18 June 2009 | Jake Kanter
Alliance Boots is suspected of "turning its back" on vulnerable workers in its supply chain by walking away from the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), a group of charities has said.
Boots left the ETI - an alliance of organisations promoting good working conditions in the supply chain - this week after six years of membership.
A company spokeswoman said the decision to leave was made because the "ETI only concentrates on labour standards and at Boots UK we focus on all aspects of sustainability".
Boots added it was working to create an internal benchmark for responsible supply chain management standards and emphasised it took labour standards in its supply chain "very seriously".
But the NGO members of the ETI, including CARE and Oxfam, believe the move suggests the retailer is "cutting back" on its ethical commitments.
Peter Williams, co-ordinator for the ETI NGO members, said: "We would question why a major retailer like Boots is leaving ETI if it is committed to improving labour standards. We fear it is turning its back on workers in its supply chain."
He said companies should not be cutting back on commitments to labour standards in their supply chain when "vulnerable workers" have been badly hit by the economic downturn.
"Today's ethically aware consumers have higher expectations of companies than ever before, particularly brands they trust," Williams added.