In March 2020, Ethical Consumer searched the Little Soap Company website for information on its supply chain management. The company also returned a questionnaire with information about its supply chain management.
The company was a small enterprise (turnover under £10.2million) providing mostly organic products. However, these had not been Organic certified, and therefore did not guarentee any social protections in supply chains. It's products were manufactured in the UK, and the company stated that 'all suppliers are UK based'. Although the UK had fairly robust labout laws, there were still labour rights issues such as modern slavery in the country. It was also likely that the company would have some second tier suppliers (e.g. ingredients suppliers) from outside the UK.
The company was therefore expected to have a full supply chain management policy. No such information was found.
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.
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.
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's questionnaire stated: "We use external manufacturers (UK based) within the supply chain, all with industry recognised audits in place." However, it was unclear what this meant.
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.
The company did not have any publicly available information on any of the above, therefore it received Ethical Consumer's worst rating for Supply Chain Management and lost a whole mark in this category.
www.littlesoapcompany.co.uk (12 March 2020)