7 September 2012
Dear Blake Nordstrom,
I have just been on your company web site looking at your social responsibility guidelines. I found this section of Nordstrom Cares on your vendor partners to be particularly interesting:
"Nordstrom seeks vendor partners who share our commitment to producing quality products through the use of ethical business practices. Every company we work with receives a copy of The Nordstrom Partnership: Standards and Business Practice Guidelines, which outlines the requirements we have for our vendor partners around employment practices, workers' rights, environmental standards and work environments. In cooperation with these Guidelines, we also work hard to ensure that the goods we sell in our stores are made in compliance with applicable laws. View our full Nordstrom Partnership Guidelines below." In case you have not seen the recent report by Al Haq, a leading Palestinian human rights organization, I'm providing a link to it. Based on the relevant statues of international law, Al Haq makes the claim that Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories is guilty of plunder of mud from the occupied shores of the Dead Sea. The fact that the Israeli government has authorized this plunder does not make it any less illegal. By continuing to sell Ahava mud products at Nordstrom after you have been informed about this pillage--as you have been informed on numerous occasions by our campaign and by others--makes you party to a war crime. I honestly don't understand how you can purport to have the values you enumerate on your web site in Nordstrom Cares and to knowingly support and subsidize these gross violations of human rights and international law.
7 September 2012
Thanks for reaching out. Blake is traveling but he and I were able to touch base about your email. He asked me to respond on our behalf, as I've worked closely with him and others on looking into this subject. We've heard from you and the CodePink group for a few years now and we've always listened and considered the issues you bring up about Ahava products. Over those years we've spent quite a bit of time reviewing this issue because we want to be certain that we have a thorough understanding of all the factors at play.
Because this is a sensitive issue that certainly has two sides, and we don't think as a retailer it's appropriate for us to take a position on either side, we have looked toward the requirements we have of all our vendors as our deciding factor for whether to continue offering Ahava products. We require all products we offer to be labeled with their accurate country of origin according to U.S. requirements. To ensure that Ahava's products are labeled appropriately, we asked Ahava, who worked with an approved independent third party, to thoroughly review and report on their product development, sourcing and labeling. Based on that review, it is our understanding that the Ahava products carried at Nordstrom are labeled correctly according to U.S. requirements.
As you mention, we do ask that our vendor partners also adhere to our Nordstrom Partnership Guidelines, which cover many human rights subjects such as employment practices, workers' rights, environmental standards and work environments. As part of this review, an independent third party has found no instance of human rights violations by Ahava. If there were any found, we would immediately address them.
As we've said before, our decision to continue offering these products does not mean we are taking a position on this issue. As a retailer, we are in the business of providing our customers with merchandise they want. At the same time we try to consider our customers' sensitivities but we realize that we are bound to disappoint some customers regardless of whether we offer certain products or not. We’re sorry to disappoint you. We appreciate you taking the time to reach out and giving us the opportunity to respond.
Nordstrom Corporate Communications
9 September 2012
Dear Tara and Blake,
Thank you for your response and for Nordstrom’s continued attention to the matter of Ahava's business practices. Your clarification of Nordstrom's current position on this matter is enlightening; you can rest assured that as global condemnation of Ahava's participation in the criminal pillage of Palestinian resources continues to gather momentum, the overwhelming case for Ahava's removal from Nordstrom's shelves will inevitably prevail. In the meantime, your message raises to the forefront important questions as to whether and how Nordstrom will ethically and responsibly make this transition.
First, you set the bar for your decision to avoid confronting the issue laughably low: Does Ahava's blatantly fraudulent labeling of its products as "Made in Israel" conform to "U.S. requirements"? And you then proceed to lower the bar below floor level by asking Ahava itself, with the assistance of the usual, omnipresent, but always unnamed "independent third party," to make that determination itself. As you are well aware, no one is asking you to conform to "U.S. requirements"; what is being asked is that Nordstrom acknowledge the fact that the profits it derives from its partnership with Ahava are ill gotten, derived as they are from activities clearly illegal under international humanitarian law.
Here's hoping that the day will soon arrive when the "independent third party" you consult on this matter will be your conscience. In the meantime, the drumbeat for justice and fairness grows louder.