Improvements in the Stone Sector
Local Advisor BTE helps Beer Sten improve conditions at its Indian stone suppliers.
In 2007, Beer Sten was awarded a contract to supply granite for the millennium site in the town of Stavanger on the west coast of Norway. During the contract period, their Indian supplier was accused of using child labour. Beer Sten doubted the truth of the accusations as they had been working closely with the supplier for 20 years. They had also visited the quarries and factories a number of times. In an attempt to resolve the situation, Beer Sten contacted IEH - Ethical Trading Initiative Norway to seek advice.
Beer Sten travelled to India to investigate and discuss the accusations put forward in the Norwegian media with the factory management. The management understood that Beer needed more information and realised that they had to change some of their routines. It was particularly important to establish good documentation routines, and through the Local Resources Network, an independent third party, Business Trading Ethically (BTE), was involved in the process. It was clear that BTE had sound expertise and knowledge of the Indian granite industry.
The first thing the supplier did was to establish a position for a CSR Director to ensure that there was a continual focus on working conditions and environmental factors within the firm. The CSR Director was an important liaison point between Beer Sten and the local partner, BTE. In autumn 2009, Beer Sten held a series of seminars for the employees working in the quarries and the factories. BTE and the CSR Director cooperated on organising and running these seminars.
BTE were commissioned by Beer Sten to conduct a survey of working conditions and environmental factors in the operations of the Indian supplier and to draw up a detailed plan for further work. This involved conducting a survey and risk analysis of the entire production chain and drawing up an action plan for making the necessary improvements. These actions were important with regard to getting an overview of the supply chain and putting in place simple systems to ensure evaluation and documentation. The fact that BTE is a locally-based organisation with a thorough knowledge of culture, social conditions and various languages has also been vital, according to Beer Sten.