ethical trading initiative

Veganline's main pages about suppliers are links to government standards in each country, listed above, that we buy from, mainly in Europe and the UK. shows how to check the statements and put similar ones on your own web site if you sell online: is just an exercise that tries to apply Ethical Consumer Magazine's list of concerns to Veganline, and probably the page you want to read for a general background. It mentions the Ethical Trading Initiative in passing, so the page you are reading now spells it out, but there is very little for a small company to say about it.

Ethical Trading Initiative is subsidised by UK taxpayers through the Foreign Office, and accepts subscriptions from large importers that control some of their own supply chains in far-eastern countries. "In our experience, companies with a turnover under £10 million rarely have the resources to be an effective member of ETI." they write.

The "base code" lists headline statements, which is another problem. In Europe, the law requires most of these rules are followed but they are still broken. Most of us have worked for organisations where several of these rules are broken - often where objectives are hard to measure such as public-funded organisations, schools, councils, large charities or NGOs, social work contractors,  or trades unions. These are the very same employers that have a neat staff handbook and web site claiming that they are spearheading at the forefront of innovation in excellence: you know the sort of thing.  Only a direct employer has much chance of knowing whether these rules are followed in practice, rather than just in the staff handbook. 

One example on the Ethical Trade Initiative web site reads "How did a collective bargaining initiative in a China shoe factory boost satisfaction among both workers and managers?"  This is a country where there are people in prison for criticising Chinese trades unions.

Anyway, just for reference, this is the Ethical Trading Initiative's "Base Code". and ETI web site has related links and information round each point.

1: Employment is freely chosen

  1. There is no forced, bonded or involuntary prison labour.
  2. Workers are not required to lodge "deposits" or their identity papers with their employer and are free to leave their employer after reasonable notice.

2: Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining are respected

  1. Workers, without distinction, have the right to join or form trade unions of their own choosing and to bargain collectively.
  2. The employer adopts an open attitude towards the activities of trade unions and their organisational activities.
  3. Workers representatives are not discriminated against and have access to carry out their representative functions in the workplace.
  4. Where the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining is restricted under law, the employer facilitates, and does not hinder, the development of parallel means for independent and free association and bargaining.

3: Working conditions are safe and hygienic

  1. A safe and hygienic working environment shall be provided, bearing in mind the prevailing knowledge of the industry and of any specific hazards. Adequate steps shall be taken to prevent accidents and injury to health arising out of, associated with, or occurring in the course of work, by minimising, so far as is reasonably practicable, the causes of hazards inherent in the working environment.
  2. Workers shall receive regular and recorded health and safety training, and such training shall be repeated for new or reassigned workers.
  3. Access to clean toilet facilities and to potable water, and, if appropriate, sanitary facilities for food storage shall be provided.
  4. Accommodation, where provided, shall be clean, safe, and meet the basic needs of the workers.
  5. The company observing the code shall assign responsibility for health and safety to a senior management representative.

4: Child labour shall not be used

  1. There shall be no new recruitment of child labour.
  2. Companies shall develop or participate in and contribute to policies and programmes which provide for the transition of any child found to be performing child labour to enable her or him to attend and remain in quality education until no longer a child; "child" and "child labour" being defined in the appendices.
  3. Children and young persons under 18 shall not be employed at night or in hazardous conditions.
  4. These policies and procedures shall conform to the provisions of the relevant ILO standards.

5: Living wages are paid

  1. Wages and benefits paid for a standard working week meet, at a minimum, national legal standards or industry benchmark standards, whichever is higher. In any event wages should always be enough to meet basic needs and to provide some discretionary income.
  2. All workers shall be provided with written and understandable Information about their employment conditions in respect to wages before they enter employment and about the particulars of their wages for the pay period concerned each time that they are paid.
  3. Deductions from wages as a disciplinary measure shall not be permitted nor shall any deductions from wages not provided for by national law be permitted without the expressed permission of the worker concerned. All disciplinary measures should be recorded.

6: Working hours are not excessive

  1. Working hours must comply with national laws, collective agreements, and the provisions of 6.2 to 6.6 below, whichever affords the greater protection for workers. 6.2 to 6.6 are based on international labour standards.
  2. Working hours, excluding overtime, shall be defined by contract, and shall not exceed 48 hours per week*
  3. All overtime shall be voluntary. Overtime shall be used responsibly, taking into account all the following: the extent, frequency and hours worked by individual workers and the workforce as a whole. It shall not be used to replace regular employment. Overtime shall always be compensated at a premium rate, which is recommended to be not less than 125% of the regular rate of pay.
  4. The total hours worked in any 7 day period shall not exceed 60 hours, except where covered by clause 6.5 below.
  5. Working hours may exceed 60 hours in any 7 day period only in exceptional circumstances where all of the following are met:
    this is allowed by national law;
    this is allowed by a collective agreement freely negotiated with a workers’ organisation representing a significant portion of the workforce;
    appropriate safeguards are taken to protect the workers’ health and safety; and
    the employer can demonstrate that exceptional circumstances apply such as unexpected production peaks, accidents or emergencies.
  6. Workers shall be provided with at least one day off in every 7 day period or, where allowed by national law, 2 days off in every 14 day period.*
  7. *International standards recommend the progressive reduction of normal hours of work, when appropriate, to 40 hours per week, without any reduction in workers’ wages as hours are reduced

7: No discrimination is practiced

  1. There is no discrimination in hiring, compensation, access to training, promotion, termination or retirement based on race, caste, national origin, religion, age, disability, gender, marital status, sexual orientation, union membership or political affiliation.

8: Regular employment is provided

  1. To every extent possible work performed must be on the basis of recognised employment relationship established through national law and practice.
  2. Obligations to employees under labour or social security laws and regulations arising from the regular employment relationship shall not be avoided through the use of labour-only contracting, sub- contracting, or home-working arrangements, or through apprenticeship schemes where there is no real intent to impart skills or provide regular employment, nor shall any such obligations be avoided through the excessive use of fixed-term contracts of employment.

9: No harsh or inhumane treatment is allowed

  1. Physical abuse or discipline, the threat of physical abuse, sexual or other harassment and verbal abuse or other forms of intimidation shall be prohibited.