In the first Olympics program of its kind, organizers of the 2010 Winter Games are taking steps to ensure that official 2010 merchandise is not produced in factory sweatshops.
All suppliers of licensed VANOC products, including the popular plush mascots, must agree to a code of conduct governing working conditions in the mostly Chinese factories and agree to pay for independent audits of the facilities, including surprise, on-the-spot visits.
As a result of the first round of 80 audits, six factories have been turfed as manufacturers of Olympics-related goods.
"Corrective action plans" have been put in place at the 74 other plants.
The figures were released as part of a comprehensive sustainability report issued yesterday by VANOC, which has promised to address potentially harmful social and economic effects of the Games, in addition to environmental issues.
Ann Duffy, the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee's corporate sustainability officer, said she was pleased that "the vast majority of factories" are meeting VANOC's code of conduct.
According to the code, factories must comply with minimum-wage requirements, health and safety measures and permit workers freedom of association. They must not use child labour or impose excessively long working hours on their employees.
"If they fall short, they can't do business with us," Ms. Duffy said.
As for the many other manufacturers who are being asked to improve, she said only minor adjustments are needed.
"It could include anything from improper documentation or better health and safety training. These aren't major violations, such as hiring children."
For much of the 1990s, Chinese export manufacturers operated with virtual impunity from foreign scrutiny, as Western consumers were simply pleased to be able to buy cheap, relatively well-made goods.
In recent years, however, social activists have launched successful campaigns against powerful companies such as Nike, charging them with turning a blind eye to sweatshop conditions in the factories that produce their goods.
Rory Carr, president of the Vancouver firm RC Products, which has a contract with VANOC to supply diverse Olympic licensed items, said he is all for the idea.
The smart manufacturers in China are starting to understand concern in the West about how their affordable merchandise is produced, Mr. Carr said.
"Before, no one cared very much. We just wanted everything cheaper. Now we want it cheaper, and, oh yes, you [Chinese factories]also have to meet our standards," he said.
"Well, that's not going to happen overnight. We are not working towards perfection. We are working towards improving conditions in the factories."
Two of the company's six Asian suppliers were disqualified by the audit, one because the owner was tired of Westerners auditing his plant and didn't want to fill out any more forms.
"He had audit fatigue," Mr. Carr said. "He just wanted to get back to producing his products."
His company pays for the audits, carried out by an international firm that specializes in Asian inspections for Western firms. Workers are interviewed in rooms where no managers are present, Mr. Carr said.
RC Products is licensed by VANOC to supply, among other things, Olympic backpacks, key chains, cowbells, bear bells and collars and coats for pets.
"The cowbells will be made out of recycled gun casings," he said proudly.