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confident ETI begins to expand its horizons

March 2003

The Ethical Trading Initiative is to expand its membership beyond its traditional base of food and clothing companies as part of wider plans to engage more with the outside world.

The board of the UK-based initiative, which brings together companies, non-governmental organizations and unions wishing to set up supply chain monitoring programmes, believes it is time to widen the horizons of the ETI, now in its fifth year.

‘Our past focus has been on the food, clothing and footwear sectors, but this year we will target other retail sectors which have as many, if not more, issues of poor practice in their global supply chains,’ said ETI chair Alan Roberts.

The membership drive will be among companies selling homewares, accessories, toys, cosmetics, furniture and electrical goods.

One of the ETI’s priorities this year will be to share good practice beyond its membership. It plans to publish a ‘workbook’ on good practice and host public seminars. It will also seek closer links with the International Labour Organization and will engage more with socially responsible investment fund managers in the UK.

Internally, it will look at how to close the ‘continuing gap between some company codes and the ETI’s base code’, getting more members to bring in systems to verify their supply chain monitoring procedures, and producing guidelines on how to determine a living wage.

A further sign of growing confidence is its declared aim to ‘agree processes to disengage those members not meeting their obligations’. By the end of 2002, the proportion of suppliers evaluated by members fell by nine per cent compared with the previous year, from 64 per cent to 55 per cent, although the number of suppliers who failed to comply with the ETI base code fell by 18 per cent.

ETI members agree to work with suppliers to satisfy a base code setting out aspirations on workplace safety, freedom of association, living wages, non-discrimination and other issues.

Taking into account the imminent loss of founder member Littlewoods following its sale to the Barclay brothers last autumn, and the nine new members which joined in 2001/2 ­ among them Chiquita, Debenhams and Next ­ the ETI has 28 corporate members with a combined £100billion ($161bn) annual turnover. Four trade union bodies representing 157 million workers, and 15 NGOs, are also members. Having kept a relatively low profile in the corporate social responsibility sector, the ETI now feels ready to ‘strengthen our influence’.




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