retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

In the wake of the story this week looking at whether Walmart is trying to recapture its “made in the USA” roots comes this this piece from Bloomberg:

“Ten years after adopting the policy, Notre Dame remains the only major U.S. university that forbids license holders such as Adidas AG to put the school logo on any product from China, according to groups that track college merchandising.

“Notre Dame prohibits the goods because China, the top source of U.S. imports, doesn’t permit independent labor unions, according to a college policy document. The ban is attracting fresh attention from Washington, D.C., lawmakers who say China has begun a renewed crackdown on dissidents.”

According to the story, “Notre Dame said its policy on Chinese products is tied to workers’ conditions in the world’s most populous nation. A standards code adopted by the Catholic university in 1997 requires freedom of association and the ‘right for workers to organize and form independent labor unions of their own choosing.’ It implemented the ban on Chinese products four years later.

“A human rights report released by the U.S. State Department in April reinforced the university’s position, concluding that Chinese law ‘does not provide for freedom of association, as workers were not free to organize or join unions of their own choosing’.”

We’re talking serious bucks here. The story notes that college-branded products are a $4.3 billion-a-year business, and that Notre Dame ranks eleventh in licensing revenue among almost 200 colleges.” And the prohibition does have other implications, as Bloomberg reports that “Notre Dame’s requirements slow the introduction of products by about a year or result in higher prices because of steeper shipping costs or more convoluted transport channels.”

But in this case, country of origin requirements isn’t just a marketing initiative. It’s tied to a belief system, and enforced, even when it is inconvenient. And that has a certain ethical power driven by authenticity.

That’s an eye-opener. And, by the way, thanks to the MNB reader who saw this piece and forwarded it to me.
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