Boots UK has ended its membership of ethical trading standards body the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), prompting criticism from the organisation.

Boots said the ETI is still a valuable resource for the promotion and development of labour standards, and it has worked with the group for the past six years to improve conditions. Boots said while it still believes in these principles, it also wants to adapt its agenda to incorporate other aspects of sustainability, including working environment, carbon management and the use of natural resources.

ETI director Dan Rees said he is disappointed Boots has decided to leave and hopes the retailer will reconsider. He said: “The days when high-profile businesses could consider ethical trade as an optional extra are now gone.

“Today’s ethically aware consumers have higher expectations of companies than ever before, not least of a retailer like Boots, one of the most trusted brands on the high street.”

Boots UK quality and corporate social responsibility support manager Kevin Marriott said: “We believe strongly that our business should concentrate on all aspects
of sustainability in the supply chain, not just labour standards.”

Boots said that it has a working relationship with Business in the Community and will work with several different external organisations on sustainability.

Marriott said the move does not mean that labour standards are not taken seriously, rather that working with a network of partners will mean it can “lead the way in developing a truly sustainable supply chain”.

The ETI was set up 10 years ago to tackle the use of sweatshops and has about 50 members including Tesco and Sainsbury’s.