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Credit Suisse accused of own goal

Keystone

Children's footballs, given away by the bank Credit Suisse, were made by minors in Pakistani villages, according to a news report.

This content was published on April 17, 2008 - 16:54

The television report said villagers were being paid half the going rate for making the balls. Credit Suisse said it took the findings seriously and would verify them with its contractor.

On Wednesday all 183 branches of Switzerland's second-largest bank started giving away 200,000 red-and-grey footballs, designed to boost excitement about Euro 2008, being co-hosted by Switzerland and Austria in June.

National coach Köbi Kuhn, his assistant Michel Pont and Swiss player Hakan Yakin spent an hour signing balls at selected locations. The Swiss-wide campaign is a joint promotion by Credit Suisse and the Swiss Football Association (SFA).

On Wednesday night however the Swiss television news programme "10vor10" reported that the balls had been made by Pakistani villagers, who received as little as SFr0.39 ($0.39) per ball, almost half the usual local price. The report said children were also involved in the production.

"We've stitched many of these balls," said one Pakistani father in the report. "Everyone in our village has worked on them – men, women, children."

"Strict obligations"

Matthias Friedli, spokesman at Credit Suisse, sent swissinfo a statement on Thursday in which the bank underlined its commitment to human rights and fair labour conditions.

"We imposed strict obligations on our Swiss contractor when choosing a supplier in Pakistan... a country that makes footballs for the international market, including many well-known sport companies," he said.

Friedli said both the Swiss contractor and local manufacturer had to adhere to a code of conduct based on standards set by the International Labour Organisation, the UN human rights declaration, the UN voluntary Global Compact agreement and the OECD guidelines for multinationals.

These guidelines focus on occupational health and safety, acceptable working hours and an income that guarantees survival. They also encourage responsibility for the environment and support of environmentally friendly technologies.

Friedli said Credit Suisse had received countless verbal and written confirmations that these conditions were being adhered to by the local supplier, but he admitted that "according to the current information" the supplier had never been contacted or checked by the Independent Monitoring Association for Child Labour (IMAC).

The manager of Swiss company Tramondi, Peter Mucha, which produces the official balls for Euro 2008 and which had nothing to do with the Credit Suisse promotion, described the news as a "scandal" and questioned whether the balls could be distributed and accepted "with a clear conscience".

Mucha said Tramondi's own factory in Pakistan was open to unannounced checks concerning child labour and fair working conditions.

Corporate responsibility

Last month, Economics Minister Doris Leuthard called for Swiss companies to take responsibility – and lead the way – on the issue of business and human rights, saying it was not up to only the state to protect human rights.

There are signs that more and more companies are mindful of the fallout from a bad human rights reputation. More than 3,500 firms – including 51 Swiss companies and institutions – have signed the UN Global Compact.

However, non-governmental organisations have expressed frustration that pledges, such as those listed in the Compact, are non-binding.

There are also calls in Switzerland for more to be done, in particular by creating an independent national human rights institution – such as exists in other European countries – to advise businesses.

swissinfo, Thomas Stephens

Journey of a ball

Antalis Solutions, a logistics service provider, was responsible for taking delivery of the 200,000 balls and then inflating and distributing them to Credit Suisse's 183 branches.

The balls' journey began in Pakistan where they were manufactured – according to Credit Suisse under the strict supervision of an international quality control institution.

Having been stitched together, the balls were loaded into a container at the port of Karachi. Every eight days a freighter containing 42,500 balls sailed from Karachi to Hamburg, covering the 10,500km in five weeks.

Arriving in Hamburg, the balls continued across the Swiss border by rail to canton Aargau.

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Global Compact: Ten principles

1. Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights.
2. They should ensure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses.
3. They should uphold the freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining.
4. They should uphold the elimination of all forms of forced and compulsory labour.
5. They should uphold the effective abolition of child labour.
6. They should eliminate discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.
7. They should support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges.
8. They should undertake initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility.
9. They should encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies.
10. They should work against corruption in all its forms, including extortion and bribery.

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