About the Ethical Trading Initiative
The Ethical Trading Initiative is a ground-breaking initiative which brings together a wide range of organisations from all parts of society. Together, we aim to improve the lives of poor working people around the world. Specifically, we are an alliance of companies, NGOs and trade union organisations working to promote and improve the implementation of corporate codes of practice which cover supply chain working conditions.
Why Was ETI Set Up?
In the late 1990s, companies selling food and clothing to UK consumers were coming under increasing pressure – from trade unions, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and consumers – to ensure decent working conditions for the people who produce the goods they sell. Such companies typically responded by adopting a code of practice setting out minimum labour standards that they expect their suppliers to comply with.
But what should minimum labour standards cover? And how can they be implemented effectively? Many companies who adopted such codes soon found that they had neither the public credibility, nor the necessary experience and skills, to answer these questions alone. They realised they needed the backing of relevant civil society organisations, in particular of trade union organisations and NGOs with expertise in labour issues and overseas development.
With this need in mind, ETI was set up in 1998 to bring the combined knowledge and influence of relevant NGOs and the international trade union movement to work alongside these companies in identifying and promoting good practice in code implementation.
How Do We Contribute?
We aim to improve working conditions by promoting and improving code implementation. We do this in two main ways:
Our NGO, trade union and corporate members work together to identify what constitutes “good practice” in code implementation, and then promote and share this good practice. We identify good practice mainly through our experimental projects and research, and we share this through publications, seminars and conferences, presentations at 3rd party events, and our Website. For example, we ran several experimental projects to identify what auditing methods work in different contexts, and we have shared that learning through project reports, the ETI Workbook, and various events.
We encourage companies to adopt the ETI Base Code and implement it in their supply chains. We aim to influence corporate behaviour in this regard by:
Getting new companies to join ETI. To become a member, the company must make a public commitment to adopt the ETI Base Code and to implement it in their supply chain. We have increased our corporate membership from 12 companies in 1998, to 37 at the end of 2004.
Requiring all corporate members to submit annual progress reports on their code implementation activities. These reports show that significant code implementation activity has taken place, and that members’ suppliers are making concrete improvements to labour practices.
Evoking, where necessary, our procedure for disengaging poor performers. For companies who are not meeting membership requirements, we meet with senior representatives of the company to agree an improvement plan and a deadline for implementing it. Companies who fail to implement such an improvement plan may ultimately be asked to leave ETI.
How Are We Funded?
We are funded by a combination of membership fees (currently comprising approximately 60% of our funding base) and a grant from the Department for International Development (40% of funding). Our members also contribute in-kind to ETI’s work (eg, staff time, travel expenses, meeting facilities).
The ETI Base Code and Principles of Implementation
Underpinning all our work is the ETI Base Code and the accompanying Principles of Implementation [other languages]. The Base Code contains nine clauses which reflect the most relevant international standards with respect to labour practices. The Principles of Implementation set out general principles governing the implementation of the Base Code.
The Base Code and Principles of Implementation have two related functions:
They provide a basic philosophy or platform from which ETI identifies and develops good practice
They provide a generic standard for company performance. We believe that the labour standards incorporated in the Base Code constitute a minimum requirement for any corporate code of labour practice.
In the rest of this section...
What we do - our strategy, and an overview of the activities we implement to deliver this strategy
Who we are - our members, our Secretariat
Governance - how we are governed, including information on our Board, caucus groups and working groups
What we can offer - to members and others
How to Join - practical information for companies, trade union organisations or NGOs interested in joining ETI.
For more information on ETI, you may also wish to view or order a copy of the following ETI publications:
ETI Brochure – a one-page leaflet on our organisation [PDF, 125kb]
(also ETI Brochure, Simplified Chinese [PDF, 307kb])
ETI 'quick facts' [PDF, 16kb]
Press Room: Media Information Sheets
ETI Purpose, Principles, Programme – a 15 page booklet which includes our Base Code and Principles of Implementation in full
ETI Annual Report 2003/2004: Putting ethics to work - see ETI Annual Reports.