The impact of irresponsible quarrying on local communities is massive. Cheaply paid migrant workers settling in the quarry areas disrupt the delicate equilibrium of supply and demand of labour. Local economic patterns based on agriculture are under pressure by the expanding natural stone industry. A lack of record keeping by quarrying and processing companies adds force to the consistent violation of Indian labour laws and makes verification of company practices impossible. The failure to keep written employment registers is in itself a violation of various national laws.

Corporate social responsibility and the Dutch natural stone market

The quarrying and processing of natural stone is characterised by major social and environmental problems. Desk study of sources describing the situation in India, after China the most important natural stone producing and exporting country in the world, clearly reveals this. Problems include bonded labour, child labour, hazardous and unfair working conditions and a series of environmental issues such a land degradation.

National legislation as well as international standards are being violated on a large scale. From a legal perspective this is a major challenge, in particular for the authorities of natural stone producing countries.

Also from a social corporate responsibility perspective this situation demands a pro-active approach. Natural stone companies, wholesale traders as well as processing companies, have a role to play. The global natural stone trade has not yet take up this challenge in any serious way. All existing initiatives that are relevant for the natural stone sector have fundamental flaws. A persistent weak point of such initiatives is that the concept of chain responsibility is barely developed or implemented beyond the first supplier.

However, there are good reasons and opportunities for change. Natural stone companies increasingly realise that corporate social responsibility is part and parcel of good entrepreneurship.The initiative set up by Sone & Slab, in collaboration with the Association for Nature and Environment, CREM and SOMO is a comprehensive effort to address social and environmental problems in the supply chain in an integrated way. The Working Group on Sustainable Natural Stone offers a platform to Dutch companies and trade associations to develop and implement viable mechanism to clean up the international supply chain of natural stone. The active participation of companies and trade organisations in the Working Group is of the utmost importance and is very much welcomed. The initiative will continue to look into and learn from other relevant (international) initiatives.

Dutch as well as European natural stone companies and trade associations are invited to join this initiative. The Dutch Sustainable Stone Initiative calls upon other actors in the natural stone business, including the government, to tailor its purchasing policies and practices to the norms outlined in the CSR Frame of Reference for natural stone products that is currently being developed.