This article was first published on Natural Paving
As the leading independent supplier of ethically sourced natural stone landscaping products, Natural Paving Products (UK) Ltd is spearheading efforts to improve the working conditions of stone workers in India.
Regulation of the Indian stone industry is erratic – with corruption, child labour and illegal quarries presenting major problems. Quarry workers often face appalling conditions, working for extremely poor wages and lacking even the most basic safety protection and sanitation facilities.
In such an unstable market, the quality and supply of products can be inconsistent, making it difficult to track materials back to their original source. This makes it hard for specifiers to be certain about the condition and ethical cost of the products they choose.
Determined to find a better solution, Natural Paving Products has invested significantly in its supply chain and now owns seven Indian quarries and is partner in two others. This enables Natural Paving Products to offer a complete end-to-end service, with absolute control over the origin and quality of the products it sells.
What’s more, in early 2014 the company will open a new, centrally located factory in the heart of its quarries so that all stone can be finished at source – meaning transportation of waste materials to the port will be eradicated and carbon emissions will be significantly reduced.
Malcolm Gough, Business Development Director at Natural Paving Products, commented: “The growing appetite for natural stone landscaping means that as a society we are importing more stone that ever before from the developing world. We believe that alongside this demand comes a responsibility to ensure that stone workers at home and abroad are treated fairly and with respect.
“As direct employees of Natural Paving Products, we have introduced a wealth of measures to protect and improve the welfare of the staff at our production sites. This puts us in the unique position of being able to control the supply of our stone from the moment it is hewn from the ground, right the way through to delivery on site. As the stone industry has no equivalent certification programme to the timber trade’s Forest Stewardship Council Chain of Custody, we feel that this is the only way to guarantee the ethical supply of our products and allows us to stand by them morally.”
The company has invested hundreds of thousands of pounds in developing facilities at its quarries, including custom-built staff quarters, which provide clean toilets, shower blocks, canteen facilities and living areas. Another critical addition is the introduction of chilled, clean drinking water on site – a basic provision that is sadly unavailable to many Indian stone workers.
Natural Paving Products has a long established tradition of implementing ethical business practices across its supply chain and most recently, the company has taken part in a working group led by the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI). The project specifically investigated sourcing of sandstone from the Rajasthan region of India, seeking to build a better picture of the supply chain and identify key areas for development, by engaging with local stakeholders.
The work has informed a new business and human rights programme being driven by ETI and 12 member companies, including Natural Paving Products, which aims to create lasting and sustainable change for stone workers in the region.