In February 2020, Ethical Consumer received a completed questionnaire from Beiersdorf, which pointed to pages on the company’s website which detailed the company’s approach to managing workers’ rights issues in its supply chain. These pages were viewed along with the company’s 2018 Sustainability Review document.
Supply chain policy (reasonable)
A strong supply chain policy would include the following commitments: no use of forced labour, permission of freedom of association, payment of a living wage, the restriction of working hours to 48 hours plus 12 overtime (without exception), no use of a child labour (under 15 or 14 if ILO exempt), no discrimination by race, sex or for any other reason.
Beiersdorf’s Code of Conduct for Suppliers was found to have adequate policies for child labour, forced labour, discrimination, freedom of association and working hours. The company's policy on wages was found to be inadequate as it only required the payment of legal minimum wages, not a living wage.
The company stated that 90% of its procurement volume was contractually secured by the Supplier Code of Conduct.
Overall, Edgewell Personal Care was considered to have a reasonable supply chain policy.
Stakeholder engagement (poor)
Ethical Consumer 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. Companies were also expected to engage with Trade Unions, NGOs and/or not-for-profit organisations which could systematically 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.
Beiersdorf was found to be a member of two industry organisations involved in work related to supply chain sustainability, these were AIM-PROGRESS and Sedex. However, neither of these organisations was considered to be a multi-stakeholder initiative, as they did not appear to include the participation of unions or civil society members.
No mention was found of thrid-party involvement in the verification of labour standard audits.
Details of an anonymous complaints process were only found for the company’s own staff and not for supply chain workers.
Overall, Beiersdorf was considered to have a poor approach to stakeholder engagement.
Auditing and Reporting (poor)
Ethical Consumer 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 their 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 company stated: “We require significant-risk suppliers to complete the Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ) on the Sedex platform: This determines the need for a Responsible Sourcing Audit”
No details were found of audit results or analysis or a scheduled audit plan. The auditing process did not appear to apply to the whole supply chain, only those deemed to be high-risk.
No mention of audit costs was found.
Overall, Beiersdorf was considered to have a poor approach to auditing and reporting
Difficult issues (rudimentary)
Ethical Consumer also deemed it necessary for companies to address other difficult issues in their supply chains. 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 measures taken to address the issue of living wages, particularly among outworkers, and illegal freedom of association.
Beiersdorf’s Code of Conduct for Suppliers addressed the issue of illegal Freedom of Association. It stated: “In situations where the rights to freedom of association and collective negotiations are limited by law, other opportunities must be granted for the independent and free union of the employees for collective negotiation. Employee representatives are to be protected against discrimination. They are to be granted free access to the workplaces of their colleagues, in order to ensure that they are able to utilise their rights in a legal and peaceful form.”
No mention was found of other difficult issues, therefore Bieresdorf’s approach to difficult issues was considered to be rudimentary.
Overall, Beiersdorf received Ethical Consumer's middle rating for Supply Chain Management and lost half a mark in this category.
Sustainability Review 2018 (12 February 2020)