Harvard's second-largest licensed apparel manufacturer has announced that it will be the first company to comply with the University's new full disclosure policy.
Last spring, in response to student demands that Harvard cease doing business with manufacturers that use sweatshops, University officials announced their intention to require all manufacturers to reveal which factories they use for apparel.
Some members of Harvard's Progressive Student Labor Movement (PSLM) organized a group called Students Against Sweatshops (SAS), which tapped into a national movement last year to force universities to remove their business from sweatshops.
Last Wednesday, Gear for Sports, Harvard's second largest licensed apparel manufacturer, announced that it will release its factory locations out of a concern for human rights.
According to a press release from Gear for Sports, the company will disclose a full list of factories it uses to manufacture collegiate clothing on Jan. 10, 2000.
Gear for Sports' Director of Global Human Rights Compliance John D. Joerger said the company needs time to create a workable database to track which factory manufactures which universities' apparel.
PSLM lauded the move, while pointing out that it is only the first step.
"Disclosure is the first and easiest step," said PSLM member Nitzan Shoshan '00. "Contractors are beginning to realize that disclosure is inevitable."
He added that Gear for Sports' disclosure could prompt other manufacturers to disclose their factory locations.
"The event is important because they're starting a movement and signaling to others that this is the way things are moving," Shoshan said.
University attorney Allan A. Ryan Jr. said this step is largely a result of the SAS movement.
"I would like to think Gear for Sports has listened to the voices of Harvard and other universities," he said.
But some PSLM members said they doubt disclosure will impact Harvard's own behavior towards its licensed contractors.
"Harvard has a code of conduct and if they're not in compliance, Harvard will tell them to improve their conduct or stop doing business with them," said PSLM member Aron Fischer '99-'00, adding that the University tends to prefer the first option.
Joerger said Gear for Sports would only disclose factory locations to the universities themselves, not the public, since the universities are the customers.
PSLM member Benjamin L. McKean '02 said he was unhappy over the fact that the release was not to the general public.
"If it was released to the public, some anti-sweatshop experts will be there to check out the working conditions," he said.
But Joerger said it was inevitable that the general public would eventually know the factory locations.
"Once released, [the universities] will forward it. The general public--that's where it will end up," he said.
Roughly 20 percent of Gear for Sports' business is collegiate licensed apparel, accounting for over $40 million in annual sales.
Joerger said that the company does about $1 million in annual sales of Harvard apparel.
Ryan called the disclosure an important step, but not the ultimate goal of the student anti-sweatshop movement.
"The goal is to learn how universities can impact working conditions in factories," he said, adding that the University needs to go beyond just asking for factory locations.