Two leading retail chains in United Kingdom have withdrawn a range of granite worktops from their stores following reports that the rock is mined in India by child workers, The retail groups, John Lewis and Habitat, took the decision after investigations revealed that their Indian supply chains are riddled with issues such as debt bondage, underage workers and unsafe working conditions in quarries.
Many other firms dealing in granite products such as kitchen products such as kitchen counters, tiles, fireplaces and tomb stones may also look into their supply chains following a recent report on worker rights in quarries in three Indian states by the India Committee of the Netherlands.
The report revealed that over half of the labourers employed in the industry in these states work under dangerous conditions because they have to repay big loans, get caught in a cycle of debt bondage.
The ICN and Stop Child Labour investigated 22 quarries and six waste stone processing sites in Andhra Pradesh, Telengana and Karnataka.
The performance of the quarries was graded on six criteria's: child labour, bonded labour , wages and social benefits , health, safety and freedom of association. The 22 quarries supply products to more than 30 natural stone companies in the UK , EU, US , Australia and Canada according to the report.
India is the world's largest granite producer, accounting for 49% of total raw stone exports. The high end varieties, including the star galaxy granite pulled back by John Lewis and Habitat are sold online for hundreds of pounds per sqm. The star galaxy granite is prized for its sheen and sells for as much as pounds 300 per square metre. It is mined only from one area in the world the Prakasam district in Andhra Pradesh.
John Lewis said in a statement that it does not source granite directly, but works with one UK based importer, Habitat Kitchens sold by the in store concession Kutchenhaus, the UK subsidiary of German company Nobilia, has also stopped selling star galaxy granite.
The store says that all products that are sold in the store next to or in combination with Nobilia products should meet the same high welfare, environment and quality standards as the products supplied by it.