In January 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed John Lewis’s corporate website for the company’s supply chain management policy. Ethical Consumer also accessed John Lewis’s 2015/16, 2016/17 and 2018/2019 Human Rights & Modern Slavery Reports.

Supply chain policy (good)
The John Lewis Partnership Responsible Sourcing Code of Practice (dated January 2017) was viewed which covered all six International Labour Organisations standards 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 was considered to have good supply chain policy.

Stakeholder engagement (rudimentary)
A questionnaire response received by Ethical Consumer in July 2019 had stated "We are members of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), ILO Better Work Programme and The Bangladesh Accord on Fire & Building Safety". The ETI is a multistakeholder initiative. On its website it stated that both John Lewis and Waitrose were involved in many different groups aimed at improving workers’ rights and lessening environmental impacts within their supply chains, these included Stronger Together and Fast Forward. However, these groups did not appear to amount to systematic third-party verification of supply chain audits. The questionnaire asked whether John Lewis had a complaints procedure that employees throughout the supply chain could use to regularly and anonymously report incidents to John Lewis for free and in their own language. John Lewis outlined a number of programmes it had to increase engagement with workers in its supply chain but these did not amount to the afore mentioned criteria. As a result John Lewis Group received a rudimentary rating for its stakeholder engagement.

Auditing and reporting (rudimentary)
In its questionnaire response John Lewis stated: "All factories manufacturing products for John Lewis are required to carry out an ethical audit. The audits are paid for by our suppliers and are conducted by third-party approved consultancy firms with appropriate experience and expertise. All audit reports are sent to the supplier, along with the corrective action plan listing the improvements recommended that the site carry out to ensure they meet legal requirements of their country or international law. We monitor the factories to ensure they complete these action plans and close out any issues that were identified. " It also provided a link to its Modern Slavery Report 2018/19. This stated that "Waitrose & Partners take a risk-based approach to determining where audits are required. " Overall the John Lewis Group received a rudimentary rating for auditing and reporting. This was because there didn’t seem to be a clear schedule of audits, disclosure or analysis of results of the audits or mention who paid for audits - a questionnaire response in December 2019 stated "The audits are paid for by our suppliers".

Difficult issues (reasonable)
The John Lewis Group’s Human Rights & Modern Slavery Report 2018/19 stated: "All John Lewis & Partners supplier-facing Partners must complete mandator y responsible sourcing e-learning on an annual basis. The course is reviewed continuously and includes specific training on modern slavery". It also stated more in depth and specific training was provided to relevant staff. It also stated that "All Partners in our Central Procurement Department have successfully completed Corporate Ethical Procurement and Supply Certification (CIPS)"

John Lewis Partnership's 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.' Overall the John Lewis Group was considered to have a reasonable approach to difficult issues.

John Lewis Partnership received Ethical Consumer's best rating for supply chain management.

Reference:

Ethical Consumer Magazine Questionnaire 2019 (8 August 2019)

In January 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed Waitrose's website, www.waitrose.com, and found that the company sold tobacco. The company therefore lost a mark under Irresponsible Marketing.

Reference:

Waitrose website (13 January 2020)

In January 2020 a search was made on the John Lewis website, www.johnlewis.com, and a number of products made with gold and diamonds were found. No mention of responsible sourcing of gold or diamonds was found on the company's website.

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:

John Lewis (13 January 2020)

In January 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:

John Lewis (13 January 2020)

Ethical Consumer searched the John Lewis website in January 2019 for the company's clothing supplier list. No such disclosure could be found, nor any discussion on where the company sourced its clothing products.

According to the WTO the ten biggest global clothing exporters in 2017 included China, Bangladesh, Vietnam, and India. All five were on Ethical Consumer's list of oppressive regimes at the time of writing.
Due to the fact that clothing was commonly sourced from oppressive regimes, John Lewis lost a half mark under Human Rights for failing to disclose the counry of origin of its products.

Reference:

John Lewis (13 January 2020)

The online website of the Huddersfiled Examiner (examiner.com) 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 who 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 sourced 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.

Reference:

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

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.

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.

In July 2019 Ethical Consumr 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". No further information was provided and no further information could be found on the company's website when it was searched in January 2020. Sandblasting was no mentioned in the company's supplier code. As a result of not having provided a clear policy for suppliers prohibiting sandblasting John Lewis lost half a mark under Workers Rights.

Reference:

www.johnlewispartnership.co.uk (8 January 2019)

In January 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed John Lewis's website for the company's policy on cotton sourcing and accessed a 2018/19 sustainability report.

The company stated that John Lewis brand sourced 25% of its cotton from sustainable sources and that Waitrose sourced 37%. The company had targets to source 50% and 100% sustainable cotton respectively by 2020.

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. Although Waitrose had banned use of cotton 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 suppliers responsibility to uphold this. Niether 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:

Corporate Responsibilty Report 2018/19 (April 2019)