Saturday 16 February 2008

The Ethical Trading Initiative

In looking behind the ethical stances of large companies, what is there to help them set their standards and monitor against abuse?

Well there is, perhaps, The Ethical Trading Initiative.....

"The Ethical Trading Initiative is a ground-breaking initiative which brings together a wide range of organisations from all parts of society. Together, we aim to improve the lives of poor working people around the world. Specifically, we are an alliance of companies, NGOs and trade union organisations working to promote and improve the implementation of corporate codes of practice which cover supply chain working conditions."

The "Base Code" sets out most of what you might like to see in an ethical statement.

A recent article in the Guardian's Ethical Living blog outlines how George at Asda has just added a £5 woman's office outfit to its range. "However, anybody who is worried about the ethical implications of the clothes can rest easy, it goes on to say that its dedicated sourcing team has ensured that it is sourced in line with the Ethical Trading Initiative's code of practice. Well that's OK then. Or is it? "

Unfortunately the article does not go on to answer the question put. What was the question anyway? I suspect that it was not 'Is the Ethical Trading Initiative's code of practice and the way it is applied good enough?'

I have a little problem with organisations that are set up to guide members by a set of rules that the members set. What's to stop Asda, Boots and the many other members giving themselves a set of standards that abuses can wriggle through? Well, in the case of the ETI there is the fact that the membership includes Trade Unions and NGO's such as Oxfam, Africa Now and Save the Children.

So ETI gets a tick but the nagging question still remains in my mind as to how a business suit can be sold for £5 without a few people along the supply chain feeling somehow short changed.

Asda (owned by Wal-Mart) sets out its ethical stance here.

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