In November 2020, Ethical Consumer searched for updates to Waitrose's supply chain management. In May 2018 a completed questionnaire had been recieved from Waitrose, which discussed the company's supply chain management.
Supply chain policy (good)
The questionnaire referred to the John Lewis Responsible Sourcing Code of Practice. The John Lewis Partnership Responsible Sourcing Code of Practice (revised January 2017) which included Waitrose, was viewed which covered all six International Labour Organisations standards on discrimination, freedom of association, child labour, forced labour and working hours, and including wages on which it stated “Wages shall always be sufficient for basic needs whilst still providing some discretionary income.” The Code was applicable to all suppliers providing own brand goods and workers covered by the policy included those who were temporarily employed. Overall John Lewis Partnership was considered to have good supply chain policy.
Stakeholder engagement (rudimentary)
The questionnaire stated that Waitrose had been a member of the Ethical Trade Initiative since 2011. Although it discussed working with Oxfam, Unseen, Hope for Justice, Unicef and others to develop its programmes, it did not appear to seek independent verification for audits from NGOs or other organisations. While there was mention of a multilingual complaints hotline being set up through project Issara in relation to the labour abuses in the Thai fishing industry on the John Lewis website, there did not appear to be any mention of this being available for all workers in the supply chain. As a result Waitrose received a rudimentary rating for its stakeholder engagement.
Auditing and Reporting (poor)
The questionnaire discussed risk assessments in its supply chains and stated: "In 2017/18 over 500 independent audits were carried out on Waitrose supplying sites." However, it gave no schedule or plan for audits, and stated "We do not currently disclose the results but are exploring whether to do so in the future." The company did not discuss costs, and did not state that its audit plan applied to its whole supply chain.
The questionnaire also stated: "Our RSCOP clearly sets out our expectations of suppliers and the standards we expect. If standards were not met, our approach would be based on continuous improvement. In our remedial process we would support the supplier to implement the necessary remedial action and provide advice, including meetings, phone calls, visits to the supplier site, involving the relevant Buyer and Technical Manager; we would also collaborate with other supply chain stakeholders as appropriate. Typically, we would be supported in this by a third party organisation (e.g. Impactt) who can provide the right support." It was therefore considered to have a staged policy for non-compliance.
The company was considered to have a poor approach to auditing and reporting, as it did not have a plan for audits covering its whole supply chain, did not discuss costs, and did not publish results.
Difficult issues (reasonable)
The questionnaire stated: "All supplier facing Partners must attend Responsible Sourcing Training. Training is tailored to the needs of participants, for example Technical Managers have the most in-depth training as they have a formal responsibility for the ethical compliance of their suppliers. Buying Partners also receive training, as well as departments such as Business to Business and GNFR (goods not for resale)." The John Lewis Partnership Responsible Sourcing Code of Practice acknowledged difficulties for Freedom of Association, stating: 'Where the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining is restricted under law, the employer facilitates, and does not hinder, the development of parallel means for independent and free association and bargaining.' However, the company did not address any other difficult issues, such as audit fraud, or living wages. It received a reasonable rating.
Waitrose recieved Ethical Consumer's best rating for Supply Chain Management overall.
2018 Questionnaire (9 May 2018)