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Responsible charcoal
Responsible charcoal
News Sep 14, 2016

TFT publishes factsheet to help UK retailers improve standards in the charcoal industry

Barbecuing might be a favourite summer pastime in the UK, but considerably less is known about where the charcoal used to heat our barbecued food comes from. Or to be more precise, the damaging impact charcoal production can have on the environment and the workers who clear the bush to create it. Around 40% of charcoal sold in the UK comes from Namibia, where a poor migrant workforce is vulnerable to exploitation and poor working conditions. To raise awareness among the industry and consumers we have put together a factsheet outlining the problems associated with charcoal production in Namibia and what UK retailers can do to improve industry practices.

We started work on charcoal in 2012, which partners with retailers and suppliers of charcoal, working with companies to help them find out where their charcoal originally comes from. This supply chain mapping is one of the first vital steps in tackling worker exploitation and environmental damage, like deforestation. We then work with sites on the ground, where charcoal is produced, to improve conditions, and provide practical advice and training to help solve problems in working towards responsible charcoal production. This includes our Charcoal Control System (CCS), which assesses charcoal factories on their performance in traceability, health and safety and forest management. The data collected is used to provide them with an action plan that moves them closer towards achieving responsible charcoal.

Up to July 2016 we had assessed more than 30 factories in how they are implementing CCS in countries across Europe, as well as Africa and Latin America. We are now looking to expand our charcoal work into other European countries and Brazil, the biggest charcoal producer in the world. Many retailers have responsible sourcing commitments that cover commodities like palm oil, pulp and paper, and wood. However, the implementation of these commitments is a challenge in charcoal due to the nature of the supply chains and the low value of the product. If UK retailers are to tackle charcoal issues then we believe that retailers’ policy must reflect specific industry issues, such as those found in the Namibian charcoal industry.

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