In July 2019 Ethical Consumer viewed Oxfam's Ethical and Environmental Policy, dated July 2018.
It stated, "Oxfam GB takes responsibility for and is committed to managing the labour and environmental standards in its operations and supply chains."

Supply chain policy (good)
Ethical Consumer considered Oxfam to have a good supply chain policy due to the fact it had adequate clauses on all six of the International Labour Organisation's conventions: working hours, living wages, child labour, forced labour, freedom of association and employment free from discrimination.

Stakeholder engagement (rudimentary)
Oxfam was a member of the multi-stakeholder initiative, the Ethical Trade Initiative. In response to a questionnaire sent to Oxfam in 2018 it stated "Almost all food products are Fairtrade or WFTO certified (small exception made for some food lines made using waste food products) In addition to this preference is given to leading Fairtrade suppliers whose business models give more power to workers 80% of our food sales come from these suppliers (Traidcraft, Divine, Café Direct, Tropical Wholefoods, Zaytoun)."

Due to the work Oxfam did supporting third party certification schemes in particular Fairtrade it was considered to have a reasonable approach to stakeholder engagement.

In 2019 a repsonse to a questionnaire about clothing Oxfam stated that, "As an NGO, Oxfam GB advises other companies on labour standards in their supply chains. As part of our campaign work with the private sector we are actively involved with MSIs such as the Better Strawberries Group and Malawi Tea 2020.

In our own supply chains we haven’t identified any relevant MSIs but would be keen to take part. We actively engage with other retailers and trade unions through the ETI and Sedex stakeholder events. And we also worked with Community Union to run a training day for suppliers in our promotional supply chain, to see if we could encourage more freedom of association at these sites."

Auditing and reporting (rudimentary)
Oxfam stated, "We carry out thorough checks on our manufacturing sites using third-party audits to ensure suppliers are abiding by both our Ethical and Environmental Policy, ETI Base code, local labour laws and the Fairtrade/WFTO principles (where certification is applicable).." However no details were given regarding its auditing schedule or details of audit results. As a result it was considered to have a poor approach to auditing and reporting.

Difficult issues (good)
Oxfam had worked with many of its suppliers for a long time - helping them to build sucessful businesses and reinvesting 100% of the profits back to people enabling them to overcome poverty. It stated "Oxfam shops pioneered the idea of fair trade back in the 1960s. Paying people a fair and decent price for the goods they produce, and giving workers a say in the future of their company."

In 2019 Oxfam stated that, "We have a global grievance procedure for staff and managers, along with a whistleblowing mechanism and a confidential employee assistance programme. The Oxfam Joint Trade Union Shop (OJTUS) unions are available to support workers through the grievance process along with HR. The grievance guidelines are based on the procedures of the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) and were reviewed recently in consultation with the unions.

In March 2018, Oxfam GB launched a new third party, independent whistleblowing hotline and case management system, hosted by NAVEX Global. This can be used by anyone connected to our work to report concerns relating to safeguarding, modern slavery, bullying, harassment and corruption. Anyone using this system can remain anonymous and phone operatives are available in multiple languages. "

Ethical Consumer considered Oxfam to have a good apporach to difficult issues within supply chains.


Email to Tim (23 July 2019)

In February 2018 it was reported that Oxfam staff had paid for sex whilst working in Haiti.

The BBC News reported a summary of the story at Oxfam as it unfolded

February 9th: The Times newspaper publishes a front page article under the headline: "Top Oxfam staff paid Haiti survivor for sex" which alleges that Oxfam covered up claims that senior staff working in Haiti in the wake of the 2010 earthquake used prostitutes, some of whom may have been underage. Among the male staff accused of sexual misconduct is Oxfam's then-director of operations in Haiti, Roland Van Hauwermeiren. He is alleged to have used prostitutes at a villa rented for him by the charity. In a statement, Oxfam denies claims of a cover-up. It says the behaviour of its staff was "totally unacceptable". The charity said it uncovered the accusations in 2011 and immediately launched an internal investigation. According to Oxfam's own 2011 report, four members of staff were dismissed and three, including Mr Van Hauwermeiren, were allowed to resign before the end of the investigation. It says claims of underage girls being involved were unproven. Oxfam adds that it had publicly announced the investigation at the time.

February 10th: The Charity Commission says it was not given full details about the use of prostitutes by aid workers. It says it would have acted differently if it had known all the facts. In a fresh story, the Times says Oxfam did not warn other aid agencies about problem staff caught using prostitutes. It emerges that Mr Van Hauwermeiren went on to work elsewhere in the aid sector. Oxfam's chief executive, Mark Goldring, says the charity did "anything but" cover up the incident. But he admits the 2011 report released by the charity did not give details of the revelations, and only referred to them as "serious misconduct".

February 11th: Oxfam is hit with further allegations that staff on its mission to Chad, also led by Mr Van Hauwermeiren, used prostitutes in 2006. Meanwhile, Oxfam announces new measures for the prevention and handling of sexual abuse cases. Oxfam's chair of trustees, Caroline Thomson, says staff members had been coming forward with "concerns about how staff were recruited and vetted" following the recent media reports.

February 12th: The Charity Commission, which regulates the industry, opens a statutory inquiry into Oxfam - the most serious action it can take. The watchdog says it has concerns that Oxfam "may not have fully and frankly disclosed" everything it knew about the claims.

February 16th: Oxfam announces it is setting up an independent commission of leading women's rights experts to carry out a review of working culture and practices. It will also create a global database of referees to stop dishonest or unreliable references and triple its safeguarding budget.
The charity's international executive director Winnie Byanyima promises the charity would "do justice" and "atone for the past".
Oxfam agrees to stop bidding for UK government funding until it can show it meets the "high standards" required, ministers say. International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt says the charity has "a long way to go" before regaining public trust.

Oxfam lost half a mark under Ethical Consumer's human rights category.


Oxfam Haiti allegations: How the scandal unfolded (February 2018)

In 2019 Ethical Consumer received a response to a clothing questionnaire sent to Oxfam. This stated that Oxfam,

" Oxfam’s range of cotton products consists of socks (approximately 25%) and bags/homewares (approximately75%). These cotton products represent approximately 15% of our total sales in the range. We do not sell any new clothing items beyond socks and bags as we feel this would detract from our core offering of donated clothing.

The majority of our products made from cotton are in our homewares range. These are all made from recycled cotton materials from WFTO-certified producer groups. Our sock supplier is a member of the ETI and upholds the principles of the base code as well as our own Ethical and Environmental Policy. The cotton bags and homewares we sell are either WFTO or Fairtrade (FLO), GOTS certified or 100% recycled fabric where possible.

We do not currently have a policy explicitly forbidding the use of cotton from Uzbekistan, and while Fairtrade might approve a Fairtrade supplier from this region, they do not currently have any active cotton producers in this region.

We use organic cotton wherever possible, however this is dependent on its availability to the producer groups that we work with."

As the company was selling some non organic cotton and could not be sure it was not sourced from Uzbebkistan the cmpany receievd Ethical Consumer's middle rating for cotton sourcing.


Email to Tim (23 July 2019)