The Landscape Forum is one of the sector focus groups of Stone Federation Great Britain. It includes British and international quarry operators and other stone and mortar suppliers working in this sector, bringing to bear a wide range of expertise.
In February of 2018, The Ethical Stone Register was launched. It enables natural stone firms, whatever their size, to offer verified responsible and manageable ethical sourcing solutions. The response from the different sectors of the industry was overwhelmingly positive and many of the professionals attending the launch became ambassadors for the scheme.
The Ethical Stone Register has three tiers of membership, each requiring an increasing level of external auditing and certification of the natural stone supplier.
There has already been a shift in public awareness of the issues of ethically sourcing resulting in a greater demand for products that deliver transparency in their ethical procurement policies and environmental and societal sustainability. The retail sector has seen perhaps the most impactful shift, but the construction sector is following suit.
Clients want the peace of mind that their project isn’t using materials that involve child labour, bonded labour or other unethical working practices.
The conventional pathway to the correct selection of which stone to use for a landscape project has always included sample panel inspections, the matching of finishes with application and understanding how a stone’s geology affects its suitability for certain uses, but there is now an added element in the selection process.
The question that all specifiers should be asking is: “How much do I know about the ethical traceability of the materials used in my projects?”
Simply saying “I trust my suppliers” will no longer suffice. Companies are demanding transparency throughout their supply chains.
One natural stone company director commented that: “It has become an issue that must not be ignored. It will trigger an even greater demand for ethically and responsibly sourced stone. Major players in the construction industry will want to avoid the potential embarrassment of unsavoury practices in their supply chain.”
This approach requires a greater level of responsibility and investment from all stages of the supply chain and will call time on those companies simply looking to get the cheapest materials as quickly as possible. Just as the sector saw with the shift in understanding and best practice around environmentally sustainable working practices 10-15 years ago, there is a higher bar being set around how companies source their materials.
More companies in the natural stone sector are making significant investments in this area of their business. This year, The Ethical Stone Register welcomed its first Indian-based company. It has a vertically integrated, documented supply chain from the quarry, through manufacture to UK distribution. Builders and developers can use the products with complete peace of mind.
Sitting alongside this company on the Register are British and European stone suppliers, contractors and landscape experts, all putting ethical sourcing transparency high on their business agenda.
It has been encouraging to see major contractors, architects and client bodies adding their support to initiatives like this. Some of the leading major contractors have begun to include membership of the Ethical Stone Register in their tender requirements.
No shift in business practice and ethics happens overnight. All sectors must buy into it, but there is the opportunity for housebuilders and developers to lead the way and make a listing on The Ethical Stone Register a requirement of being on their tender lists.