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Values carved in stone

Date: 8 Mar 2009
Author: Mallen Baker

Girl labouring in quarry
Photo: Chris Harrop

3. Looking for the reward of doing the right thing

The sting in the tail is that Marshalls should be getting much more recognition for what they're doing than so far they have. There is currently no FairTrade label for Indian sandstone. This stuff is bought maybe once every ten years by families looking to repave a driveway, or create a new patio. It's not like a clothing store that you go in every month or so. So customer awareness is pretty low and, astonishingly, the media are not very interested. They will hold up examples of children sewing sequins onto clothes as being shameful. But ignore the most dirty, dangerous difficult manual labour that children are subjected to anywhere.

They publicise the difference at point of sale. But until the news becomes more widespread, it will not be enough to shame the others into following suit.

Any marketer needs to think about it. You're not selling someone lumps of stone, your selling them a space for your kids to grow up in, experiencing the happy, carefree childhood memories we all hope them to have. How can you sell that dream, if the reality behind it is the enslavement of children of the same age?

It is fundamentally a matter of trust.

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Further reading

Marshalls website on Indian Sandstone
Chris Harrop's Indian Sandstone blog
Interview with Chris Harrop


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Comment by: Ashwini Saxena on 14 Mar 2010

Its good that Marshalls has realised the underlining causes of the plight of the rural poor in India, especially the children, who even if wish to go to school, find themselves in quarries since their family cannot support them for the same. However, picking up from the video, focussing on one single supplier to ensure all supplies from India means an undue advantage to one single firm and thus distorts the business dynamics. Then what happens to the small mining businesses. Further, the choice of the NGO is again questionable.


Any marketer needs to think about it. You're not selling someone lumps of stone, your selling them a space for your kids to grow up in, experiencing the happy, carefree childhood memories we all hope them to have. How can you sell that dream, if the reality behind it is the enslavement of children of the same age?

Key facts

Up to 20 percent of workers in Indian sandstone quarries are believed to be children, about a million children in total, some as young as six.

Occupational diseases are common among quarry workers. Silicosis, tuberculosis and bronchitis come from breathing in the dust. And poor conditions provide an ideal breeding ground for malaria.

Illegal quarries are common, and routinely flout labour standards and safety laws

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