Good Business Charter ethical sourcing feature image

Ethical sourcing

The GBC requires organisations to commit to the standards set out in the Ethical Trading Initiative Base Code for sourcing through a process of continuous due diligence.

What it is

The ETI Base Code is founded on the conventions of the International Labour Organisation and is an internationally recognised code of labour practice.  It consists of nine clauses as follows:

  1. Employment is freely chosen
  2. Freedom of association and the right of collective bargaining are respected
  3. Working conditions are safe and hygienic
  4. Child labour shall not be used
  5. Local living wages are paid at national legal standards
  6. Working hours are not excessive, complying with national law
  7. No discrimination is practiced
  8. Work performed must be on the basis of a recognised employment relationship established through national law and practice
  9. No harsh or inhumane treatment is allowed

Why it matters

Millions of people around the world endure inadequate, sometimes shocking, conditions at work.  The ETI exists to improve working conditions in global supply chains by developing effective approaches to implement the ETI Base Code.

The Good Business Charter believes ethical sourcing is very important and that all businesses need to pay careful attention to the clauses of the Base Code within their own supply chain, in particular to seek to remove any slavery, child labour, unhygienic working conditions and exploitation that may be occurring.

Self-certification

The Good Business Charter recognises that this is a complex process and as such will expect a due diligence process to be undertaken to help businesses prevent and manage labour rights risks.  The ETI provide a human rights due diligence framework to assist in this process: https://www.ethicaltrade.org/resources/human-rights-due-diligence-framework . They also provide training days to assist businesses which we would recommend.

The ETI Base Code is defined by its guidance and individual policies which should not be framed only on the basis of the short explanations above.  You may feel that you meet these clauses through different mechanisms which will be acceptable, including the Modern Slavery Act.  

There is an established principle of leverage in due diligence, which reduces your responsibility the less you consume. If an organisation does not buy very much, it would be disproportionate to expect them to spend as much time checking suppliers as we would expect a large trading organisation to. Every organisation should still do something  – we recommend a modern slavery act statement which outlines the steps it takes to avoid human rights abuse in its services and supplies.  With agency staff, which can be an area of risk, we would recommend an organisation ask the companies they use to supply labour for their own policies on avoiding abuse and ethical practices.

We will encourage you to join the ETI, but it is not a requirement of the GBC.  Membership of the ETI includes commitments to base code principles such as aspiring to help your suppliers meet all aspects of the base code and integrating ethical trade into core business practices. 

Oxfam also provides advice and guidance to companies on key issues in their sustainability strategies – see Oxfam’s website for more information https://www.oxfamapps.org.uk/privatesector/oxfam-business-advisory-service/

The Good Business Charter recognises that ethical sourcing is a journey and chooses to focus on an organisation’s identification of the base code itself and the ways it can contribute to meeting the nine clauses at the level that is appropriate for that particular organisation.

Concerns

If you are concerned that you will not be able to answer these questions but believe that your business or charity practices follow the spirit of this component, please consult with us so that we can make a judgement on whether we believe you meet the requirements of the component.  We are really keen to have organisations of all sizes and from all types of industries and sectors joining the Good Business Charter.  These are standard questions and for some organisations there may be questions that are just not relevant or too onerous.  We want to hear from you if you feel that is the case and we will take a sympathetic view. 

Equally, companies with a smaller number of employees may feel that the wording of the questions is rather technical for the way they operate.  We do not want to exclude anyone behaving responsibly just because they feel this has not been designed with their organisation’s size or industry in mind.  We encourage you to apply the questions to your own unique setting and if in doubt, do contact us to explain the way in which you believe in your own way that you meet this component so that together we can consider whether it is sufficient or what else may be necessary to receive GBC accreditation.

To see an example of what a service based organisation that purchases little and cannot exert much influence over suppliers might do we recommend taking a look at the TUC’s modern slavery statement.

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