The Ethical Trade Initiative is a ground-breaking alliance of companies, trade unions and voluntary organisations. We work in partnership to improve the lives or poor and vulnerable workers across the globe who make or grow consumer goods, everything from tea to T-shirts, from flowers to footballs.
London stone source natural stone from the UK, Europe, India and China. In 2008 though the majority of our stone was sourced from India & China. Developing nations like India and China have completely different standards to the UK in terms of wages paid, working conditions, standards of living and labour practices. London Stone understood this and knew that we had a responsibility to fully understand our supply chains in these developing countries. After lots of research we came across the Ethical Trading Initiative. At the heart of ETI is its 9 point charter, known as the base code. The ETI base code lays out the minimum standards that corporate members are required to adhere to. The base code is just a starting point and as well as signing up to this, corporate members of the ETI also commit to a model of continuous improvement within their respective supply chains. We studied the ETI website and came to the decision that joining the ETI would be an important step for us to take in not only understanding our supply chains but also to try and improve the working conditions within them.
Corporate members of the ETI are required to produce an annual report on their Ethical trading activities. This report will detail our progress made in the last year. One of the main sources of information for the report is the yearly auditing of our suppliers. London Stone audit our foreign suppliers on an annual basis. Audits are usually planned well in advance with a suppler. An audit consists of a full inspection of our suppliers factories and worksites. We will be looking at the working conditions, staff facilities, training records, employment files and health and safety documents of our suppliers. The information we collect is compiled and stored for analysis. We are often asked why we let our suppliers know that we are coming to do an audit? It’s a good question. The answer is that in order to drive genuine change in our supply chains we need to have open, honest relationships with our suppliers. We don’t expect our suppliers to get it right every time and we want our suppliers to know that if they do get something wrong, that London Stone will support them. We will only achieve genuine change if we work together in a collaborative way.
It’s very important to understand the factors that drive non-compliance of ethical trading. Addressing and subsequently removing these driving factors is one of the first and most important steps a company can take. London Stone identified very early on that the way we purchased our natural stone was placing unnecessary pressure on our suppliers workforce. The natural stone market in London is very demanding and these demands were placing huge pressures on our suppliers. London Stone were constantly placing last minute orders and unusual high specification orders. This made it difficult for our suppliers to plan for labour and material costs. We overcame this issue in 2 ways. By investing in a state of the art merchant system we could make accurate predictions on our stock requirements up to 12 months in advance. This allowed our suppliers to plan for raw material stocks and allocate adequate staffing number. We also invested in state of the art cutting equipment so we could carry out bespoke work ourselves, relieving the pressure on our suppliers.
As part of London Stones commitment to the ETI we agree to get involved in projects with other ETI members involved in the stone supply industry. In 2011 the Rajasthan Sandstone Working Group was formed amongst ETI stone group members. The group embarked on a 5 year programme with the overall objective to improve the working conditions in the sandstone supply chains of India. The project is an ambitious one and for the first time has drawn together UK importers, Indian suppliers, quarry owners, trade union and Indian civil society to work collaboratively to improve the lives and working conditions in the Indian sandstone supply chains. In 2012 the RSWG hosted an event in Kota, Rajasthan bringing together all the various stakeholders to hold discussions under the Chatham House Rule. The project is on-going and we will be reporting its progress on this section as and when it happens.