make it comprehensive, effective and transparent. In general, ETAG is asking VANOC to:

  • increase transparency on auditing methodologies, findings and corrective action taken;
  • require licensees to publicly disclose factory locations;
  • require licensees to facilitate worker rights training in supply factories;
  • include a living wage standard in their Code of Conduct;
  • create mechanisms for workers and interested third parties to file complaints if there is credible evidence that the policy is not being followed in a supplier factory, and for independent investigations into credible complaints.

It may not be possible to implement some of these changes in the two years remaining before the 2010 Games. However we urge VANOC to, at minimum, include these changes as recommendations to other Organizing Committees, the Canadian Olympic Committee, and the International Olympic Committee so that future programs build on VANOC’s program to make it even more comprehensive, effective and transparent.

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