In 1996 Reebok International initiated factory monitoring, product labeling and education programs to prevent the use of child labor in the manufacture of their Pakistani-made soccer balls.
An estimated twenty percent of laborers in soccer ball production facilities in Sialkot, Pakistan were children. Reebok human rights standards require that workers in its factories be at least 15 years old depending on applicable local laws.
When it entered the soccer ball market, Reebok acted to prevent the use of child labor by containing all production, including stitching, in a single state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Sialkot. All work is performed on-site and is free of child labor. Monitors inspect the production facilities periodically, interviewing workers and supervising inspectors who oversee the shipments of panels in and out of the factories. They also maintain ties with the local community and visit surrounding villages to confirm that no Reebok balls are stitched outside the factories. The soccer balls are then labeled “Guaranteed: Manufactured Without Child Labor.” This provides consumers a choice regarding how their soccer balls are produced and builds awareness about child labor in the soccer ball industry.
As a result of concentrating production in child labor-free facilities, Reebok has been able to produce tens of thousands of soccer balls without the use of child labor.
In 1997, Reebok created the Reebok Educational Assistance to Pakistan program (R.E.A.P.) and allocated US$1 million from the sales of these balls to support local education in the region where the balls are manufactured. In 1997, Reebok joined with the Society for Advancement of Education in Sialkot to establish the Chaanan Institute, which works with local families to place children in schools and keep them out of the labor pool.
New Tactics in Human Rights does not advocate for or endorse specific tactics, policies or issues.
Reebok is one of the best-known brands in the business, a brand that has been protected in part by the company’s efforts to protect human rights through monitoring.
Reebok saw a market for products made without child labor and decided to fill it. For several years public awareness had been building around this issue. As a multinational corporation with a strong market share, Reebok was in a unique position to influence the entire chain of production and distribution for its products. That is an important aspect of this tactic; the increasing number of steps between raw materials and consumer in the global economy makes it difficult to monitor human rights abuses. Reebok realized it needed to consolidate those steps in order to ensure that products were made without child labor.
This labeling tactic could be used to fulfill market demand for other “fair labor” goods: produce for which growers are paid a fair price; goods made in factories where laborers are paid a fair wage; and products made or grown in an environmentally friendly way.