The Ethical Trading Initiative

9 03 2008

Now and again over the duration of this project, I will try and attempt to bring to light the profiles of companies, organisations and initiatives that have all been formed to try and eradicate the exploitation of workers to some degree or other.

For this blog post, an initiative that has already been mentioned will be studied – The Ethical Trading Initiative.

(Copyright: The Ethical Trading Initiative)

What Is The Ethical Trading Initiative?

The Ethical Trading Initiative is an alliance of companies, non-governmental organisations and trade union organisations. They have all signed up to the initiative to try and improve the implementation of corporate codes of practice which cover supply chain working conditions.

When Was The Ethical Trading Initiative Set Up And Why?

The Ethical Trading Initiative was set up in 1998 to establish codes of practices for United Kingdom retailers selling food and clothing to consumers to adhere to. This was done, so that the workers who actually produce the goods for the United Kingdom retailers are always adequately covered.

During the 1990’s much pressure from external forces, such as trade unions and consumers, was placed onto the United Kingdom retailers, resulting in the companies adopting codes of practices which set outs limits such as the minimum labour standards.

Yet, with different companies implementing different ideas and many not having much experience in the field, most realised that they needed the backing of relevant civil society organisations, in particular trade union organisations, which had expertise; this formed the Ethical Trading Initiative.

What Is Ethical Trade?

As we have seen with all of the blog posts that I have already created, many hundreds of thousands of people around the world work in hazardous conditions, simply to produce the raw materials needed for products that are mainly sold in Western societies.

Ethical trade involves getting the companies involved in sourcing – the actual brands and retailers – to take responsibility for their workers, by trying to continuously improve their living and working conditions.

What Is The Difference Betweeen Ethical Trade And Fair Trade?

As stated above, ethical trade involves the actual sourcing companies taking responsibility for the living and working conditions of all of its workers.

Fair Trade, on the other hand, aims to ensure that the actual producers of the products in developing countries, get a better deal from their trade.

Fair Trade not to be confused with Ethical Trade
(Copyright: The FairTrade Foundation)

What Does The Ethical Trading Initiative Do?

The Ethical Trading Initiative state that they do the following practices:

1) Identify And Promote Good Practice in the implementation of the codes of labour. They illustrate that this is achieved via:

A) Running experimental projects alongside their partners, to tackle areas of the code that members find particularly challenging.

B) Commission research to identify the working conditions faced by the companies’ employees.

C) Share Learning within their membership and beyond (to people like you and I) to raise people’s awareness.

2) Expand The Corporate Membership of the initiative to other sectors of the United Kingdom retail market, to raise additional awareness.

3) Strengthen Members’ Commitment to the principles set out in the Base Code through measuring and monitoring their performance.

4) Measure Actual Impact of implementing the Base Code, by looking at the lives of the workers and families that are affected.

5) Build Strategic Alliances with other organisations working on ethical trade, in order to promote international labour standards.

What Principles Are Included In The Ethical Trading Initiative Base Code?

The Ethical Trading Initiative has a set of regulations entitled ‘The Base Code’ which forms its fundamental principles. These include:

* No-one should be forced to work.

* Workers should be able to join and form trade unions.

* Working conditions should be safe and healthy.

* Working hours should not be excessive.

* Workers should be treated equally, regardless of their sex, ethnic group, religion or political opinions.

* Workers should not be verbally, physically or sexually abused, or disciplined.

Who Are Members Of The Ethical Trading Initiative?

A of February 2007, members of the Ethical Trading Initiative that are companies include:

* Asda,

* Associated British Foods (Primark),

* Tesco,

* World Flowers.

Members that are non-governmental organisations include:

* Christian Aid,

* Oxfam,

* The Fairtrade Foundation.

Members that are trade unions include:

* International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers’ Federation,

* International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Association (IUF)

Do All Ethical Trading Initiative Members Follow This Code?

As you have seen with most of my blog posts, some of the companies that are part of this alliance do not seem to have all of their workers’ rights protected. The Ethical Trading Initiative respond to this by stating even though not all of the company’s workers’ rights may be protected, each member is serious in trying to improve conditions over time – however without a definite time scale placed on this, who knows whether or not the Ethical Trading Initiative will be a complete success. 


What Can We As Consumers Do?

The Ethical Trading Initiative states that we, as consumers, can do a lot, in order to promote ethical trading.

For one, they state that joining a campaign can help. Campaigns in the United Kingdom include: Action Aid, Labour Behind the Label and War On Want. Non-United Kingdom campaigns include: The Clean Clothes campaign (The Netherlands) and the Maquila Solidarity Network (Canada).

They also highlight how consumers can do their part by asking retailers the following questions:

1) Do you have a code of labour practice and does it include all the rights in the Ethical Trading Initiative’s Base Code, including trade union rights?

2) How do you check the progress your suppliers are making towards meeting your code?

3) What practical support do you give to your suppliers to help them improve conditions for their workers?

4) How do you ensure your company’s commercial practices, particularly price negotiations with suppliers, don’t constrain their ability to provide decent working conditions?

5) Are you a member of Ethical Trading Initiative? If not, would you consider joining it?

How Can I Find Out Additional Information?

To find out more about the Ethical Trading Initiative simply visit their website by clicking here.




3 responses

28 03 2008

Yes I do believe it is important to know about the companies from which you are purchasing your products and are supporting. If you as a consumer turn a blind eye to who is supplying your goods and how they were manufactured or secured, then you are no better than those enforcing and inflicting the hazardous and sometimes fatal work conditions and child labour. Very sad indeed.

28 03 2008

I definitely think it’s important to know who you’re buying from. If you don’t research the companies you’re buying from, then you’re basically supporting whatever harsh working conditions they might be using to create their products.

I do think the GAP in America is a good company in that they care about working conditions, and also the environment.

29 03 2008

This is a really good plan. 🙂

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