I'm Steve Walley, Managing Director of London Stone.
London Stone have always actively worked in our supply chains to improve conditions for workers. I've always been of the opinion that good business and ethics go hand in hand. Business relationships need to be sustainable for all stakeholders, especially the workers making the products. Last year, after being members for 7 years, we made the decision to leave the ETI. Leaving the ETI was a big deal for us, a leap into the unknown. We're proud to announce that we have just joined The Forestry Trust (TFT). The following blog gives some insight into the journey we took before joining.
Surprisingly, when London Stone left the ETI and joined the project to create Child Labour Free Zones in Budhpura we received a fair amount of criticism from various quarters, I can recall receiving several negative emails. Some of the criticism came from customers, some from people I’d never heard of and some from within the Ethical community. We were accused of profiting from other peoples misfortune, not having the vision to see the bigger picture and worst of all by supporting the project to create Child Labour Free Zones we were accused of giving out, wait for it………..Charity!
Probably a little known fact but Charity is a big NO NO in the ethical community. Everything that you do must be sustainable! I agree with that by the way, I was just slightly annoyed because the person throwing the ultimate insult at the CLFZ project (while the email was politely written, the charity slur was carefully calculated to dis-credit the project in the worst possible way) didn’t actually know anything about the project and so had zero basis for their comments. Quite how you can come under criticism for supporting a project that is trying to end child labour, I don’t know, maybe that’s a story for another day.
The truth of the mater was that by leaving the ETI we were now flying solo on our ethical journey. We had no one to answer too, nobody to report back to, in some ways quite liberating but in other ways slightly daunting. Though we like to think we have a very good understanding of the root causes, issues and solutions of sourcing stone from places like India, managing complex foreign supply chains is not our specialist subject. One thing that is vitally important is credibility. It would have been an easy decision for London Stone to internally audit our foreign supply chains but would this be credible? Probably not! What we really wanted was external and independent verification of our foreign supply chains. We started to look at some of the big audit houses but something didn’t feel right. We have stable, long term relationships with our suppliers and the big audit houses felt impersonal, certainly not in keeping with our company values.
It was then that we started to think about The Forestry Trust (TFT). I had known about TFT and their Responsible Stone Programme for some time, they came strongly recommended by Bram Callewier of Belgium stone suppliers Beltrami and Stoneasy. We had looked at joining TFT in 2014 but couldn’t justify the combined membership cost of the ETI and TFT. Now we were no longer members of the ETI, though we were in a much better position to explore how TFT and the Responsible Stone Programme could improve our supply chains. After detailed meeting and ongoing dialogue I was starting to get the impression that TFT was the right organisation to take our supply chain forward. Very much like the ETI base code, the Responsible Stone Programme had a set of standards that members are expected to implement within their supply chains. Being a member of the ETI all our suppliers were signed up to the implementation of the base code, so there were no shocks about complying with the standards.
The first requirement of the RSP is to provide full transparency of your supply chain all the way to quarry level. TFT will then put in place a plan to visit and inspect your suppliers factories and premises. After the visit has been carried out a joint work plan will then be agreed on between the supplier, TFT and ourselves. Follow up visits are then scheduled too review progress. What I really liked about TFT though was the online transparency hub that gives full visibility of the current status of a given members supply chain. Check out some examples here of how the transparency hub works. You don’t get much more transparent than this.
This was definitely the clincher and after seeing this we immediately signed up. Were excited to work with TFT and fully open up our supply chain to independent scrutiny. This can only be a good thing for the workers who make our beautiful natural stone products and we look forward to continuing or work to improve conditions for workers.
If anyone has any questions about TFT or London Stone's approach to improving conditions within our supply chains do not hesitate to contact me directly