Code of Conduct & Ethics
Final version approved by the Council
Members of the EMEA Synthetic Turf Council (ESTC) strive to uphold the highest standards of professionalism, integrity and competence. To fulfil these aspirations, ESTC Members (as used herein the term “Member” includes the owners, officers, principals, employees, agents, or representatives of a company) undertake the responsibility to conduct their professional activities in an ethical manner and endeavour to abide by the tenets embodied in these Ethics Principles and Conduct Guidelines of the ESTC Code of Conduct & Ethics. ESTC Members should strive to serve the best interests of the owner and/or end user of their products by providing quality synthetic turf systems and services. Members should serve their clients and customers competently and in a professional manner, and will exercise unprejudiced and unbiased judgement when performing all services or giving advice. Members should avoid acting in a manner that would diminish the reputation of the synthetic turf industry generally.
The provisions set out below identify the conduct that will be deemed offensive to these ideals and violations of this Code.
2. Conduct Guidelines
2.1 Professional Performance
a. Members shall refrain from selling products, systems, or services that are inappropriate to the needs of their clients and that do not satisfy the client’s project requirements.
b. Members shall not commit to provide products or services within a specific time period unless the Member reasonably expects that it will be able to perform within that time-frame.
c. Member shall respond in a timely fashion to all customer product or service complaints.
d. Members shall not reveal information obtained in the course of their professional activities that they have agreed to maintain in confidence.
2.2 Conflicts of Interest
a. Members should avoid conflicts of interest in their business practices and fully disclose to all prospective clients the existence of any conflicts as they arise.
b. If a Member’s judgement in providing products or services to one party could be affected by responsibilities to another party or project, or by the Member’s own interests, the Member
must fully disclose the potentially conflicting interests to those who rely on the Member’s judgement.
c. Members shall not solicit or accept gratuities, directly or indirectly, from contractors, agents, or other parties dealing with their clients in connection with a project.
d. A Member shall not accept compensation from more than one party for services performed on a project, or for services pertaining to the same project, unless the Member fully discloses the circumstances to the clients or customers.
3.1 Representations and Statements about Competitors.
ESTC Members shall strive to maintain the highest level of integrity in the representations that they make in the marketplace. False and misleading representations made by a Member could, and likely will, harm customers and the reputation of the industry as a whole. To avoid such harm, Member companies shall:
a. Present their products to prospective clients and compare those products with others in the synthetic turf industry in an honest and factually accurate manner;
b. Avoid making any false or misleading comments about another company and/or that company’s products and/or services. Examples of these include, but are not limited to, false or misleading statements about a company’s financial stability, vendor payment history, or system performance;
c. Assume full responsibility for their representations, including those made by their representatives and agents.
3.2 Representations and Statements About Your Qualifications, Capabilities, and Experience.
Any representations made to clients, employers, and the public about the Member’s qualifications, capabilities, and experience shall be truthful and accurate, and any such statements shall not be misleading, deceptive, or false.
Members shall comply with the applicable national or EU laws and regulations regarding false and misleading advertising. Accordingly, Members shall refrain from making representations or claims about other companies’ products or services that would be considered “unfair” as defined by any applicable national or EU laws. Members shall not disseminate, permit, or cause to be disseminated, any form of advertising containing a statement or claim which is false or misleading in any material respect, for the purpose of, directly or indirectly, soliciting clients. Members shall also avoid making false or misleading representations about their competitors’ products or services.
A statement or claim is false or misleading when it:
a. Contains a material misrepresentation of fact;
b. Is materially misleading because the statement as a whole makes only a partial disclosure of relevant facts; or
c. Is intended or is likely to create false or unjustified expectations of favourable results.
While this Section requires that Members refrain from making false and misleading statements, it is not intended to prohibit, and does not address, any communications, representations, or advertising claims that are truthful, even if they may be viewed as disparaging.
4. Compliance with national and European Laws
4.1 Criminal; Deceptive Business Practices.
It shall be considered unethical for any Member to violate any national or European criminal law or any legal prohibition of false and deceptive business practices.
4.2 Licenses, Permits or Bonding; Employment of Undocumented Workers.
It shall also be considered unethical for a Member to intentionally violate any national or European laws and regulations requiring licenses, permits or bonding applicable to the work or services being provided by the Member or prohibiting the employment of undocumented workers.
5. Code of Conduct & Ethics
In an ongoing effort to ensure that member companies of the EMEA Synthetic Turf Council (ESTC) will maintain the highest level of integrity in their sales and marketing activities, ESTC has established the following Code of Conduct & Ethics for its member companies.
This Code of Conduct & Ethics relates to the daily interaction between member companies, including representatives and agents, and potential and existing customers. The Code of Conduct & Ethics covers all aspects of written and verbal communications that member companies use as part of their sales and marketing activities.
Member companies agree to hold themselves to the highest standard of conduct when presenting their products and how their products and companies compare with others in the synthetic turf industry.
Member companies will always strive to present their products and /or services in an honest and factually accurate manner; and will avoid making any non-specific negative comments or negative characterizations about a competitor company and/or that company’s products and/or services. Examples of these include, but are not limited to, non-specific comments about a company’s financial stability, vendor payment history, and system performance, that are not based on specific fact or are not a matter of public record.
While understanding that competition in the marketplace wil l always exist and be a part of our industry, member companies agree to treat other synthetic turf companies with respect in all aspects of their business practices. ESTC members agree not to disparage other synthetic turf companies, and will conduct their business affairs with integrity and as they would want others to treat them.
Member companies will also strive to ensure that all written communications, advertising and marketing programs will be truthful and accurate, will not appear to validate misinformation that could potentially harm the synthetic turf industry, and will not be considered “unfair” as defined by applicable national or EU laws.
The goal of this Code of Conduct & Ethics is to encourage all member companies to conduct themselves in an honest and forthright manner, to present their products and services in a positive and factually accurate way, and in doing so, eliminate the negative perception that customers have had of the synthetic turf business for many years.
The above is to be included with all written sales presentations and proposals.
6.Rules of Procedure for Enforcement of the Code of Conduct & Ethics
All ESTC Members have established comprehensive complaint procedures, possibly following ISO 9000 quality standard principles. These complaint procedures are under the Members’ own control and responsibility; ESTC does not interfere in the handling of complaints or audit the procedures. Under all circumstances the members handle complaints from their clients themselves.
An Ethics Panel (EP) may be activated in case of very serious contentious matters between Members and Clients, particularly if the case is likely to seriously affect the image of the industry as a whole. However, the EP should be activated in exceptional cases only: the Members’ complaint procedures have to be used in absolute priority and under normal circumstances, the cases should not justify the activation of the EP. Therefore the EP can only be activated under “specific conditions” as defined below.
To avoid any “Judge and Party” situations, the ESTC Council is not directly involved in the procedure. It is only at the end of the process that the Council will implement the conclusions & decisions. The investigation process is exclusively the EP’s responsibility at all stages of the process.
The EP is not intended to substitute any legal proceedings, it is a body that can provide a neutral position and conclusions to both parties with the ultimate objective to contributing to resolving issues. The EP will draw the attention to the various responsibilities of the actors, clarify the mistakes or errors causing the complaints, report defects in the functioning of the members’ complaint handling procedures and suggest corrective actions.
The investigation procedure is carried out in full confidentiality and the EP works independently and neutrally from any influence or pressure.
6.2 Specific conditions
The “specific conditions” justifying the activation of the EP cannot be precisely defined. The essential reason to justify this activation is the conviction that the common industry image will be badly affected and that an impartial point of view can help resolve the issue.
6.3 The Ethics Panel (EP) – composition
When a complaint is clearly identified and justified, the EP is nominated. The EP is formed of several members: two permanent members (i.e. the legal advisor (LA) and the Director General (DG)) and two or more representatives: industry experts selected by the LA and the DG depending on the type and the magnitude of the complaint. The selection of the EP members has to be carried out with great attention, the LA and the DG are responsible to ensure that the members are as neutral as possible in their appreciation of the complaint. Members of the EP can be selected amongst Member Companies or from other stakeholders or consultants.
6.4.1 Initiation – receipt of a complaint
The complainant has to address the complaint directly in writing to ESTC. He has to explain the reasons justifying his initiative and provide any information relevant to the complaint.
6.4.2 Verification of a complaint
The elements that may or may not justify the activation of the EP are verified by the DG with the contribution of the LA if needed. The information needs to be complete for a complaint to be received at all. The DG may consult a neutral source for providing information about the commercial practice, the technical particularities, etc. The DG is also entitled to try to mediate and to encourage the parties to reconsider their positions in their own interests and the general interest of the industry.
Failure to meet the basic criteria of supplying the necessary data and information will lead to the summary rejection of the complaint by the DG on behalf of the association.
The other party will be confronted with the data received from the complainant and his point of view will be registered and taken into account.
On the basis of the information gathered by the DG and the LA (if consulted) two options are considered:
• it may be concluded that the matter is not worth a further investigation, that ESTC will limit its involvement in the form of a recommendation to both parties and liaise to possibly settle the matter in a friendly manner
• on the basis of the information collected, the complaint definitively needs to be investigated. The parties are informed by the DG that the matter will be further investigated. A three months delay is then granted for the parties to try again to settle the case, if this occurs to the satisfaction of both sides, the procedure is terminated, if not, the Ethics panel will be activated.
6.4.4 The investigation
Once the complaint is received, verified and considered acceptable, the Ethics panel is nominated accordingly.
The DG has the role of “rapporteur” and has to present the dossier to the EP members. The dossier must contain all relevant information to assess the complaint. Descriptions of the events in chronological order, locations, names and details of the parties, possible observations, list of witnesses, etc. are typically part of the dossier. The information has to be as factual as possible, any subjective elements should be eliminated. It should contain particularly how serious and/or manifest the nature of the alleged fault is. Particular attention must be given to the risk of the reputation of synthetic turf as a material.
If additional information is requested to form an opinion, this should be assembled by the DG. Further investigations should be carried out by the DG; it may be decided to conduct site visits and interviews of persons involved to clarify the facts. The intention is to understand the course of events, the chronological order in which the observations were made and a clear perception of the responsibilities of the actors.
On the basis of the information provided and the evidence of facts presented the EP will form its opinion about the complaint. The DG will consequently write a draft investigation report and a proposed conclusion to the EP. The EP then debates in one or more meetings /phone conferences until a final commonly agreed position is reached. Finally, the investigation report is formally concluded. The investigation report should clearly express the responsibilities of the parties involved, contain the justifications underlying the conclusions and should propose any recommended corrective actions. These corrective actions may include the suspension and expulsion of members.
6.4.6 Subsequent decisions
The Investigation report, including the recommended corrective actions, will be presented to the Council, who will send the report to the parties involved.
The Council will then decide if the sanctions recommended by the EP need to be applied to the member(s) involved. In addition to any corrective actions recommended by the EP, the Council may consider some additional internal measures. For the benefit of the industry, depending on the situation it may be interesting to draw the attention of the Members to the consequences of a particular complaint. The objective is to share the experience and the conclusions with all the members in order to avoid recurrence in the future.