It may be ethically produced, but I know that the eco among you will be questioning the necessity of this journey and counting the CO2 involved...However, for this garden I wanted to bring attention to the fact that there are companies out there who make a big difference to the lives of ordinary workers who produce the goods that we buy in the UK; products that many of us choose without a second thought as to how, why or where they have come from. So I thought I'd tell you the story of our stone...
Where the stone comes from
The stone is quarried from the area of Gaarda in Rajasthan, India. In this particular quarry, which is owned by the sole business that Marshalls procures all it sandstone paving from, there are 10 full time workers, including; supervisors, stone cutters, drivers and machine operators.
The stone block is extracted in 7 tonne pieces by drilling into the ground to create vertical joints of weakness within the stone beds before being taken out of the ground using mechanical means. It is then loaded on to a lorry and transported approximately 50km to the processing factory in Ranpur, in the Kota region of Rajasthan.
The stone block is then cut into slabs by a large multi-wet-blade saw before being surface finished and dimensionally cut to the appropriate size. The image above shows a saw operator at the supplier’s factory; he is Jitendra Kumar, a 22 year old who has worked at the quarry for 18-months.
The finished Fairstone product is then packed into a container and taken by rail from Kota to the Indian east coast port of Mundra where it is transferred onto container vessels for shipment to the UK.
All Fairstone is packaged in wooden crates sourced from sustainable managed eucalyptus plantations. It is not uncommon to find exported sandstone transported in crates made from illegal “jungle” wood, but Marshalls ensure that this does not happen within their supply chain.
In order to reduce both cost, unnecessary haulage and C02, Marshalls store the majority of stone products at Felixstowe docks and deliver them out direct to customers as and when an order is placed.
What do Marshalls do differently?
Marshalls was the first member of the Ethical Trade Initiative (ETI) from the hard landscaping industry and has adopted the ETI Base Code, which is based on the International Labour Organisations’ conventions and is widely accepted as a model code of practice. The ETI is a diverse alliance of retailers and brands, trade unions, charities and campaigning organisations working together to tackle the complex questions posed by ethical trade (see www.ethicaltrade.org).
As part of the Marshalls Fairstone commitment, Marshalls ensures that all these workers are paid a living wage, are older than the minimum age of 18 and operate with respect to Health & Safety.
Marshalls also works closely with an NGO based in the region, Hadoti Hast Shilp Sansthan (HHSS). Since February 2007, Marshalls has been funding Hadoti to help provide social insurance, health check camps and schooling for the migrant and local quarry workers. Jitendra’s family and the families of all the workers of Marshalls sole supplier are able to benefit from these services.
As a socially responsible company, Marshalls is committed to managing its supply chain through regular independent auditing to ensure that safety, environmental and human rights laws are upheld by its suppliers.
The audits provide both verification and an agenda for improvement that Marshalls and its suppliers can work to. These audits are carried out against the Base Code of the Ethical Trading Initiative.
The ETI Base Code contains provisions based on the following principles:
- No-one should be forced to work
- Workers should be able to join and form trade unions
- Working conditions should be safe and healthy
- Child labour shall not be used
- Working hours should not be excessive
- Wages should be enough to live on and provide some discretionary income
- Workers should be treated equally, regardless of their sex, ethnic group, religion or political opinions
- Where possible, workers should be provided with regular employment
- Workers should not be verbally, physically or sexually abused or disciplined
It is easy for us here in the UK to ignore such issues; we cannot see the issues that our consumption here can lead to abroad. But just because we cannot see it on our own doorstep, it doesn't mean that we should remain ignorant.
Marshalls gives the customer the option to choose wisely... and choose Fairstone.