IEH - Ethical Trading Initiative Norway

What is ethical trade?

Ethical trade is the sum of efforts companies make to ensure that the goods they purchase are produced in accordance with internationally recognised standards relating to working conditions and environmental considerations.

Goods sold in Norwegian shops are often manufactured in countries where labour is cheap. Unfortunately, while many such countries often have good labour laws on paper, there is poor or little enforcement of the law, and weak systems for checking how employers treat their employees prevail.

The result is that goods bought and sold by Norwegian companies are often manufactured under conditions which are both unlawful and unethical, causing indignation for workers who are exposed to forced labour, child labour, workplaces which are hazardous to human health, gross discrimination, and pay below the poverty line.

As there is no law which prohibits or prevents Norwegian companies from importing goods manufactured under unlawful conditions, like child labour or extreme overtime, the onus to trade ethically rests on the shoulders of companies themselves. IEH can assist your company with guidance, tools, competence building and forums for experience exchange.

Cooperation to secure improvements

Norwegian businesses that import goods rarely own the entire chain of production abroad. As such, the road to improvements in the production process primarily involves long-term cooperation with agents, importers and manufacturers both in Norway and abroad.

Norwegian companies need to understand that factories in low-cost countries often face challenges with regard to workers’ rights and poor labour conditions. Norwegian companies are, however, often surprised to learn that these challenges often stem from their own purchasing practices, which is why we advocate a cooperative approach to resolving such issues.

Increased support

There are now growing expectations, both in Norway and internationally, that public and private enterprises should be more accountable for social responsibility in their supply chains. Norway has defined these expectations in the white paper “Corporate social responsibility in a global economy” (2009). Supply chain responsibility has also been put on the agenda of international organisations, for example through the UN Global Compact and UN Special Representative, Professor John Ruggie’s work on operationalising the responsibility of the business sector when it comes to respecting human rights.