TRAINEES from top UK firms have gone back to school to learn about how ethical trading can help transform their business and improve workers' conditions in their supply chains.
A new, first-of-its-kind training course run by the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) in conjunction with the Co-operative College and backed by the Department for International Development (DFID) got under way last week.
Staff from a wide range of UK-based international companies, including Midlands Co-op, Tesco, suppliers Pentlands Brands plc, footwear firm William Lamb, wine importers Thierrys and salad growers and importers Stubbins Marketing, attended the first of the four-module programme.
The first module, a beginners' guide to ethical trading, introduces ETI's Base Code – an internationally-recognised code of practice for working conditions in company supply chains – and looks at how UK firms who outsource their production can work constructively with their suppliers to make lasting improvements to workers' conditions.
Other two-day modules running in March, April and May, feature advice on how firms can:
• Deal with some of the typical labour problems found in key sourcing countries and product
• Be aware of some of the unintended consequences of implementing ethical trade strategies, e.g. double book-keeping, and different approaches to dealing with them
• Overcome the challenges often faced when looking to engage with NGOs and pressure groups.
Noting the recent launches of ETI
member Marks & Spencer's new ‘Look behind the label' campaign and Bono's Project Red, ETI director Dan Rees said: "Firms can see for themselves the upsurge of consumer interest in ethical issues– but how do you actually build a comprehensive ethical trade strategy for your whole business?
"Our new training programme helps firms build practical skills in dealing with critical issues like company buying practices – such as lead times and price negotiations with suppliers – and collaborating with other companies and organisations to tackle the root causes of poor working conditions."
ETI is backed by core funding from the Government's Department for International Development (DFID) and International Development Minister and Labour/Co-op MP Gareth Thomas commented: "The new training programme will help move ethical trading principles further into the business mainstream.
"This can only benefit some of the world's poorest people whilst also helping UK firms stabilise their supply chains."
• ETI is a UK-based alliance of businesses, trade unions and NGOs and further information on the training programme can be found online at: www.ethicaltrade.org/d/training