In June 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed Oxfam's website for details of its supply chain management. A page about Corporate Responsibility was found, including an Ethical and Environmental Policy, dated 2016. The page stated that "This policy applies to Oxfam GB and its suppliers. Our procurement falls into four main categories: central procurement, Sourced by Oxfam (retail), humanitarian and international programmes." It was the Sourced by Oxfam range we were looking for information on.

Supply chain policy (good)
Ethical Consumer considered Oxfam to have a good supply chain policy due to the fact it had adequate clauses on all six of the International Labour Organisation's conventions: working hours, living wages, child labour, forced labour, freedom of association and employment free from discrimination.

Stakeholder engagement (rudimentary)
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.

Oxfam was a founder member of the Ethical Trade Initiative. It also stated that Oxfam GB advocated for The UK's Modern Slavery Act 2015. Its Sourced by Oxfam 'about' page stated "We’ve carefully chosen great food, gifts and homewares that are made with care, protect the planet and help the women and men who produce them to earn a decent living", and stated its commitment to fair trade, as well as businesses fighting poverty in the UK. The Corporate Responsibility page stated "Approximately 50% of our retail suppliers are fair trade." Its supply chain was therefore partially verified by NGOs.

Oxfam had an anonymous whistleblower system, but it appeared to apply to "people we work to support, staff, volunteers, partners and supporters" but not suppliers.

Overall, Oxfam's retail arm was considered to have a rudimentary approach to stakeholder engagement.

Auditing and reporting (rudimentary)
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.

In Oxfam's Modern Slavery Statement 2018/19 it stated "All manufacturing sites must complete a manufacturing questionnaire, unless they are certified by the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO), to assess their labour standards policies against Oxfam’s Ethical and Environmental Policy. We use additional existing assessments, along with the company’s risk and leverage profile, to agree bespoke due diligence approaches as appropriate." It was considered to be monitoring its whole supply chain.

It had assessed risk of human rights abuses in its supply chains but felt it had, "relatively low leverage in many of our high-risk supply chains". It stated, "One approach we are about to trial to address this problem in a different way in our retail supply chains is a sourcing framework. The aim of the framework is to increase the percentage of suppliers we buy from that put people and the environment before profit, by creating targets for buyers and incentives for suppliers to move up the framework."

It also stated, "We recognize that communicating a zero-tolerance approach may push poor practices underground. Therefore, we have adopted an approach of continuous improvement and zero tolerance to inaction to promote transparency and enable more open dialogue with suppliers and partners." This was considered to be a policy for non-compliance.

However no details were given regarding its auditing schedule, details of audit results, nor who bore the cost of audits. It was considered to have a rudimentary approach to auditing and reporting for its retail arm.

Difficult issues (good)
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.

Oxfam's Modern Slavery Statement 2018/19 stated that in the year, "The retail buying team received refresher training covering:•the external frameworks thatinform our standards•Oxfam’s policies, including the new Anti-Slavery and Human Trafficking Policy•when and how we assess suppliers•the tools we use to assess them."

It stated, "We aim to build long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with suppliers;65% of the suppliers in our UK-managed database have contracts lasting over three years and we have been working with 11% of them for over 10 years."

Ethical Consumer considered Oxfam to have a reasonable approach to difficult issues within supply chains. Overall it received a best rating for its supply chain management.

Reference: (1 June 2020)

In February 2018 it was reported that Oxfam staff had paid for sex whilst working in Haiti.

The BBC News reported a summary of the story at Oxfam as it unfolded:

February 9th: The Times newspaper published a front page article under the headline: "Top Oxfam staff paid Haiti survivor for sex" which alleges that Oxfam covered up claims that senior staff working in Haiti in the wake of the 2010 earthquake used prostitutes, some of whom may have been underage. Among the male staff accused of sexual misconduct was Oxfam's then-director of operations in Haiti, Roland Van Hauwermeiren. He is alleged to have used prostitutes at a villa rented for him by the charity. In a statement, Oxfam denies claims of a cover-up. It says the behaviour of its staff was "totally unacceptable".

February 10th: The Charity Commission said it was not given full details about the use of prostitutes by aid workers. It says it would have acted differently if it had known all the facts. In a fresh story, the Times says Oxfam did not warn other aid agencies about problem staff caught using prostitutes. It emerges that Mr Van Hauwermeiren went on to work elsewhere in the aid sector. Oxfam's chief executive, Mark Goldring, said the charity did "anything but" cover up the incident. But he admits the 2011 report released by the charity did not give details of the revelations, and only referred to them as "serious misconduct".

February 11th: Oxfam was hit with further allegations that staff on its mission to Chad, also led by Mr Van Hauwermeiren, used prostitutes in 2006. Meanwhile, Oxfam announced new measures for the prevention and handling of sexual abuse cases. Oxfam's chair of trustees, Caroline Thomson, said staff members had been coming forward with "concerns about how staff were recruited and vetted" following the recent media reports.

February 16th: Oxfam announced it was setting up an independent commission of leading women's rights experts to carry out a review of working culture and practices. It would also create a global database of referees to stop dishonest or unreliable references and triple its safeguarding budget.
The charity's international executive director Winnie Byanyima promised the charity would "do justice" and "atone for the past".

Oxfam lost half a mark under Ethical Consumer's human rights category.


Oxfam Haiti allegations: How the scandal unfolded (February 2018)

In June 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed the Oxfam website and saw that it sold own-brand and Sourced by Oxfam cotton bags. Some were organic, some were Fairtrade, some were neither. It also sold some recycled cotton products. It did not have a policy to only use organic or recycled cotton.

In 2019 Ethical Consumer had received a response to a clothing questionnaire sent to Oxfam. This stated:
"The majority of our products made from cotton are in our homewares range. These are all made from recycled cotton materials from WFTO-certified producer groups.... The cotton bags and homewares we sell are either WFTO or Fairtrade (FLO), GOTS certified or 100% recycled fabric where possible.
"We do not currently have a policy explicitly forbidding the use of cotton from Uzbekistan, and while Fairtrade might approve a Fairtrade supplier from this region, they do not currently have any active cotton producers in this region.
"We use organic cotton wherever possible, however this is dependent on its availability to the producer groups that we work with."

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.

The Organic Trade Association website,, 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.

Reference: (1 June 2020)