This week I addressed a rich gathering of companies, trade union and development organisations and MPs at the launch of the Ethical Trading Initiative’s new agenda for ethical trade at the Houses of Parliament.
I spoke about how retailers and brands could further their commercial goals and promote respect for workers’ rights by putting ethical trade principles at the heart of businesses. I also spoke about the ETI’s new training programme, which shows how to put the agenda into practice.
The ETI seeks to improve workers’ conditions in vast and complex global supply chains. We have provided a safe space for buying companies to work alongside trade union and campaigning organisations to tackle the challenges of addressing workers’ conditions.
I am encouraged by what ETI member companies and others have achieved. But for lasting change to happen, there remains a huge need for brands and retailers to make sure their business practices support ethical sourcing. This includes making sure their buying practices (eg lead times and price negotiations) do not constrain suppliers' ability to provide decent working conditions. This is what our new agenda is about. It’s about core business.
Some of our members are running ethical trade training programmes for buyers and technologists. Others are including ethical as well as commercial criteria when assessing new suppliers.
They are issuing contracts that include clauses requiring compliance with the ETI’s base code, and including ethical criteria in job descriptions and appraisals of buying staff.
The ETI training programme, developed with the Co-operative College, has been launched in response to the huge demand expressed by companies for tools to implement ethical principles.
It offers the opportunity for a range of staff - not just ethical trade managers but also buyers, technologists and human resource managers - to find out what practical steps they can take to put ethical trade into practice.
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