In August 2018 Ethical Consumer sent The Works a questionnaire requesting information about its supply chain management policies and practices. No response was received. The company's website www.theworks.co.uk was searched for its supply chain management policy and the following statement was found:
"The Works Stores Ltd have developed a Code of Conduct to ensure that when our customers buy from us, they can be satisfied in knowing that the goods have been produced without exploitation and in acceptable and sustainable working conditions. Our Code of Conduct clearly outlines our social and ethical requirements, which include but are not limited to; Child Labour, Forced Labour, Safety Standards, Health and Hygiene, Associations, Discrimination and Coercion, Working Hours and Wages and Environmental Impact.
"In order to ensure that these standards are achieved, The Works Stores Ltd has implemented a monitoring system which requires all suppliers to sign our Terms and Conditions of Purchase which state the supplier has read, understood and conforms to our Code of Conduct. These Terms and Conditions of Purchase must be signed before The Works Stores Ltd will place any orders and must be signed for each and every order which is placed."
No further details were provided about the company's 'ethical requirements' or compliance procedures.
SUPPLY CHAIN POLICY - POOR
Ethical Consumer deemed it necessary for all companies to have a supply chain policy. A strong policy would include the following commitments: no use of a child under 15 (or 14 if ILO exempt), no use of forced labour, no discrimination by race, sex or for any other reason, permit freedom of association, pay a living wage, restrict working hours to 48 hours plus 12 overtime (ideally specifying these hours and that this is without exception). The Works had none of these things, therefore its supply chain policy was considered to be poor.
STAKEHOLDER ENGAGEMENT - POOR
Ethical Consumer also deemed it necessary for companies to demonstrate stakeholder engagement, such as through membership of the Ethical Trade Initiative, Fair Labour Association or Social Accountability International. It is also constructive for Trade Unions, NGOs and/or not-for-profit organisations to have systematic input to verify the company's supply chain audits, and for workers to have access to an anonymous complaints system, free of charge and in their own language. The Works had none of these things, therefore its stakeholder engagement was considered to be poor.
AUDITING AND REPORTING - POOR
Ethical Consumer also deemed it necessary for companies to have an auditing and reporting system. Results of audits should be publicly reported and quantitatively analysed. The company should have a scheduled and transparent audit plan that applies to its whole supply chain, including some second tier suppliers. The company should also have a staged policy for non-compliance. The costs of the audit should be borne by the company. The Works had none of these things, therefore its auditing and reporting was considered to be poor.
DIFFICULT ISSUES - POOR
Ethical Consumer also deemed it necessary for companies to address other difficult issues in their supply chain. This would include ongoing training for agents, or rewards for suppliers, or preference for long term suppliers. It would also include acknowledgement of audit fraud and unannounced audits, and other measures taken to address the issue of living wages, particularly among outworkers, and illegal freedom of association. The Works had none of these things, therefore its approach to difficult issues was considered to be poor.
Since The Works' supply chain policy, stakeholder engagement, auditing and reporting, and approach to difficult issues were all considered poor, the company received Ethical Consumer's worst rating for Supply Chain Management.
https://www.theworks.co.uk/ (15 August 2018)