Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


data collection demands get Disney animated

July 2005

Simply keeping up-to-date records on suppliers is one of the main challenges of Walt Disney's global programme to monitor labour standards, the project's European boss has said.
Elise More, the corporation's senior regional manager for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said up to half of company time spent on its international labour standards programme consists of collecting data about the thousands of factories, many in China, that make Disney-licensed products such as toys and clothing.

More, who is responsible for the programme in her region, told an Institute of Business Ethics event last month that the foot-slogging was often frustrating but there appeared little alternative.

'We've been looking tentatively at risk assessments and at software solutions, but I'm not sure there are any short-cuts,' she said. 'We have thousands of production sites in China alone, and trying to keep a handle on the information takes up 40 to 50 per cent of our time. We're constantly trying to manage a factory base that is changing all the time, but of course we need to get that information correct just to get the auditors into the right places.'

More said Disney licensees were continually seeking more favourable deals or suppliers better placed to make the latest fashionable goods, and even regular suppliers often moved premises. Disney had tentatively considered global positioning system technology to track suppliers but had rejected it.

Alison Tracey, business standards manager at clothing company Pentland, which owns the Lacoste, Mitre and Speedo brands and also has extensive supplier monitoring systems, said Disney's experience was not unusual. 'Information gathering takes up a lot of our time too, and I'm not sure there are any short-cuts either,' she told the event.

Disney's labour standards programme began in 1996 - partly as a result of criticism in the US over poor labour standards at factories making Disney-licensed products in Haiti - and has been implemented across all business groups for about five years. Most of the supply chain work is carried out for the consumer products division, which licenses manufacturers to make Disney-branded toys and other products. The division accounts for about 11 per cent of Disney's turnover.

Disney recently began collaborating with fast food chain McDonald's to discover what factors inhibit compliance with both companies' standards. The Project Kaleidoscope programme is centred on ten toy factories in China and has a group of US-based investors, among them Domini Social Investments, acting as monitors and advisers. Final results will be published next year in a joint report that More said would be 'a route towards public reporting' of Disney's supply chain performance.

A new report based on interviews with 100 workers at nine toy factories in China found eight of the factories, which mainly supply Scandinavian toy companies, were failing to observe national legislation on working conditions. The Fair Trade Center and SwedWatch NGOs produced the report.

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