LOCOG loyal to Atos over Paralympics Sponsorship – WHY?

The Atos Healthcare assessment for disability benefits has been labelled a box-ticking exercise, employing the use of LiMA (Logic Integrated Medical Assessment) – a script which the Atos assessors use to determine a person’s level of disability. These assessors are often medical professionals who have undergone training to comply with the objectives of the test.

The aims of this kind of test, using multiple choice questions to provide quantitative information to assess disability, is to try and standardise disability in order to make the murky waters of individual medical conditions a little more transparent, ostensibly for budgetary purposes. Atos currently has a contract with the UK government which they claim to be worth £100m a year.

The government’s planned re-structuring of the benefits system will incorporate similar assessments, for example, replacing the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) with Personal Independence Payments (PIP). The PIP scheme will make claimants subject to regular review and face-to-face assessments, using methods like LiMA. The government says that they hope to save £1bn using such a system, but disability groups say that the system is insufficient, and Atos’ monopoly on benefits assessments is inappropriate. One of the universal criticisms of Atos is that they rarely make eye contact with patients…

Some disability campaign groups have subsequently called for a boycott of the 2012 Paralympic Games due to Atos’s position as a worldwide partner of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The campaigners say the company is running a flawed process to assess disabled people’s rights to benefits and is therefore an inappropriate sponsor of the Paralympic Games. Yet for campaigners, the last straw is the appointment this month of former Atos chief executive – Bernard Bourigeaud – to the board of the International Paralympic Committee.

The LOCOG committee has a poor record when it comes to sourcing ethically sustainable goods and sponsorships. They can now add another instance to the list. Accused of causing ‘fear and loathing’ among disabled claimants, Atos’ system remains hidden to prevent any critical testing of its efficacy, and their extremely lucrative and unassailable contract with the DWP shrugs off other corporate competitors. For anyone disabled, the name Atos is hardly reputable.  However, LOCOG doesn’t really mind where it comes from, so long as the money flows.

 

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Olympic Mascot Toys Allegedly Made In Sweatshops

 

New allegations have been made that cuddly toy versions of the Olympic mascots are being produced in factories that abuse worker’s rights. The allegations have led to an internal investigation by LOCOG. The British toy company Golden Bear, who sell the mascot toys have been accused that  workers in their Chinese factory are alleged to work more than 11 hours a day, for 26p per hour. Golden Bear, along with the BTHA (British Toy and Hobby Association) have launched an inquiry and LOCOG claims to have contacted licensees to ‘reiterate the importance we place on the sustainable sourcing code they have each signed up to.’ A LOCOG spokesperson has said that they ‘place a high priority on environmental, social and ethical issues when securing goods and services and take these allegations extremely seriously’.

The LOCOG Sustainability Source Code (http://www.london2012.com/publications/locog-sustainable-sourcing-code.php) outlines LOCOG’s approach to the sustainable sourcing of materials, from timber for furniture and fitting to the product specific industry standards in merchandising. The principal audiences of the Code are internal buyers and specifiers and prospective suppliers and licensees i.e. both the LOCOG merchandising team and the toy’s manufacturers, Golden Bear. The code specifies that:

“Put simply, our approach to sourcing sustainable products can be based
on the following five key questions:
1. Where does it come from?
2. Who made it?
3. What is it made of?
4. What is it wrapped in?
5. What will happen to it after the Games? ”

It’s aim is that interested parties “can better understand our views on sustainability and how they are being implemented.” Prospective suppliers and licensees are advised to review the requirements of the Code and ensure that relevant areas of their business and supply chain are in compliance with its provisions. On occasions when we are sourcing services which involve labour, LOCOG uses the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) Base Code (http://www.ethicaltrade.org/resources/key-eti-resources/eti-base-code) as the required standard that suppliers should be achieving. in the case of Golden Bear’s factory, LOCOG’s processes for the tendering of contracts, both the Sustainability Source Code and the ETI Base code, seem to have been neglected. The question therefore is, how has this happened?

The LOCOG Code states that “following our due diligence process and award of a contract, we will monitor a supplier or licensee’s practices to ensure they are being carried out as agreed in the tender process”, and they utilize a spend priority categorization system to determine the likelihood of assessment and monitoring during the tender process. This means that the higher the priority according to the spend categorization the more likely it is that the prospective suppliers and licensees will be evaluated for their ethical sustainability. According to LOCOG sustainable sourcing code, the product specific industry standards for merchandising (the category into which the toy mascots fall) are rated as “moderate” priority and are SEDEX (Supplier Ethical Data Exchange – http://www.sedexglobal.com) mandated, though no guidelines or strategies exist for supporting sustainability. The upshot of this is that the potential for merchandise suppliers to be assessed during the tender process “will be determined by LOCOG on a case-by-case basis”, with “moderate” priority for sustainability support.

Perhaps in the case of Golden Bear the assessments were not deemed necessary. Perhaps the difference between “moderate” and “high” priority is purely a result of interest in the abuses of factory workers. Perhaps it is even the case that the LOCOG Sustainability Source Code is an elaborate exercise in demonstrating how important such ethical issues are in relation to the spending of money. It does seem more likely, though, that their prerogative is, as stipulated on page three of the Code, that “LOCOG will do business with suppliers and licensees who are best placed to deliver outstanding value for money”. In the case of the Golden Bear factory, this seems to be at odds with their commitment to sustainability as “one of several core elements which make up how we (LOCOG) define value for money.”

 

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Olympics – A PR opportunity for the shamefaced

The London Olympics has already suffered severe setbacks from activists who are threatening to disrupt the smooth functionaing of the mega event. Lord Sebastian Coe, Chairman of the London Olympics Organising Committee has repeatedly turned down suggestions that he should get rid of some of the corporate sponsors. London which will be the first city to host the Olympic thrice is facing issues over sponsorship deals, transportation within the city, land grabbing and ceremonies expenditure.

The Olympics is an event of freedom, spirit, youth and energy; so why all these protests against an event of such big stature. The issue started when the organisers headed by Seb Coe agreed to massive sponsorship deals with corporates who have been responsible for heinous crimes in its history. BP, the most popular corporate culprit in the United States after its massive oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico has threatened more then 400 species and cost thousands of jobs. BP constantly delayed the cleaning of the oil spill and had to pay massive fines and compensations. American financial service giants VISA are engulfed in a controversy of their own. Any Olympic electronic financial transaction has to take place through a VISA debit or credit card. Many have raised their concern over the monopoly created by the organisers and have called for the boycott of the services offered by Visa.

The controversies that probably have managed to create a big dent on the mega event are the sponsorship deals with Dow Chemicals and ATOS. I have mentioned in my previous blog about the inhuman behavior of Union Carbide officials which is now owned by Dow Chemicals towards the people of Bhopal after a gas leak from a tank resulting in 3,000 lives in just one night. ATOS which is the private biggest health care service after the publicly owned NHS is under the limelight for its atrocious treatment of the disabled in the United Kingdom. Not many doubts were raised when athletes and activists have called for the Olympics to distance itself from ATOS or else they will try their best to boycott the Paralympic games. A similar threat has been given by some leading politicians and athletes from India to boycott the main event. Perhaps the biggest surprise to me was the deal with GE(General Electric). GE is one of the leading producers of nuclear energy in the world and not just in America, as it has helped set up nuclear capabilities in many other countries.

It is a farce that corporates who have performed with dubious moral ethics have been allowed to sponsor an event that symbolises unity. Spread the word against corporate greed.

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Olympic ceremonies will cost another £40m

The budget for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic opening and closing ceremonies has been doubled to over £80 million, it was announced today.

Ministers blamed the increased cost of security on the recruitment of 23 700 security guards to work at more than 100 competition and training venues. This brings the taxpayer’s contribution to venue security to £533 million. With the policing bill set at £475 million, the overall cost of Olympic security is now £1 billion.

Delivering the Government’s quarterly Olympic budget update today, Olympics minister Hugh Robertson said: “This money will not be spent on fireworks, it will not be money going up in smoke, it will be an important investment in the economic future of the country.”


He continued by saying that a meeting of the Prime Minister, the Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt and himself had decided that they “needed to maximise and promote London to the four billion television viewers after being presented with a wide range of ceremonial components across the ceremonies.”

Robertson acknowledged the current economic conditions but said that the potential benefits that could flow through enhanced tourism numbers justified the increase.

The extra cash will come from the Olympic contingency fund and the London 2012 project remains on course to come in at around the budgeted £9.3 billion.

Putting on a great show is important but what’s even more important is creating a lasting legacy – other than debt. Surely they’d be able to put on a few good shows for the original £40 million budgeted and then they could have spent the additional £40 million on something that would benefit the people of Britain in the future?

This is where we’d normally add a sarcastic comments about broken calculators, but this time we’re just going to let the numbers speak for themselves…

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