The TruStone Initiative has already existed for three years, hence why it organised a self-evaluation meeting in Antwerp on the 30th of June. Arisa was actively involved in the preparation.
Participants TruStone initiative meet in Antwerp
The various participants in the Flemish-Dutch initiative were present: governments, contracting authorities, companies, sector organisations, trade unions, and ngo’s. During the meeting, a representative from each participating actor shared what currently works well and what could be improved. In general, everyone is positive about the agreement. The companies have much more knowledge and awareness about the due diligence process (including insight into the supply chains and the risks) than before the covenant. Right now, TruStone exists for too short to have a real impact in the production countries. The added value of the covenant lies mainly in the collaboration.
The participants also see plenty of challenges. It, for example, remains a challenge to get more companies connected to the initiative. Another challenge is to ensure that municipalities actually pay attention to chain transparency in their tenders, so members are rewarded for their efforts. In addition, actually achieving better working conditions for employees in production countries remains a challenge too.
Concerns about financial strength of the TruStone initiative
There are also concerns among participants – shared by Arisa – about the financial strength of the TruStone initiative. The role of the government is essential in the operation of the covenant. In addition to the companies’ contribution, the Dutch government finances a large part of the covenant. This allows the independent secretariat to fulfil its role, as well as civil society organisations. The government has indicated that it will withdraw from the covenants – not during the term of the TruStone Initiative. This is one of the reasons why Arisa is no longer participating in the negotiations of the follow-up to the clothing and textile covenant. For Arisa, government participation in the covenants is essential: not only financially, but also to monitor and comply with the OECD guidelines.
Earlier this year, Arisa, FNV, and CNV presented a report examining the progress of companies affiliated with the TruStone Initiative. For the report, the action plans of Dutch and Flemish natural stone companies, which are published on the TruStone website, were analysed and compared with last year. Read (more about) the report here.
Arisa will also be committed to the TruStone Initiative over the next two years, mainly by involving partners in India. We believe that covenants can be a good addition to the upcoming due diligence legislation, provided that the OECD guidelines are followed.