31 October 2008 | Delwyn Cummack
The government has urged all sectors to put more emphasis on ethical business.
Trade and development minister Gareth Thomas told the Ethical Trade Initiative (ETI) conference last week that he would like to see its membership expanded "to cover the top ten players in each market sector. Not just food and clothing but also new sectors such as electronics, furniture and home improvement."
ETI director Dan Rees said the organisation will look to expand into those areas and building its membership is a target for the next few years. The ETI is an alliance of companies, non-governmental organisations and trade unions that aims to improve conditions for workers producing goods for the UK market. Most members are from the food and clothing sectors but there are representatives from other industries, such as stone importers Brett Landscaping, and from the public sector.
Thomas also told the conference the government is planning to increase its Aid for Trade contribution by 50 per cent to over £400 million a year by 2010. The money will support programmes to improve roads, ports, power and telecommunications in developing countries.
In the past decade the ETI's achievements have included improving access to state provisions such as healthcare for 15,000 homeworkers in India. "Although we're proud of the progress we've made, the scale and pace of change being achieved to the lives of millions of workers across the globe is not enough," said ETI chair Alan Roberts. "We've picked all the low-hanging fruit, now it's time to get radical. It's no longer acceptable for companies to hide behind audit reports - they need to drastically improve their business practices."