“The time is ripe for a Swedish Ethical Trading Initiative”
2019-04-25: When Axfoundation and Oxfam Sweden invited actors from different sectors to a dialogue around a future Swedish Ethical Trading Initiative, the meeting room was filled to the very last chair. Actors from both private sector and civil society, as well as the public sector and trade unions met to dig deeper into the need for an ETI and its potential set up. How can we collaborate across industries and sectors with the joint focus of improving the entire supply chain, especially in high-risk countries?
“We are all facing major challenges in the supply chains. This may concern slave labor among migrants, low wages in the manufacturing industry, child labor in mines or unregulated agricultural work among small-holder farmers”, said Viveka Risberg, Program Director for Sustainable Production and Consumption at Axfoundation. “These are challenges that require common solutions where actors work together at different levels, both locally and regionally. This is where an Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) fits in. A Swedish ETI can become a platform for all different sectors, not just for the textile sector, not just for the food sector – but for everyone who works with improvements in working conditions and human rights in the supply chain.”
The dialogue, that was held on April 24th, was a follow-up to the information meeting organized by Axfoundation in March 2019. The Ethical Trading Initiative is a multi-stakeholder initiative that exists in the UK, Norway and Denmark. On the initiative of the Norwegian ETI, Axfoundation is investigating the interest in Sweden for a Swedish sister organization.
“Going together across borders and strengthening each other’s work, not least in high-risk countries, means fairer competition as several actors end up on the same playing field and follow the same game rules,” continues Viveka Risberg.
The participants reasoned about the added value of an ETI for different actors; companies, civil society, the public sector and trade unions, but also discussed challenges and possible organizational scenarios ahead.
“An ETI can open up for stronger dialogue between several stakeholders and actors to proactively solve common issues”, said Kristina Areskog Bjurling, Axfood.
“An ETI can become a platform for finding strategic partnerships to make a difference in issues concerning working conditions. Already today we work with companies, but an initiative such as the ETI can lead to new exciting collaborations. At the same time, we must be careful to avoid a duplication”, said Magnus Kjellsson, Unionen.
“It is crucial that the ETI focuses on human rights and working conditions, but at the same time, environmental and climate issues are even more important now than 10-20 years ago. Do these issues need a strong focus also in this forum?”, Åsa Fredriksson Jedeskog, KICKS wondered.
Another issue up for discussion was whether it is time to think “Nordic” right from the start – as purchases in certain sectors sometimes are made via common Nordic channels. “On the other hand, there is a strength in Swedish players merging into a clera cut Swedish initiative”, Christina Snöbohm said at Coop.
A Swedish ETI could offer various actors in the supply chain a palette of services – everything from advisory services and risk assessments to method development and advocacy work. In addition, there is potential for players to join forces in joint projects in producer countries. Setting up an ETI can be done in several ways, based on needs, ambition and financing.
Next step? Working group for ETI to be set up
The conversation opened up to new issues, but at the same time the message from the participants was clear: There is a great interest to be part of a future Swedish EIT and there is a sufficient basis for starting a working group with the task of producing a detailed plan for the same. Which companies and organizations that are part of the working group will be published shortly.
“The time is ripe for a Swedish ETI!”, says Viveka Risberg.
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