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Why The Provenance Of Clay Brick Is Crucial

Child Labour 2

It is absolutely crucial to be aware of the provenance of clay bricks which are being sold in the UK, according to the Brick Development Association (BDA).

The BDA have launched a hard-hitting campaign urging brick factors, brick buying groups and builders merchants to look extremely closely at the countries of origin of the bricks they sell.

BDA Chief Executive Keith Aldis commented: “It is one of the manufacturing scandals of our time that clay bricks with dubious provenances are being sold freely and openly on the UK market. If people realised the horrendous circumstances in which many of these bricks were being made, I’m sure they’d think twice before buying and selling them.”

With clay brick now the building material of choice for so many architects, specifiers, self-builders and developers, it is increasingly important to monitor the quality and provenance of all imported bricks.

“This is why we have launched our pioneering Brickmakers Quality Charter (BQC), a benchmark for quality, responsible, ethical and sustainable brickmaking. The BQC is a response to the widespread fears about the way bricks are manufactured in some Asian countries, combined with the lack of longevity and sustainability of imported bricks.

“In an ideal world, all brick factors, brick buying groups and builders merchants would check to see that the bricks they were selling had been manufactured by brickmakers who had signed our charter. It is disturbing that many importers, shipping into the UK, are not certified. Here is why.

“There are many issues which need to be addressed concerning the importing of clay bricks. They fall short of decent standards on too many levels, including longevity, quality, sustainability, transport costs and carbon reduction, not to mention the fears around modern slavery and illegal deforestation, transport costs and quality issues we have with imports.

“It is especially distressing to report that the scourge of modern slavery remains a stain on the global clay brick industry. Through our forensic monitoring of statistics within the UK brick market, we had sadly discovered a significant increase in the importation of clay bricks from outside of the European Union into this country.

“There is a large defined area across Pakistan, India, Nepal and Bangladesh, as well as Sub-Saharan Africa and the Far East, which is causing great concern. These are places where bricks are manufactured seasonally, in large numbers, and – more often than not - using bonded or child labour.

“It is clear that those unfortunate people who are making these bricks work under extreme conditions with little or no regard to health and safety. The sanitation and the pay are dreadful and sometimes non-existent. This is unacceptable in today’s business world – which is why we are encouraging all responsible brickmakers to sign up our ground-breaking The Brickmakers Quality Charter, which is designed to put a stop to modern slavery within the brick industry.”

Mr Aldis was especially critical of suppliers who simply re-brand poor quality bricks with heart-warming British-sounding names, in order to associate themselves with the good reputation of UK clay brick and the potentially lucrative UK clay brick market.

In a rallying cry to brick factors, buyers and builders’ merchants, Mr Aldis said: “Please, please don’t buy and sell brick with dubious provenances. You will be aware of where these bricks have come from and the best way to stamp out modern slavery is not to deal with companies who manufacture bricks in intolerable circumstances.”

He also pointed out that transporting bricks halfway around the world also had a significant negative impact on use of carbon which is ultimately affecting climate change. Clay brick makes a significant contribution to the UK’s safe, healthy and sustainable built environment. It provides the certainty and longevity people want in their homes and the flexibility businesses seek from an established supply chain.

He stressed that a buyer always needed to ask a supplier or manufacturer where the bricks were made and if anyone was ever in doubt, simply ask if you can visit the factory. Any reputable manufacturer would be delighted to host you and show you around.

He explained: “If the clay brick or paver is manufactured in the UK (or in the EU), then you can be certain that it is manufactured to correct standards and to a suitable consistent quality. Our Brickmakers Quality Charter, promoting the responsible sourcing of clay brick, makes this process of checking so much easier.”

Guy Armitage, the managing director of the award-winning York Handmade Brick, one of the BDA’s members, explained why his company signed up to the charter shortly after it was launched.

“We are very proud to have been honoured for our high ethical standards - as the brick industry fights back against the widespread use of child labour and slavery in South East Asia. We wholeheartedly support the charter’s moral stance and green credentials. We take huge pride, both in our environmentally friendly brick-making process and in the way we treat our loyal and hard-working staff.

“Sadly, this approach is not shared by some of our competitors, who encourage their customers to unwittingly buying cheap and unethically produced imported bricks, made to lower standards, but passing themselves off as made to the same standards with nothing but slick marketing for certification. This is unacceptable on a number of levels, the worst being the use of bonded and child labour to make these bricks. This is exploitation on a terrible scale and is a stain on our industry. The excellent Brickmakers Quality Charter scheme is the first, and very significant, step in trying to stamp this out.”

Learn about the Brickmakers Quality Charter and to view approved firms visit