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retailers fall short on foreign labour codes

February 2000

Two-thirds of UK-listed retailers have yet to adopt any formal code of conduct on overseas labour standards, according to a new survey by the Local Authority Pension Fund Forum (LAPFF).

The LAPFF, a grouping of 25 public sector pension funds that have committed themselves to promoting socially responsible investment, found that of 55 retailers questioned, 27 companies had no formal policies on labour standards in developing countries.

A further 11 companies had not yet provided the LAPFF with any detailed information – more than five months after they were first approached.

Of those companies that have adopted a code, almost half have joined the Ethical Trading Initiative, while the rest have developed their own company code.

John McCallum, chairman of the LAPFF, said the findings were ‘a stark reminder of the significant work which still needs to be done in promoting corporate responsibility in the field of labour standards’.

He added: ‘It is not good enough that companies with supply chains in developing countries are failing to address their responsibilities to promote better labour standards. Those which fail to address shareholders’ concerns satisfactorily on this issue will be vulnerable to public pressure and shareholder action’.

The LAPFF, whose members have combined assets of £40 billion, says it wants to see quoted companies developing ‘appropriate codes of conduct which are monitorable and verifiable’.

Among companies said by the LAPFF to have no formal policy on labour standards were Clinton Cards, Courts, Dixons Group, Harvey Nichols, House of Fraser, Kingfisher and the MFI Furniture Group.




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