In January 2020 Ethical Consumer searched the John Lewis website for an environmental report and downloaded the company's Corporate Responsibility Report 2018/19.

The report discussed the environmental impact of its own operations and its supply chain, including addressing: emissions from its buildings and transportation; its waste, packaging and use of plastic; its raw material sourcing (including specific high-risk examples, such as soya and palm oil); water use and biodiversity in its agricultural supply chain. However, the company did not discuss the use of chemicals in its supply chain, including agrichemicals and those used in the production of clothing. As these were both key parts of the company's business, and often use toxic chemicals, discussion of these was considered to be necessary. The company was therefore not considered to demonstrate adequate understanding of its environmental impact.

The report contained several future, quantifiable environmental targets, including:
- Divert 100% of waste from landfill by end 2020/21
- 75% operational waste to be recycled by year end 2020/21
- By year end 2020/21 a 65% reduction in carbon intensity (tonnes per £m) against a 2010 baseline
- By year end 2020/21 reduce energy consumption (kWh per ft2) by 20% against a 2010 baseline.

KPMG had been engaged to give independent limited assurance over selected data, but not the whole report.

Overall, John Lewis Partnership received Ethical Consumer's middle rating for Environmental Reporting and lost half a mark in this category.


Corporate Responsibilty Report 2018/19 (April 2019)

In January 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed John Lewis's annual report 2018 for details of progress on removing HFCs from refrigeration. For more information on these high emission gases see below.
The report stated "This year we have reduced the carbon emissions from our fridges by 23% by reducing our leakage rate to 6.22%, and removing the most carbon-intensive refrigerant and replacing it with a lower Global Warming Potential (GWP) refrigerant."

The John Lewis 2016/2017 Sustainability Report stated "Our Waitrose refrigeration system uses water cooling and therefore significantly less refrigerant than a conventional supermarket system. The refrigerant is a Hydrocarbon (HC) and has a lower Global Warming Potential (GWP) compared with a Hydrofluorocarbon (HFC)."

However, the Corporate Responsibility Report 2018/19 stated that Waitrose had a target of removing 100% of HFCs from its refridgeration by 2028 implying that it had not already done so. 2028 was 3 years after the government's latest recommended phase-out date.

In October 2014 Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) released it 6th and final report called Chilling Facts: Closing the doors on HFCs. The report provided research into the growing uptake of natural refrigerants among some of the world's leading retailers, reflecting a market shift towards climate-friendly refrigeration in the supermarket sector. According to the report hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) were the world's fastest growing source of man-made emissions, rising at an alarming rate of 10-15 per cent a year. EIA considered the adaptation of HFC/CO2 hybrid systems as a potentially useful stepping stone towards HFC-free systems, but not as an end point in themselves. The overall aim should be to phase out these gases in favour of climate-friendly alternatives. The report looked at the chemicals used in refrigerating both in-store fridges and freezers as well as the transportation of goods.
The report recommended that retailers should:
1. Commit to installing only HFC-free systems in all new stores and refurbishments, across entire estate, including their food transport systems and international operations;
2. Commit to a total phase-out by 2025 at the latest (the UK Government will ban the use HFCs with the GWP above 2500 from 2020).
3. Fit doors on all chiller and freezer units as standard
4. Remove any HFCs with Global Warming Potential above 2,500 in existing equipment as a matter of priority.

The company lost half a mark under Climate Change.


Corporate Responsibilty Report 2018/19 (April 2019)

The campaign group Feedback published a report in June 2018 entitled The food waste scorecard: an assessment of supermarket action to address food waste. The report ranked UK supermarkets based on publicly available information, mainly from their websites or news articles, to assess their efforts to tackle food waste in the industry.

The report measured supermarkets against the food use hierarchy. Feedback established key indicators for each facet of the food use hierarchy, which include reducing and preventing surplus food as a priority, followed by redistributing surplus food, recycling surplus food and finally the proper disposal of food waste. Supermarkets scored a point for each of the 32 key indicators successfully implemented.

Waitrose scored an F rating overall and was the worst performing supermarket of the 10 assessed in the report. This was mainly due to the absence of public data on food waste, poor quantities of redistributed food in comparison to other supermarkets, limited work with suppliers to reduce food waste and the fact that there was no programme in place for sending permissable food surplus to animal feed at the time of publication.

On reducing and preventing surplus food, Waitrose was found to have implemented 4 of the 20 key indicators, however had not released any publicly available information on food waste at the time of publishing.

The second step in the food use hierarchy is redistribution, which involves surplus food that is fit for human consumption being sent to charities and organisations that redistribute food. Waitrose was found to have implemented 2 of the 4 key indicators and scored 1 out of 3 available points for the quantity of food redistributed, which amounted to £1,445,088 worth at the time of publishing. Waitrose’s website also stated that 21,949kg (22 tonnes) of food was donated to FareShare in 2016.

The food use hierarchy holds that food surplus unfit for human consumption should be used to feed animals. Waitrose did not score any points under this criteria and was not found to be engaging in this activity. Feedback observed that Waitrose’s website failed to include sending food surplus to animal feed, stating the next best use after redistribution is Anaerobic Digestion (AD). This was considered by Feedback to be a ‘distortion’ of the recycling stage of the hierarchy which is enshrined in the UK Waste Regulations (2011).

The final step in the food use hierarchy is the disposal of inedible food waste. Most UK supermarkets have a zero waste to landfill commitment. Instead, large quantities of food suitable for human consumption is being sent to Anaerobic Digestion (AD) to be converted into energy. According to the Feedback report, AD should only be used to process food waste which is unsuitable for redistribution or animal feed. In 2014, to a House of Lords enquiry into food waste, Waitrose stated that ‘there is a clear temptation, on economic grounds, to prioritise energy recovery over redistribution’. Waitrose was recognised for fulfilling 1 of the 3 key indicators under the disposal criteria due to its zero waste to landfill commitment.

The report stated, "Producing our food costs our planet dearly, with Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG) from agriculture, forestry and fisheries doubling over the past 50 years (FAO 2014) to nearly 20% of emissions resulting from human activity. Globally, around one third of all food produced is wasted (FAO 2011)". As Waitrose was one of the lowest scoring in this report, it lost half a mark under Climate Change.


Food Waste scorecard 2018 (18 April 2019)

In January 2020 Ethical Consumer searched for information on John Lewis's policies regarding toxic chemicals. The most recent informaiton available was a July 2019 received a questionnaire response that Ethical Consumer had received from John Lewis Partnership.

Many of the processes involved in the manufacture of clothing, especially the production of man made fibres and dying of fabrics, release numerous hazardous substances that have a significant negative environmental impact. As the issue was considered to be an industry wide problem all clothing companies lost a whole mark under pollution and toxics unless: they used 100% sustainably sourced materials (i.e. organic, recycled or cotton sourced under the Better Cotton Initiative); or were listed as a leader in the Greenpeace Detox campaign; or had a turnover of less than £10.2 million and were providing an environmental alternative. Some companies partially met these criteria, or were signatories to ZDHC (Zero Discharge Hazardous Chemicals), and lost only half a mark.

John Lewis was not a signatory to either the Greenpeace detox campaign nor the ZDHC. It provided Ethical Consumer with its Restricted Substance List and Chemical Management Standard. However these did not provide a clear enough committment to removing harmful chemicals from its supply chain. The company did use some sustainable materials such as organic cotton but had a wide range of clothing made from non-sustainable materials.

Electronics: A toxics policy was also deemed necessary for all electronics companies, as polyvinyl chlorides and brominated flame retardants were widely used by electronics companies and had a significant negative environmental impact when released after disposal. A strong policy on toxics in electronics would include publicly disclosed data on the use of hazardous chemicals such as PVC, BFR and phthalates; as well as clear, dated targets for ending their use. No policy could be found regarding John Lewis working to reduce the number of harmful chemicals in its electronics. It did set limits for phthalates in its Restricted Substance List, which in its Chemical Management Standard it stated that suppliers were contractually bound to comply with.

Overall John Lewis received Ethical Consumer's worst rating for toxic chemicals and lost a whole mark under Pollutions and Toxics.

Reference: (8 January 2019)

In January 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed the Waitrose website for information on its approach to the chemicals triclosan, parabens and phthalates, as concerns had been raised about their toxicity. Although individual products were listed as being free of these chemicals, no overall policy could be found.

In May 2018, Ethical Consumer had recieved a questionnaire from Waitrose which discussed the company's toxic policy for cosmetics. This stated: "Triclosan is not used in our own-label products." However, it did not appear to have a policy on parabens or phthalates in cosmetics.

The company received Ethical Consumer's middle rating for its toxics policy on cosmetics.


2018 Questionnaire (9 May 2018)

In January 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed the John Lewis Sustainability Report 2016/17 and 2018/19. An Animal Welfare policy was sent in response to a questionnaire, however this was dated 2014 so gave no update on the traceability target below. The 2018/19 report only mentioned leather in passing as a material the company was looking to source more sustainably, the 2016/17 report stated:
"Leather has a considerable environmental footprint at every stage of the supply chain, from animal farming to hide processing and manufacturing of the final product. Our efforts are focused on overcoming the environmental impacts of the leather-tanning process as this is where we have the most leverage with our suppliers. In 2016 we joined the Leather Working Group (LWG) - an independent organisation of brands, retailers and suppliers which has developed an environmental audit for tanneries. Our initial aim is to ensure we have 100% traceability of the tanneries that produce leather for John Lewis products. Once this is in place we will work with our suppliers to ensure these tanneries have been audited to the LWG standard. This year we began mapping the tanneries that supply our suppliers in India and have conducted on-the-ground research to understand the issues facing the sector. In addition, we are developing more resources and training for our Buyers to understand the impacts of leather production."
Due to the fact that the company sold leather, it lost half a mark under Ethical Consumer’s Animal Rights category.
It also lost half a mark Pollution and Toxics category for the following reason: leather, as the hide of a dead animal, naturally decomposes. To prevent this decomposition the leather industry uses a cocktail of harmful chemicals including trivalent chromium sulphate, sodium sulphide, sodium sulfhydrate, arsenic and cyanide to preserve it. Tannery effluent also contains large amounts of other pollutants, such as protein, hair, salt, lime sludge and acids. These can all pollute the land, air, and water supply making it a highly polluting industry.

Regarding feather and down, the 2016/17 report stated:
‘we recognise the animal welfare risks associated with geese and duck farming. We have strict animal welfare standards in place and have been working with the animal welfare charity Four Paws since 2015 to help us improve our approach to feather and down sourcing.
In 2016 we committed to sourcing 100% of our feather and down from certified-responsible sources such as those covered by the Responsible Down Standard (RDS) by the end of 2020/21. These standards provide independent verification that the feather and down we use does not come from sources that practice live plucking or force feeding.’
The 2018/19 report restated this target and said that it was "We're working with all our feather and down suppliers to implement certified responsible standards in our feather and down supply chains and we're on track to meet our target".
According to campaign group Four Paws, animal suffering from the live-plucking and force-feeding of geese and ducks was present in the general down supply chains. In order to avoid these practices, a company was expected to adopt a standard that would trace and audit their whole supply chain, including higher-risk parent farms, to ensure such cruelties are excluded. Four Paws had found that certificates and audit reports from suppliers themselves 'do not provide sufficient guarantees that animals have a cruelty free life.' As the company had not adopted a down standard that included higher-risk parent farms, it lost a whole mark under the Animal Rights category.


Our Responsibilities 2016-17 (January 2017)

In June 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed John Lewis's website and 2019 annual report for the company's conflict minerals policy. No policy could be 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 marks under Human Rights and Habitats and Resources.

Reference: (4 June 2020)

In January 2020 Ethical Consumer sent the John Lewis Partnership a questionnaire requesting information about its timber sourcing. No response was received. As the John Lewis partnership owned Waitrose (that sold a range of own brand paper products), Ethical Consumer expected it to report on timber sourcing. The John Lewis website and Waitrose’s website were therefore searched for publicly available information.

The company’s website contained a timber sourcing policy which aspired to 100% of Waitrose own brand paper and wood products to be procured from recycled or certified sustainable sources. However a date for reaching this target was not provided. This policy was said to apply toall Waitrose own brand products which are made of solid wood, wood composites (such as MDF), paper or pulp. It did not cover packaging used on product or fabrics made from wood based pulp.

Its policy stated a preference for certified sources (such as FSC) to show sustainable production and transparent trade; recycled and reclaimed materials. It stated that it would not use illegally logged or traded timber and that as a minimum it expected its suppliers to fully comply with the EU Timber Regulation and provide adequate evidence to demonstrate this.

An Ethical Consumer questionnaire, received from Waitrose in May 2018, discussed its timber sourcing policy. This stated: 'In 2016 we reported 98% of our timber/paper products as being FSC or PEFC certified, or coming from recycled sources. We did not report our timber data for 2017 as we are transitioning to a new reporting system, which is more closely aligned with John Lewis’ approach.'

Ethical Consumer's timber sourcing ranking required companies scoring a 'best' to cover six of the below issues:
1. Having a timber sourcing policy that covers all timber and timber-derived products
2. the exclusion of illegal timber or that sourced from unknown sources and...
3. ...a discussion on how a company ensures/ implements this
4. clear targets for sourcing timber from sustainably managed sources
5. a discussion of a good minimum standard
6. preference given to certified sources
7. a discussion about tropical hardwoods (THW) and the percentage of THW sourced that are FSC certified
8. involvement with a multi-stakeholder initiative or bridging programme such as the World Wildlife Fund- Global Forest Trade Network
9. use of reclaimed or recycled wood/ paper
10. a high total percentage (50%+) of FSC certified timber sourced by the company.

Waitrose received Ethical Consumer's middle rating due to the fact that it had covered five of the above issues. It therefore lost half a mark under Habitats and Resources.

Reference: (7 March 2019)

In January 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed John Lewis's website for the company's timber sourcing policy.

John Lewis's timber sourcing policy was downloaded which stated "John Lewis commits that our products will only use timber and paper obtained from known, legal and well managed forests to avoid contributing to deforestation and forest degradation and to respect the people and communities that depend on them."

The policy applied to "all John Lewis own brand products made of, or containing, the following:
- solid timber
- components or parts made of timber and/ or paper
- timber composites such as MDF and particleboard
- paper products from virgin wood fibre and recycled wood fibre sources
- components or parts made of agricultural by-products"
However, packaging was not currently included.

It had target that by end of 2020, 100% of the timber and paper in its own brand products will only contain material from responsible and sustainable sources. The policy stated that a company using recycled wood / paper would be considered responsible, and sustainable if it had certification for this.

It also stated, 'All paper products must meet the requirements of our sustainable sources category, which requires sources to be FSC, PEFC or Recycled.' And 'John Lewis committed to supporting and giving preference to timber and paper products that are certified to the FSC standards, especially for sources from potentially High Risk Countries.'

Its policy included a discussion on how it planned to implement its policy; it had a clear minimum standard.

The company covered the following topics:
1. the exclusion of illegal timber or that sourced from unknown sources
2. a discussion on how the company ensures / implements this
3. clear targets for sourcing timber from sustainably managed sources
4. preference given to certified sources
5. use of reclaimed / recycled wood / paper
6. a discussion of a good minimum standard

In its 2017-18 Corporate Responsibility report it stated:
"John Lewis has increased the overall volume of sustainably and responsibly sourced timber. We are not publicly reporting Waitrose’s progress on sustainable timber sourcing this year, as we are transitioning to a reporting system, which is more closely aligned with John Lewis’ approach."

The Waitrose website stated:
"Waitrose actively works with suppliers to offer customers certified products, or where this is not yet possible, to make sure that all timber is legal and traceable. Our aim is that all Waitrose own brand paper and wood products are procured from recycled or certified sustainable sources."

As the company covered the six points above it received Ethical Consumer's best rating for its timber sourcing policy.


Timber Policy SRS015 (11 April 2018)

In January 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed the Waitrose website and saw that it was a food retailer. John Lewis website, Waitrose’s website and the RSPO website were therefore searched for publicly available information on the company's palm oil.

John Lewis’s Corporate Responsibility 2018/19 stated "All of Waitrose palm oil has been certified by the RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) since 2012. Our target is for all palmbased ingredients to be physically certified to RSPO standards and we use RSPO credits for the remainder until that target has been achieved"

Waitrose had been a member of the RSPO since 2006 and had submitted the Annual Communication on Progress (ACOP) for 2018. The ACOP gave total volumes of crude palm oil and palm kernel oil and derivatives as well as giving specific volumes of book and claim, mass balance, segregated palm oil and identity preserved. 57% of the company's palm oil was certified by the segregated method.

The disclosure applied to the company's entire supply chain, but suppliers were not named. All of the palm oil and palm kernel oil used by the company was reported to be certified by the RSPO. The company picked up additional marks for disclosing volumes and having a group wide commitment.

The company’s website,, also stated “Our aim is to source 100% physically certified palm-based ingredients in all our products. For any remaining palm oil, we purchase RSPO credits from certified producers, including smallholder farmers. ….Waitrose & Partners is also a member of the Retail Palm Oil Transparency Coalition, a group of retailers working together to manage issues that go beyond the RSPO standards. As a part of this coalition, we are working to develop new tools that will empower all retailers to hold palm oil importers accountable to their zero deforestation commitments’.

Overall, Waitrose received Ethical Consumer's middle rating for palm oil sourcing.


Corporate Responsibilty Report 2018/19 (April 2019)