Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Written Evidence

Annex 1

An Introduction to the Ethical Trading Initiative


  The ETI is an alliance of companies, NGOs and trade unions operating in the UK. It exists to identify and promote good practice in the implementation of codes of labour practice. Members are committed to working together to achieve that aim. Our ultimate goal is to ensure that the working conditions of employees in companies that supply goods to consumers in the UK meet or exceed international standards.

  ETI was established in 1998. It is funded by membership fees paid by its company and NGO members and by a grant from the international development budget of the British Government's Department for International Development.


  The ETI was an initiative taken by key people in the company, NGO and trade union sectors, with British government support, to see whether a co-operative approach to improving labour conditions in the supply chain could be taken. It is an alternative to an approach based on campaigns and boycotts on one side, and company resistance on the other.

  All sides felt that in the changing political and economic climate of the late 1990s a space had opened up for a more co-operative approach that would yield genuine improvements in working conditions, while satisfying the companies' desire to maintain brand values and the NGO and union desire to see the benefits of economic activity more evenly shared.

  ETI is part of a wider contemporary movement towards codes of conduct and multi-stakeholder approaches, evident in Europe, the USA, Canada and Australasia. Multi-stakeholder monitoring initiatives are beginning to gain ground in other parts of the world, for example the establishment of the Wine Industry Ethical Trade Association (WIETA) in the Republic of South Africa in November 2002.


  ETI has drawn up a nine-point code covering: no forced labour; freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining; safe and hygienic working conditions; no use of child labour; living wages; limits to working hours; no discrimination; regularity of employment; no harsh or inhumane treatment. This is known as the "ETI Base Code" and has been circulated separately. It can also be found on ETI's website:

  The ETI Base Code reflects the core labour standards of the International Labour Organisation, which is the pre-eminent authority in global labour standards.


  Over the last decade, consumers in Britain have shown increasing interest in the conditions under which the products they buy are made. It's no longer just a matter of the size, shape, taste or functional characteristics of the consumer goods they buy. Many consumers also want to know that their food, drink, clothes, household items or presents have been produced in conditions where workers and the environment have been treated fairly. The international media and global electronic communications are bringing UK and European consumers much more information about labour conditions in the countries from which they import.

  Companies have observed market resistance to products produced under adverse labour and environmental conditions, when such conditions have been exposed by the media. Companies are also concerned to protect their reputations and brand values, and this extends to the brand values of suppliers who have internationally-recognised names and logos.

  The NGO members of ETI aim to promote a fairer form of economic development around the world. The trade union members have a direct interest in improving global labour standards.


  As a condition of membership, ETI member companies have undertaken to apply the ETI Base Code to their international supply chains. This means identifying suppliers, discussing the Code and its context with suppliers, carrying out audits, negotiating improvement plans and monitoring progress.

  The emphasis is on maintaining supply from existing suppliers and developing productive long-term relationships. Only in extreme cases of persistent non-compliance would the companies terminate their supply relationships.

  Further, ETI members have embarked on a number of Pilot Projects to test methods of monitoring and verification (against the ETI Base Code) in supplier countries. Pilots include: wine in South Africa, clothing in China and bananas in Costa Rica.

  ETI also organises seminars for its members, and other interested parties, on issues relating to international labour standards.


  ETI has three categories of members: company, NGO and trade union. ETI's membership is representative of NGOs in the UK, trade unions in the UK and internationally, and company members with a very large presence in UK retailing.

  ETI member companies have a combined annual turnover of over £100 billion (US$150 billion) and many thousands of supplier-partners around the world. Our trade union members are umbrella organisations that co-ordinate the work of their affiliates. Together, they represent more than 157 million workers worldwide in every country where free trade unions can operate. In April 2003, the following organisations where members of the ETI.


  Anchor Seafood Ltd, Arbor International

  ASDA, Bewley's Ltd.

  Chiquita International Brands, Debenhams Retail Ltd, Desmond & Sons Ltd, Dewhirst Group, Fyffes Group Ltd, J Sainsbury Ltd,

  Lambert Howarth Global, Levi Strauss & Co

  Lyons Seafoods Limited, M&W Mack Ltd,

  Madison Hosiery, Marks & Spencer, Monsoon, Mothercare, Next plc, Pentland Group plc, Premier International Foods, Quantum Clothing Ltd, Safeway Stores plc, Somerfield Stores Ltd, Tea Sourcing Partnership[1], The Co-operative Group (CWS) Ltd, TESCO, The Body Shop International, Union Coffee Roasters

  World Flowers.


  International Confederation of Free Trade Unions—ICFTU

  International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers' Federation—ITGLWF

  International Union of Food Workers—IUF

  UK Trades Union Congress—TUC


  Africa Now, Anti-Slavery International

  CAFOD, Central American Women's Network, Christian Aid, Fairtrade Foundation

  Homeworkers Worldwide, Labour and Society International, National group on Homeworking, Oxfam, Quaker Peace & Social Witness, Save the Children, Traidcraft Exchange, TWIN, War on Want, Women Working Worldwide, World Development Movement.

1   The Tea Sourcing Partnership is an association of tea packers comprising Matthew Algie & Co., Brooke Bonde Tea Co., Finlay Beverages, Gala Coffee & Tea, DJ Miles & Co, Nambarrie Tea Co, Keith Spicer, Taylors of Harrogate, Tetley GB, R. Twining & Company, and Williamson & Magor Co. Back

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Prepared 18 September 2003