In February 2020, Ethical Consumer viewed Walgreen Boots Alliance (WBA) website along with its 2019 CSR report for details of how the company managed workers’ rights in its supply chain.
Supply chain policy (poor)
A strong 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.
The company’s CSR report contained the following statement:
“Using the Ethical Trading Initiative Base Code and International Labor Organization conventions and recommendations, we have created our core principles and policy on ethical sourcing, which we require all vendors and subcontractors to comply with when supplying merchandise and services to WBA”.
It further stated that the policy: “the prohibition of any form of bonded, forced, indentured or other illegal labor and of any form of slavery or human trafficking; opposition to discrimination in any form; fair and reasonable reward for workers; working hours that do not exceed applicable legal requirements; the prohibition of child labor; safe and healthy conditions; the prohibition of corruption and bribery”.
However, the policy itself did not appear to be publicly available.
The information found in the CSR report fulfilled Ethical Consumer’s criteria with regards to forced labour and discrimination.
The statement on child labour was considered to be inadequate, as it lacked any detail regarding the age of a child; the statement on working hours was considered to be inadequate as it did not specify the number of hours; the statement on wages was considered to be inadequate as it did not specify the payment of a living wage. No mention was found of workers’ right to freedom of association specifically in relation to supply chain workers.
Overall, Walgreen Boots Alliance was considered to have a poor 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.
No evidence was found of the company’s engagement in any of the above; it was therefore considered to have a poor approach to stakeholder engagement.
Auditing and reporting (rudimentary)
Some reporting was given in the company's CSR report: "In fiscal 2019, we conducted more than 1,200 ethical compliance assessments on new and existing suppliers for our Walgreens and Boots UK owned brands. Where we identified critical non-compliance issues, we worked with our suppliers on remedial action plans to help ensure issues were addressed and corrected." Figures were supplied and analysed regarding ethical compliance of the company's suppliers.
The company had a staged process for addressing instances of non-compliance.
Ethical Consumer also expected the company to have a scheduled and transparent audit plan that applies to their whole supply chain, including some second tier suppliers. Ethical Consumer expected the company to cover the costs of an audit, but no statement could be could be found on whether this was the case.
Overall the company was deemed to have rudimentary approach to auditing and reporting.
Difficult issues (poor)
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.
No published discussion was found relating to any of the above issues, therefore the company was considered to have a poor approach to difficult issues.
Overall, Walgreen Boots Alliance received Ethical Consumer's worst rating for Supply Chain Management and lost a whole mark in this category.
Corporate Social Responsibility Report 2019 (2019)