At the very start of the process, when the faint vision of an exciting new quarry is on the horizon, Marshalls work with Stirling Smith, a well experienced independent auditor to ensure that any skeletons that the quarry owners have in their cupboards are exposed – no matter how good the quality of the stone, Marshalls will not deal with them if they are not able to bring their working practices in line with the ETI base code – the Ethical Trading Initiatives’ international code of conduct which aims to reduce child and bonded labour and ensures the right to living wages and freedom of association, amongst other issues.
The social and ethical issues of acquiring stone became a core issue for Marshalls when they joined the Ethical Trading Initiative in 2005. From this point on, they have been at the forefront, driving change within the industry and producing their own Fairstone Mark for imported stone. Although the issue of child labour hit the headlines a few years ago, it is still prevalent, especially in India despite the fact that it has been illegal since 1986. Illegal or not, today there are still 1,000,000 Indian children working in stone quarries across the country (roughly 20% of all workers).
Each year, 133,000 tonnes of the stone they produce ends up on the streets, squares, gardens and driveways of the U.K.
Partnering with Unicef, Marshalls is the only UK based company within this sector working to ensure that this is not the case with the stone that they import. Donating £1 for every 1m2 of Fairstone that Marshalls sell, the money goes directly to Unicef to help them to tackle this complex global problem.
Chris Harrop, Marshall’s Director of Sustainability said;
“It is appalling that children, some as young as five or six, work in dangerous and terrifying conditions in quarries. How would we feel if these were our own children? It doesn’t bear thinking about.
“We want people to be able to buy this beautiful product with a clear conscience. By choosing Marshalls Fairstone you can be sure that everything possible has been done to ensure child labour has not been used in its production. Our customers can feel proud that they have become part of the solution to this appalling issue.”
New sources of stone are found all over the world every year, but they only enter the market after rigorous testing, ensuring that they are resilient enough for their various end uses. Even in the far-flung corners of the globe, the same rigorous tests are used to ensure that The Stone Standard is not compromised.
The Stone Standard – Indian Stone
Marshalls has undertaken extensive testing of a range of Indian Sandstone paving available on the UK market today and has discovered that 50% do not meet the British Standard.
Sandstones can appear the same when displayed at a merchant or in a brochure, but they do have different properties and can perform very differently when installed. Laboratory testing gives you a full picture of the technical quality of stone. The same factors of water absorbency, flexural strength and frost resistance need to be considered alongside their ethical origins.
At this point in time in the UK, I believe that only Marshalls Fairstone can guarantee a good quality product and a clear conscience, something that I hope will encourage other companies to follow suit.