Case story

  • Netherlands

OECD NCP Netherlands - ICN vs. Adidas Netherlands

India 2002

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The complaint stated that Adidas' Indian suppliers had violated labour rights in the production of footballs. The complaint was based on the report, “The dark side of football - child and adult labour in India’s football industry and the role of FIFA” (June 2000) and subsequent fieldwork.

ICN reported that during a visit to the Indian supplier of Adidas and another Dutch company, it confirmed there were no unions active. Except for some “stitching centres”, there was no indication that home producers receive minimum wages. There were also reported to be occupational health and safety concerns.

According to ICN’s data, the supplier outsourced production to Batala, which FIFA does not inspect. In November 1999, there was strong evidence that this supplier was using child labourers.

Even though Sports Goods Foundation of India stated no licensed production took place in Batala, Adidas has not provided any evidence to the contrary. ICN raised these issues with the NCP after its efforts to raise these issues with Adidas failed.


After accepting the case in November 2001, the NCP organized a meeting with the parties in March 2002. The meeting concluded with an agreement between Adidas and ICN and a joint NCP statement being released. In summary, the parties agreed that there was a need:

  1. For a search of standards;

  2. Continuous transparency in the way to implement these standards;

  3. A continuous process of external monitoring, diffusion and verification;

  4. To strengthen the communications between stakeholders; and,

  5. For ICN to continue taking into consideration independent and reliable information provided by the sporting industry and other stakeholders.

The NCP concluded, based on the information provided by Adidas, that the company encourages its suppliers to operate in a socially responsible manner through its code of conduct. The NCP also stated that it had not found any evidence of the use of child labour. In December 2002, the NCP, ICN and Adidas issued a joint statement with some agreement on the need for monitoring of codes of conduct.

In 2010, OECD Watch reported on this complaint, together with the complaints submitted by the Austrian Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) against Adidas and Nike in 2002, and the 2006 complaint submitted by the International Secretariat for the CCC and the India Committee of the Netherlands against G-Star.[1] OECD Watch holds that these complaints, although allowing for new levels of engagement and dialogue in the Adidas and G-Star instances, nevertheless highlight significant short-comings in the Guidelines’ specific instance procedure:

  • They illustrate that mediation is difficult, because of a lack of mutual trust between the parties.

  • Furthermore, OECD Watch maintains that it is not enough for a campaign group and retailer in the OECD country to enter into dialogue. Unless firm agreements are also reached between workers or unions and their employers in the producing countries, there are unlikely to be any real improvements. Unfortunately, despite several cases being handled and several statements being published it does not appear that the OECD Guidelines have made any significant contribution to ending labour rights abuses in the global garment industry.


OECD Watch case story page:

Contributor(s): This article was modified by Kyle (3), Nicolaclayre (3), and Ejfturnbull (3).