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Being A Good Citizen

Being a good citizen is not merely something for the individual in this global age. Multinational companies are citizens of many places and affect the lives of many people. They have a responsibility to be good citizens wherever they are. In poorer places, the choice between good and bad corporate citizenship is of huge importance. Marshalls PLC’s work in India is a great example of how the British corporate citizen should behave abroad.

It is not just about making your operations squeaky clean. The good corporate citizen knows that as an investor, employer or exporter from another country they immerse themselves into entire communities, just the same as any responsible firm recognises in its homeland.

In some the poorest and most remote parts of India, Indian Sandstone is being mined to feed an ever increasing demand in the UK domestic paving market – often by children as young as six, working long hours in inhumane conditions. Marshalls has done their utmost to ensure that the stone they import for our garden pathways and patios was not sourced in this way.

Marshalls and their sole supplier Stoneshippers India went through two years of independent audits and improvements to gain membership of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI). The ETI Base Code includes provisions that no-one should be forced to work, child labour should not be used and working conditions should be safe and healthy.

The good corporate citizen knows that their responsibility doesn’t just end at the factory gates. Marshalls know that they cannot simply turn a blind-eye to the horrendous issues that remain in Rajasthan’s many other quarries, even if they have resolved many of the human rights issues in their own operations. The problems simply go elsewhere.

Labour exploitation is likely to be happening just down the road at another site. These violations of human rights simply cannot be ignored any socially responsible company working in the area. Marshalls were the first UK hard landscaping firm to be an ETI member

Until UK consumers are made aware of the issues of stone production in Rajasthan and deny a market to non-ethically sourced stone hundreds will still suffer. Since February of this year Marshalls have invested in Indian NGO Hadoti Hast Shilp Sansthan. This voluntary organisation aims to transform the lives of desperately poor migrant quarry workers.

Since February Marshalls’ investment has already made a substantial impact. The funds allowed for a team of medical specialists to run in the most remote areas. The clinics have offered routine check-ups, free medicines and vaccinations amongst other general medical assistance.

Diseases like TB, asthma, malaria and skin conditions rife amongst workers have been identified and treated by the clinics. Previously these services were either completely unavailable or far too expensive for the workers to have ever received. So far the clincs have reached over 500 workers and their families. Hadoti plan to expand the clinics reach with door to door visits and the recruitment of nursing staff. This simply wouldn’t have been possible without Marshalls support.

Hadoti’s work extends to providing financial security to the migrant labourers and their families, many of whom are disabled or killed working toiling in quarries that do not provide any kind of safety equipment. Since February Marshalls have enabled Hadoti to provide insurance to over 200 workers and they are currently identifying hundreds of others who they can help.

This funding is not for workers at Stoneshippers India, who already receive insurance as part of their pay deal. It is for other migrant labourers in the region, who are paid on a daily basis by unscrupulous quarry owners, earning barely enough to live on, let alone save for their family’s security.

As a good corporate citizen, and a good business, Marshalls know that their future in India relies on such initiatives. They are sustainable for business as well for people. Indian Sandstone currently represents 10% of the UK market for domestics paving. Within 10 years it is expected to make up 20%. Using Marshalls’ investment Hadoti aims to make education universal for children and encourage more girls to go to school. In particular, Hadoti focuses on training, employment and development plans for women. Longer term, Hadoti is helping rural people implement sustainable development programmes by providing rural technology, bank credit and support for micro-enterprises.

The good corporate citizen knows that there is a moral obligation to be socially responsible. It is also apparent that for the future of a business in an emerging market like India, being a good corporate citizen is also worth the investment. Marshalls are helping transform lives and entire communities for the better. At the same time they are forming lasting and meaningful relationships with the people that live amongst a commodity whose demand is set to rise an rise. Even firms from outside the hard landscaping industry might have something to learn from Marshalls on how to behave abroard.