It makes business sense for us to trade responsibly with our suppliers – our business relies on their products and services. For the Partnership, this means acting responsibly towards the workers who make the products we sell and ensuring both worker rights and legal production conditions are met.
Our Responsible Sourcing Code sets out our expectations of suppliers on issues such as pay and working hours. Through our Responsible Sourcing Programme, we monitor how suppliers are meeting our expectations and, where problems occur, we work with suppliers to improve labour standards and worker welfare.
We use independent third-party ethical audits and the Supplier Ethical Data Exchange (Sedex), a secure and confidential web-based database, to manage ethical and responsible practices within our supply chains. Through Sedex, our supplier companies can demonstrate that they behave responsibly towards their workers.
We recognise that compliance to a code and auditing are not always enough to affect meaningful sustainable improvements in the lives of those who work in our supply chain. Our Buying teams have a role to play too, and in recognition of this, John Lewis has developed a Responsible Buying training programme which all Buying Partners will complete by the end of 2011.
Working with others
We both support and run initiatives with other organisations to improve our supply chain working conditions.
• In India, John Lewis works with a group of suppliers that ensure that children of weavers don’t work on looms but attend a school which John Lewis supports. We also invest in local environmental and community projects.
• John Lewis is developing a sustainable cotton farmer training programme to educate conventional cotton farmers on more sustainable farming methods.
• In preparation for the UK Bribery Act, we arranged for a leading nongovernmental anti-corruption organisation to produce a briefing note for Waitrose and John Lewis suppliers on the legislation. We also arranged a training course for suppliers and employment agencies on ‘Preventing Illegal Workers’, run by the Association of Labour Providers.
• The Equality and Human Rights Commission set up a taskforce following its inquiry into recruitment and employment in the UK’s meat and poultry processing sector, and Waitrose has been involved in taskforce meetings. The inquiry brought to light widespread poor treatment of agency workers. In response, Waitrose asked all its meat and poultry suppliers to confirm their position on the recommendations outlined in the report.
• John Lewis created a Guide to our Responsible Sourcing Code to support suppliers in meeting its requirements. Initially being published in English and Chinese, the Guide will be sent to every supplier by mid-2011.
• Waitrose supported Fruit South Africa, an alliance of various fruit exporting sectors, in the development of the Ethical Trading Handbook for South African Fruit Growers. It is based on the Ethical Handbook for UK Growers, commissioned by Waitrose, other leading food retailers and the ethical trade organisation Impactt, and we have arranged for all Waitrose Foundation farms in South Africa to receive a copy.
“ Done well, Responsible Sourcing can benefit all of us by meeting the expectations of our Partners and customers, strengthening relationships with our suppliers, and most importantly, improving people’s lives by improving their working conditions.”
Lucy Shaw , Responsible Sourcing Manager, John Lewis
Partnership joins Ethical Trading Initiative
In June 2011, the Partnership joined the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI). We recognise the value of the ETI’s collaborative, tripartite arrangement between businesses, trade unions and NGOs. We believe this approach delivers a breadth of understanding of complex supply chain issues, making it easier to make improvements on a greater scale and at a faster pace in order to reach more sustainable solutions. Our experience to date means we are in a good position to make an effective contribution to the ETI. In addition, we anticipate that the independent scrutiny of our programmes will provide opportunities for us to further develop and strengthen our approach.