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)

In September 2021 Ethical Consumer viewed Waitrose's website,, and found that the company sold tobacco. The company therefore lost a mark under Irresponsible Marketing.


Waitrose website (8 September 2021)

In November 2020 a search was made on the John Lewis website and a number of products made with gold and diamonds were found. Although it had a page dedicated to a buying guide to jewellery, no mention of responsible sourcing of gold or diamonds was found. In March 2021 Ethical Consumer searched for updates on John Lewis' Reports, Policies and Standards webpage and none was identified.

An internet search indicated that the company had not signed the No Dirty Gold campaign to end irresponsible mining practices, nor was it a member of the Responsible Jewellery Council, which aimed to advance responsible business practices throughout the diamond and gold jewellery supply chains.

The January/February 2011 issue of Ethical Consumer highlighted the role of diamonds in fuelling conflict in Africa. The Channel Four Dispatches programme “The Real Price of Gold”, which was broadcast on 27th June 2011, and in which Ethical Consumer participated, highlighted some of the problems in gold supply chains around the world, including environmental destruction, child labour and the human rights impacts of pollution. The publication “Golden Rules: Making the case for responsible mining”, published by Earthworks and Oxfam America, also highlighted issues of forced displacement of local communities as a result of gold mining.

John Lewis therefore lost half a mark in the Pollution and Toxics category due to its lack of commitment to responsible gold mining, and a full mark in the Human Rights category as a result of the impacts of gold and diamonds.

Reference: (19 November 2020)

In November 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed John Lewis's retail and partnership websites, as well as Ethics and Sustainability Progress Report 2019/20, for the company's conflict minerals policy. No policy could be found. Ethical Consumer searched for an update in March 2021 and none was found.

Conflict minerals are minerals mined in conditions of armed conflict and human rights abuses, notably in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The minerals in question are Tantalum, Tin, Tungsten and Gold (3TG for short) and are key components of electronic devices, from mobile phones to televisions.

Ethical Consumer expects any company manufacturing electronics to have a policy on the sourcing of conflict minerals. Such a policy would articulate the company's commitment to conflict free sourcing of 3TG minerals and its commitment to continue ensuring due diligence on the issue. The policy should also state that it intends to continue sourcing from the DRC region in order to avoid an embargo, which would hurt local workers even more.

A company should also demonstrate its commitment to the issue of conflict minerals by supporting conflict free initiatives in the region either through membership of a multi-stakeholder initiative supporting the conflict-free minerals trade (such as Responsible Mineral Iniative (RMI), Public-Private Alliance for Responsible Minerals Trade (PPA) and industry initiatives such as JEITA Responsible Conflict Minerals Working Group) and / or financially supporting in-region mining initiatives (such as KEMET “Partnership for Social and Economic Sustainability”, Conflict-Free Tin Initiative (CFTI), ITRI Tin Supply Chain Initiative (iTSCi), Solutions for Hope).

A strong conflict minerals policy would also:
- require suppliers to adopt a robust 3TG conflict minerals policy and programme equivalent to the company.
- include details of the steps it will take to identify, assess, mitigate and respond to risks within its supply chain.
- use conflict minerals reporting templates by Conflict Free Sourcing Initiative (or may be referred to as EICC-GeSi) or OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas
- include a commitment (from the company and supplier) to only using 3TG minerals from smelters that have been audited and verified as conflict free by the Conflict Free Smelter Program, or an equivalent, as they become available
- list in detail the smelters or refiners (SORs)

Despite selling own brand electrical equipment like TVs and washing machines which commonly contain conflict minerals, John Lewis had no policy on the sourcing of conflict minerals. Therefore it received Ethical Consumer's worst rating for conflict minerals and lost a whole mark under Human Rights and Habitats and Resources.

Reference: (4 June 2020)

John Lewis was one of the brands ranked in The Fashion Transparency Index 2019, which reviews and ranks 200 of the biggest global fashion and apparel brands and retailers according to how much information they disclose about their suppliers, supply chain policies and practices, and social and environmental impact.

Fashion Revolution is a global movement calling for a fairer, safer, cleaner and more transparent clothing industry, born after the fire of the Rana Plaza building in 2013 in Bangladesh in which 1138 people died and 2500 were injured.
Since then, Fashion Revolution wants to unite people and organisations to work together to change the way clothes are sourced, produced and consumed across the whole value chain, from farmer to consumer.
The companies were selected on the basis of annual turnover over 500 million US$ including high street, luxury, premium, sportswear, accessories, footwear and denim from across Europe, North America, South America and Asia.
Out of the 200 brands selected in 2019, 52% did not respond to the survey, 46% completed and returned the questionnaire and 2% declined the opportunity to complete the questionnaire.
The results showed that 10 brands (5%) score 0%, the average score was 53 out of 250 (21%), only 5 brands scored higher than 60%. Not a single brand scored above 70%.

The Fashion Revolution Transparency Index 2019 looked at 5 key areas: policy and commitments, governance, traceability, know / show and fix, and spotlight issues.

John Lewis scored 28% and lost half a mark under Human Rights.


Fashion Transparency Index 2019 (15 July 2019)

The online website of the Huddersfield Examiner ( reported on 12 February 2016, that a factory owner who employed large numbers of Hungarians as a "slave workforce" to supply beds to top high-street retailers had been sentenced to 27 months in prison for people trafficking.
John Lewis partnership was one of the retailers selling Kozee Sleep and Layzee Sleep products, and had failed to notice anything wrong despite carrying out regular ethical audits.
Mohammed Raffiq was aware of the men's circumstances yet went along with their exploitation as a slave workforce. The 60-year-old used the Hungarian nationals at his bed-making factory, Kozee Sleep, in Dewsbury, for cheap slave labour, making them work up to 16 hours a day for as little as £10 per week.
A whole mark was lost under Workers' Rights.


Slave workforce: Kozee Sleep bed factory owner Mohammed Rafiq jailed for people trafficking after fo

In March 2021 Ethical Consumer viewed the John Lewis website searching for a policy on sandblasting. No public policy was found.

In July 2019 Ethical Consumer had received a questionnaire response from John Lewis which stated: "We have made it clear to our suppliers that the practice of manual sandblasting to distress denim is unacceptable".

However, given that sandblasting was widely use in the denim industry and the health issues had been widely known since 2013, all companies making jeans were expected to have a clear policy prohibiting the use of sandblasting.

A report by IHLO, SACOM, Clean Clothes Campaign and War on Want in June 2013 called Breathless for Blue Jeans: Health Hazards in China's denim factories found that despite promises by brands to end the practice of sandblasting, workers in the factories revealed that the practice continued behind closed doors. In addition, many factories had introduced other methods of distressing denim which brought their own health risks, and workers were rarely given the necessary training in how to use the new techniques safely.

Sandblasting involved firing abrasive sand onto denim under high pressure, whether in a machine booth or simply via an air gun attached to a hose. Often performed without proper ventilation, safety equipment or training, the practice exposes workers to serious risk of silicosis, the deadly lung disease caused by inhalation of silica dust.

As a result of not having a clear public policy, and as the questionnaire response was outdated, the company lost half a mark under Workers' Rights.

Reference: (19 November 2020)

In November 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed John Lewis's website for the company's policy on cotton sourcing and accessed its Ethics & Sustainability Progress Report 2019/20. An update was searched for in March 2021, and no updated information was identified.

The report contained targets and progress:
JOHN LEWIS: 50% of own-brand cotton to be sourced from sustainable sources by 2021. Now: 36%. Fashion: 63%, home: 22%.
WAITROSE & PARTNERS: 100% of own-brand cotton to be sourced from sustainable sources by 2021. Now 23%. It did not clarify what it meant by sustainable, but previous reports mentioned having joined the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI). BCI is not organic, and does allow GM cotton.

According to Anti-Slavery international (ASI) website viewed by Ethical Consumer in August 2018, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan were two of the world’s largest exporters of cotton, and every year their governments forcibly mobilised over one million citizens to grow and harvest cotton. Due to the high proportion of cotton likely to have come from Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan and the prevalence of forced labour in its production, the company lost half a mark in the Workers Rights category.

Waitrose's website stated, "Waitrose policy does not permit the use of cotton sourced from Uzbekistan." A questionnaire response from John Lewis in July 2019 stated that it did have a policy against sourcing from Uzbekistan and that it was the supplier's responsibility to uphold this. Neither mentioned Turkmenistan.

The Organic Trade Association website,, stated in July 2018 that cotton covered roughly 2.78% of global arable land, but accounted for 12.34% of all insecticide sales and 3.94% of herbicide sales. Due to the impacts of the widespread use of pesticides in cotton production worldwide the company lost half a mark in the Pollution & Toxics category.

According to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA), a non-profit pro biotech organisation, genetically modified cotton accounted for 80% of cotton grown in 2017. Due to the prevalence of GM cotton in cotton supply chains and the lack of any evidence that the company avoided it, it was assumed that some of the company's cotton products contained some GM material. As a result it lost half a mark under the Controversial Technology category.

Overall the company received Ethical Consumer's worst rating for its cotton sourcing policy.


Ethics & Sustainability Progress Report 2019/20 (January 2020)