In November 2020 Ethical Consumer searched the John Lewis website for an environmental report. Ethical Consumer also searched for updates in March 2021. The latest Corporate Responsibility Report 2018/19 was viewed.

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 Ethics & Sustainability Progress Report 2019/20 also did not appear to discuss these issue.
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.

The company's Ethics & Sustainability Progress Report 2019/20 was also viewed but this did not contain any further independent assurances or auditing.

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

Reference:

Corporate Responsibilty Report 2018/19 (April 2019)

In March 2021 Ethical Consumer viewed the website of John Lewis, looking for information on what the company was doing to tackle climate change.

Ethical Consumer was looking for the following:
1. For the company to discuss its areas of climate impact, and to discuss plausible ways it has cut them in the past, and ways that it will cut them in the future.

For the company to not be involved in any particularly damaging projects like tar sands, oil or aviation, to not be subject to damning secondary criticism regarding it’s climate actions, and to have relevant sector-specific climate policies in place.

2. For the company to report annually on its scope 1&2 greenhouse gas emissions (direct emissions by the company), and,

3. to go some way towards reporting on its scope 3 emissions (emissions from the supply chain, investments and sold products).

4. For the company to have a target to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in line with international agreements (counted as the equivalent of at least 2.5% cut per year in scope 1&2 emissions), and to not count offsetting towards this target.

If a company met all of these criteria it would receive a best rating. If it met parts 1&2 (impacts and annual reporting CO2e) it would receive a middle rating. Otherwise it would receive a worst rating.

The company highlighed key areas of climate impact, such as timber sourcing, palm oil, transport and energy usage in buildings. However, no clear discussion of ways it had reduced emissions in the past was identified.P.88 of the company's Accounts 2020 discussed some examples of energy efficiency improvements, but these were not considered to constitute significant reductions strategies. For example, it highlight an LED upgrade programme in 8 John Lewis shops and 50 Waitrose shops.

The company website said "We are committed to understanding the climate risks and opportunities within our business and will begin to report this via the Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures Framework (TCFD)." The company said it was "looking to increase the quantity and quality of data we collect and analyse in 2021."

At the time of writing the company did not appear to meet criteria 1 and as such received Ethical Consumer’s worst rating for carbon management and reporting and lost a whole mark under Climate Change.

Reference:

2020 Accounts (January 2020)

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 permissible 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.

Reference:

Food Waste scorecard 2018 (18 April 2019)

In November 2020 Ethical Consumer searched for information on John Lewis's policies regarding toxic chemicals. An update was searched for in March 2021, and none was identified. The most recent information available was a July 2019 questionnaire response that Ethical Consumer had received from John Lewis Partnership.

Clothing
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 commitment 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
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:

www.johnlewispartnership.co.uk (19 November 2020)

In March 2021 Ethical Consumer viewed the Animal Welfare Policy available on the John Lewis website. The company's latest Corporate Responsibility Report (2018/19) was also viewed.

The CSR report stated, "John Lewis & Partners use a wide mix of materials to make their products. Buying and technical Partners work with suppliers to source these materials in a more sustainable way including timber, cotton, recycled polyester, leather and feather and down. To help our buyers navigate the complexities of sourcing sustainable materials, we’ve developed Materials Matter - a guide for buyers to use when developing new ranges, looking at new suppliers or reviewing existing assortments. The guide is designed to support the sourcing process as we transition our supply base to more sustainable materials. We are currently expanding the guide further and moving it to a new online platform for our Partners and suppliers to access. In 2019, we’ll also be focusing on improving the traceability of some of our key raw materials with a focus on cashmere and mohair, working with our supply chain to guarantee traceability back to the farm. We’ll report more on our progress next year."

The company's Ethics and Sustainability Progress Report 2019/20 was also viewed, which stated with regard to down: "We continue to work with all our own-brand feather and down suppliers to implement certified responsible standards in their supply chains, and are on track to meet our target and report this as a percentage by the end of the 2020/21 financial year." The company's target was "100% of feather and down used in own-brand products to be from certified responsible sources by the end of January 2021." No further detail was provided on this.

The Materials Matter guide was not found online. 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 in the 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 company sold own-brand feather and down products including duvets and pillows, with no information in the product details online about animal welfare. 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.

The company therefore lost a whole mark under Ethical Consumer's Animal Rights category for sale of leather and inadequare poicies on feather and down. It also lost half a mark under Pollution & Toxics for selling leather that was not LWG gold certified.

Reference:

www.johnlewispartnership.co.uk (4 June 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, www.ota.com, 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.

Reference:

Ethics & Sustainability Progress Report 2019/20 (January 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:

www.johnlewispartnership.co.uk (4 June 2020)

In November 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed John Lewis's website for the company's timber sourcing policy. It now included Waitrose also. An update was searched for in March 2021 and none was found.

John Lewis's 2019 Corporate Responsibility report stated, "We aim to promote sustainable forestry and curb the global trade in illegal timber... We have set a new, Partnership target to achieve 100% of the timber and paper in our own-brand products to come from trusted sources by year end 2020/21".

It had a diagram which showed the percentages meeting its new standards, Best, Better and Good, which replaced its previous categories of “Sustainable” and “Responsible”:
36% Best (FSC, PEFC, Grown in Britain), 17% Better (Recycled material, non-controversial sources), 29% Good (meets our standard), 18% In progress.
Its Timber Standard was also viewed which explained that Good meant: 1. (i) the timber origin and species is known (ii) supply chains have undergone a risk assessment by the John Lewis Partnership or our 3rd party due diligence provider, and (iii) were concluded to be at negligible risk of including illegal timber or paper, or 2. FLEGT Licensed Timber, or 3. Legal Source Certified Timber.

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

Ethical Consumer also viewed the company's Timber Standard (Version 5, listed on the company website as 12 December 2019) which reiterated the above standard.

Ethical Consumer also viewed the company's Ethics and Sustainability Progress Report 2019/2020 which reiterated the company's timber sourcing targets. It reported that the company's total sourcing from trusted sources had decreased from 87% in 2018/19 to 79% in 2019/20. Explaining the Waitrose contribution to this, the report stated, "In 2019 Waitrose ran a number of training sessions to improve the accuracy and robustness of the supplier declarations on the timber used in own-brand products. This resulted in an increase in the number of timber sources declared by suppliers and an apparently backward step in our progress towards our target, however this process will be beneficial long term, providing greater accuracy and improvements."

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

Reference:

www.johnlewispartnership.co.uk (4 June 2020)

In April 2018 the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) issued a press release estimating the proportion of fish sold by supermarkets which was MSC certified. Waitrose had 67%.

The MSC label was reported to ensure that the fish being bought had been caught in an environmentally friendly way. MSC stated “Only seafood from fisheries that meet our strict standard for sustainability can be sold with the blue MSC label. These fisheries ensure that fish are caught at levels that allow fish populations and the ecosystems on which they depend to remain healthy and productive for the future… All along the supply chain, from ocean to plate, MSC certified fish and seafood is separated from non-certified. It is clearly labelled and can be traced back to a certified sustainable source.”

In November 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed the Waitrose website which stated "All the fish that is included in Waitrose own-label products has been responsibly caught or farmed. This means our suppliers must only source fish from fisheries or farmed aquaculture operations that are responsibly managed. We have been working to this strategy for over 15 years. Waitrose & Partners recognise a number of independent third party standards for wild caught fish including the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation based Responsible Fisheries Management." However there was no information on the proportion of MSC certified fish that the company sold.

As Waitrose had around two thirds of its range certified it was not marked down in the Habitats and Resources category.

Reference:

Aldi swims ahead of British supermarkets in sustainable seafood (18 April 2018)

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

Waitrose had been a member of the RSPO since 2006 and had submitted the Annual Communication on Progress (ACOP) until 2017. John Lewis Plc submitted ACOP for 2018 and 2019. The 2019 ACOP for John Lewis Plc was viewed. This covered the group's entire operations including John Lewis Plc and Waitrose Ltd. It stated that the group had sourced 100% RSPO certified palm oil, palm kernel oil and palm derivatives since 2012. 63% was certified segregated and 2% was sourced using Book and Claim credits.

The company's ACOP also stated that it was the aim to source entirely through physical certification for the next reporting year, 2020. The company also stated that it was took an active role in the Palm Oil Transparency Coalition, Retail Palm Oil Group, UK Roundtable on Sourcing Sustainable Palm Oil and the Palm Oil Communications Working Group. For this, the company picked up a positive half point.

The company picked up additional positive points for disclosing volumes and having a group wide commitment. The company gave no information about mapping its supply chain to the mill and suppliers were not named.

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

Reference:

John Lewis Plc RSPO ACOP 2019 (2019)