Tatiana Yoshida gives an update on our work in a country which is a leading exporter of granite, a stone used to make kitchen worktops throughout the world.
You wake up, get out of bed, head to the kitchen and fix yourself up with your morning dose of caffeine. Did you ever stop to consider you may well be face to face with a great hunk of Brazil? Probably not. But the vast majority of kitchen worktops are made from granite, and Brazil, behind India, is the second biggest exporter of granite, basalt and sandstone in the world.
Our work in stone has taken us to Brazil, to find out how suppliers of our members are faring in terms of socio-environmental risks like legality, labour, and health and safety. Recently we have been working with an international company that distributes stone surfaces for architecture and design purposes. This has involved going to granite quarries here in Brazil to talk to workers and visiting site offices to analyse documents in the states of Espírito Santo, Minas Gerais and Bahia, which export between US$1.5 and 3 million worth of natural stone per year.
We have spent the last year analysing quarries to see how they are performing against Level 1 of our Responsible Stone Programme, and helping them to understand what improvements are necessary. Level 1 standards include providing supply chain information, not using child or forced labour, having good health and safety standards, managing basic environmental impacts and having contractual relationships with all direct employees. Find the full requirements of Level 1 along with other details about our Responsible Stone Programme.
We will return to these quarries this year to see how our recommendations have been adopted and how they can reach level 2 of our Responsible Stone Programme, which looks at more social and environmental factors, along with extending statutory rights and benefits to all workers, including those employed indirectly and seasonal workers.
Our work has led us to observe there are too many accidents registered in the sector. On-site accidents are too common, and road accidents involving trucks transporting stone have caused many deaths. Sites are also often abandoned after they’ve been exploited of the required minerals, with little to no rehabilitation of the areas. Sometimes such exploitation goes on in supposed protected indigenous and conservation areas.
Change can still happen though. We believe it can be achieved by engaging with companies independently of the government. This can be used as a development opportunity, as well as being a private sector initiative to raise awareness of responsible operations in the sector.
TFT’s optimism about this work in Brazil is based upon how companies don’t see doing good as simply a financial investment, but a real opportunity to shake things up. They have made the link between the project and the opportunity of improving the sector’s image, consequently adding value to the materials extracted by those working to good practices compared to those not willing to do so.
Tatiana Yoshida is a Programme Manager for TFT Brazil.