People care increasingly about provenance… and ethically sourced stone has been hitting the headlines recently.
Earlier this month, Habitat and John Lewis withdrew granite worktops from their shop floors over concerns about child labour and slavery. It’s led to companies throughout the UK paying greater attention to their supply chains to ensure that they’re not buying from quarries where working conditions are unsafe and where children form part of the workforce.
We know that natural stone has always been a very popular building material – what’s changing is the widespread attitude towards where it’s sourced.
Most natural stone comes from India or China where prices are cheaper, but the cost of shipping stone halfway round the world, environmentally speaking, is significant.
India in particular is a key exporter of limestone, sandstone and granite but its reputation has suffered as a supplier – the stone industry there isn’t well regulated, can be prone to corruption and has a dubious track record for human rights and child labour.
According to a study published by Dutch non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in August this year, half the granite and 10% of all stone exports in the world come from India, where quarries still have child labour and bonded labour (modern slavery). It’s no secret that conditions in some Indian quarries are very poor.
With child labour very much on the nation’s radar, we wanted to understand the situation a little better so we did some digging. The Ethical Trading Initiative revealed that child labour contributes an estimated 20% of India’s gross national product. Despite the government banning child labour, India still has the largest number of child workers under the age of 14 anywhere in the world with the official estimate at 12.6 million.
So why are children still working in quarries?
This is a complex blend of issues, both sociological and cultural. Some children have to work because their parents’ income isn’t enough to support the family or because there’s a lack of childcare provision or local schools. Sometimes, their parents are bonded labourers, having accepted loans from employers to supplement their wages or to cover medical fees after an accident. Their children inherit the debt, and so the cycle continues.
What can you do?
When you’re buying stone, you have a choice. Some people choose to avoid stone sourced from India altogether, on environmental as well as ethical grounds. Sandstone imported from India is responsible for five times the carbon emissions of sandstone quarried in the UK.
Others prefer to buy natural stone sourced from responsible suppliers that adhere to ethical trading principles.
As we manufacture stone in the UK sourced from our own quarries, you can be absolutely certain of its provenance and quality.
While most of our limestone is sourced from our own quarries, we follow very strict guidelines on how the stone we do import is sourced and manufactured. We’ve just launched our own Stone Charter to underpin our commitment to ethical trading and to set out our company’s mission, vision and values as we celebrate 20 years as a specialist stone supplier.
We believe in giving our customers a choice. Ethically sourced natural stone that we import from carefully chosen partners across two continents or else stone that’s locally quarried so you can be absolutely certain of its provenance and quality.
For more information about how we run our quarries and source our stone, please get in touch on 01780 740970.