At Shruti, integrity is at the heart of everything we do.
We are committed to conducting our business in a manner that reflects our ethical and environmental values. We apply this approach to all our supply chain, from design, sourcing, and production to distribution, shipping, instore sales and individual consumer purchase.
As a family company we are dedicated to improving the well-being of workers and their families. It is important to us that everyone we employ is safe and respected. By supporting diversity, trust and equal opportunities, we want our business to be one where human rights are honoured and promoted. All workers should feel valued and be fairly compensated with a decent living wage, sufficient for, but not limited to, their needs in food, water, housing, healthcare, education, clothing and childcare. All workers should be treated with dignity, respect and fairness.
To this end, we are directing our focus on Human Rights Due Diligence, the essential first step to identifying, preventing, managing and mitigating human rights abuses in our operations and supply chain. Through dialogue with our suppliers, we intend to go beyond the limitations of third-party audits covering areas such as wages, overtime, career progression and optimism. In time we hope to establish direct and open channels with the workers in our factories, and to better understand the issues that affect them in their communities.
During 2021, we will be working on a new Supplier Questionnaire to open dialogue that has typically been overlooked by traditional social and ethical audits. Once we have determined potential risks for workers, we can begin to understand the challenges that suppliers face and prioritise these to identify opportunities for collaborative action. With the support of our colleagues at our Shruti office in China, we can assess leverage and implement change through worker-focused initiatives. We appreciate that for programmes to be beneficial and relevant we must consider workers’ input and the local context and dynamics of power in which they live.
Here in the UK, we are developing our buying strategy, recognising how our business practices impact our entire workforce. For example, we are aware that deadlines can have a direct impact on the wellbeing of workers. By planning our buying schedules in advance, factories can manage their workload to avoid unnecessary overtime and stress.
We work to ensure that retailer delivery dates are realistic, and allow extra time to accommodate any unforeseen delays. Customers will be informed if their purchasing expectations risk undermining our ability to uphold decent working conditions at our factories. For efficiency and fairness, we are working to standardise costs across all ranges. Unless the product specification is altered, we do not request to reduce costs or quantities once final quotes are received. Further training opportunities for our buying team, will align with our work on human rights, enabling better decision making and helping reinforce our commitment to raising standards.
We have always looked to suppliers whose values align with our own, and we have fostered long-term relationships with factories that have consistently delivered high-quality products created in safe and fair working environments. The most important foundation stone in building trust is by discussion and regular communication. We enjoy a close relationship with our Shruti Dongguan office, and the team makes regular factory visits and inspections. Keeping in daily contact with our colleagues in China also helps ensure the deadlines we work to are fair and achievable. Thanks to advances in video call technology, we can now speak directly to suppliers. Face-to face communication helps us maintain open, productive relationships and guarantees the uninterrupted supply of good quality materials to make our products. All these aspects help us to operate ‘beyond audit’, by building trust and a collaborative approach to working across our supply chain.
Onboarding new suppliers, we stipulate that all factories must comply with the following minimum standards:
- The factory must be legally compliant with national and local laws
- The Shruti Supplier Questionnaire must be completed
- The factory must have agreed and signed the Shruti Rules to Trade
- The factory must have a valid and full ethical audit (SMETA/ BSCI) which reflects the ‘Ethical Trade Initiative Base Code’ as a minimum
- There must be no open critical issues and there must be a corrective action plan with agreed time frame in place
- The factory must comply with REACH and EU/UK chemical safety directives
- Factories are encouraged to strive for best practice by becoming members of SEDEX and completing the Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ)
While these standards are the minimum we accept, there is a strong expectation that suppliers exceed these standards. Certifications are imperative but will not solve everything. Through collaborative action, we intend to build on these criteria and to go beyond the confines of audits to drive improvement.
Supplier Code of Conduct
Our Rules to Trade aim to strengthen our commitment to human rights and environmental due diligence. These commitments and are intended to guide our relationship with suppliers and to continually raise standards over time:
- No child labour
- No forced labour
- No discrimination or harassment
- Respect for freedom of association and collective bargaining
- Safe and hygienic working conditions
- Minimum wages paid
- Fair working hours
- Regular employment provided
- Respect for the environment
- No bribery and corruption
- Transparency in and from all business relationships
- A valid business licence and audits must be held
Our Rules to Trade in full detail can be accessed here: Supplier Code of Conduct
Product design and compliance
Our dedicated design team ensures that our products are functional, fit for purpose and manufactured to the highest quality. It is important to us that the Shruti brand can be valued and trusted by our customers. We require that all products be made by suppliers who are technically competent within their specific area. All products are put through our product compliance process to ensure they are safe to use in accordance with General Product Safety Regulations (GPSR) and food safety EU standards. Our products are inspected during production and tested by independent accredited labs.
We are committed to minimising our environmental footprint throughout our product creation, from the way we design to the materials we use. Although vast improvements have been made in recent years, the environmental impact of factory waste is still a concern that requires attention and monitoring. We are working with suppliers to identify risks at site level, and to learn more about the effects of pollution resulting from manufacturing processes. The more we speak to our suppliers and understand the challenges they face, the better we can understand the impact of our purchasing decisions.
Consumer products have significant environmental impact, so we are always innovating with new materials and eco-friendly alternatives. Our aim is to strike a balance between making products that are sustainable and maintaining quality and durability. We consider carefully our choices regarding materials:
Alternatives to single use plastic
Reducing the use of single use plastic is one of our priorities. As well as glass and metal water bottles and metal and ceramic travel mugs, we are developing and researching alternatives to plastic cups that are environmentally friendly, melamine free and recyclable. Plastic lunch boxes are being phased out in favour of fabric alternatives.
The cotton we use is certified under the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). This standard ensures constant progress towards the development of better textile processing methods and stipulates requirements for both ecological and labour conditions. The use of organic cotton sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people by using natural processes rather than artificial inputs. Organic cotton farming does not allow the use of toxic chemicals. Instead, it works to benefit the environment and promote a good quality of life for all involved.
As stationery is one of our key areas, it is important to us that the paper we purchase has been responsibly sourced with consideration for wildlife and the environment. All of our stationery suppliers are Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified. The FSC logo gives assurance that all FSC certified materials originate from forests that are managed by strict FSC principles, including the protection of habitats, prevention of pollution, the planting of more trees and the avoidance of displacing native peoples and harming wildlife. We have also recently introduced Kraft paper across our stationery and packaging. Manufactured with recycled fibre, Kraft paper is natural, biodegradable and compostable.
All inks used are toxic free and REACH compliant. REACH (the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) addresses the production and use of chemical substances and their potential impacts on human health and the environment.
We only sample products we intend to order and take care not to raise expectations with suppliers or waste time and materials for lines that do not go ahead. Sampling is often free of charge and so by reducing samples we can ensure all products manufactured for Shruti are fairly paid for.
We have made significant inroads in reducing cardboard and plastic across our packing, shipping and distribution. Every effort is taken to ensure all packaging is essential and optimises space.
For our notebooks and smaller items, tissue paper is used for packing rather than cellophane or polybags. We have invested in new machinery at our UK warehouse to recycle all cardboard, which is used in place of plastic bubble wrap. Suppliers are asked to use more eco-friendly and natural alternatives to silica gel.
We carefully plan our buying schedule in order to ship full containers, use vacuum packing where possible, and allow plenty of time for sea transportation rather than air. Maritime shipping is the most carbon-efficient mode of transportation and more efficient than road or air transport.
In our UK offices we sort and manage our recycling using centralised recycling stations and re-use office equipment and packaging cartons where possible. All new staff are gifted re-usable mugs and encouraged to follow our paperless approach, only using the printer when absolutely necessary and printing double-sided.
We carefully select license partners and brands, taking on accounts and charitable organisations whose ethics align with ours. Our UK license portfolio includes Huskup, Moomin, Paddington, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), Battersea Dogs Home and National Trust. We are especially proud to partner with Oxfam, and to have worked with TKMaxx on behalf of Comic Relief.
We support our local community, contributing to charities such as Genesis Trust Food Bank and The Julian House Homeless Charity. We use local businesses where we can, and are Headline sponsors of Creative Bath, a local organisation supporting young people in the creative sector.