Code of Conduct & Ethics - March 2020

1. Introduction

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
  1. 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.Ethics Principles

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.

3.3  Advertising.

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.

3.4 Definition.

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

6.1. Introduction

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 Procedure

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.

6.4.3 Pre-decision

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.

6.4.5 Conclusions

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.