STEP is active in the field in all the main carpet exporting countries: Afghanistan, India, Iran (photo), Kirghizia, Morocco, Nepal, Pakistan and Turkey.
Label STEP is an international ngo that originated in Switzerland. It specialises in the labelling of enterprises marketing handmade carpets. It was initially created to improve working and living conditions and to prevent child labor.
Label STEP was set up in Switzerland in 1995, in response to critical public debate on the conditions of child labour associated with the manual production of carpets. The instigators of this label were several NGOs, the carpet trade union, the Swiss Ministries for the Economy and for Cooperation.
The objective of Label STEP, which was established in the form of a foundation, is to ensure that the production and marketing of handmade carpets is carried out in a fair manner.
The guarantee covers the whole sector, from the raw material to wholesalers and retailers in the countries of the North. The two latter links in the chain must undertake to meet the social (ILO conventions) and environmental criteria in all their activities and sourcing circuits, which are subject to traceability guarantees.
The requirements include the payment of a fair price, a fair or “living” wage, based on the criteria of the Ethical Trade Initiative organisation (amount reviewed regularly), the fight against abusive child labour (a criterion that is difficult to establish as, in certain countries – in particular India, Pakistan and Afghanistan – children work mainly at home in a very informal and disorganised manner), the minimal use – or elimination – of solvents and toxic colorants, decent working conditions (space, light, air quality, etc.), etc.
Each enterprise in the North pays an annual contribution. These funds are paid to the STEP Foundation, which entrusts development programmes (education, training, etc.) to NGOs, government agencies and trade unions. On 1 January 2007, this label became a separate unit of the Swiss Max Havelaar Foundation.