In November 2020, Ethical Consumer viewed Aldi South Group’s corporate website for information about how the company managed workers' rights in its supply chain.
Supply chain policy (rudimentary)
Aldi South Group's 'Social Standards in Production', last updated in 2015 was downloaded. This included adequate clauses on freedom of association, forced labour, discrimination and child labour. However clauses regarding wages and hours were governed by local laws which often do not provide adequate protection for workers.
Overall, Aldi South Group’s supply chain policy was considered rudimentary.
Stakeholder engagement (rudimentary)
Aldi South Group was listed as a member of the Ethical Trading Initiative on the organisation’s website when checked by Ethical Consumer in November 2020.
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. No statement was found to indicate that this was the case with Aldi South Group.
It was also expected for workers to have access to an anonymous complaints system, free of charge and in their own language. Aldi South Group’s website stated: “We have created independent points of contact within all national organisations of the ALDI SOUTH Group. Our employees and, in most countries, our third-party service providers and suppliers can contact these alert lines in order to report potential instances of non-compliance, discrimination, or other forms of misconduct. To ensure that incidents are in fact reported and the individuals remain anonymous, all information is anonymised and treated as confidential on request before being forwarded to the responsible parties within the ALDI SOUTH Group.” As this was only stated to be available to supplier workers ‘in most countries’ (implying not all), and it was not clear if there was a cost associated nor in which languages it was available, this was judged not to be adequate.
Overall, Aldi South Group’s approach to stakeholder engagement was rated rudimentary.
Auditing and reporting (poor)
Aldi South Group’s website stated “In order to be able to monitor compliance with these social standards at production facility level and to continue to foster these together with our business partners, we have developed and implemented our Social Monitoring Programme. Business partners are integrated into this programme according to an assessment and prioritisation of their respective supply chain risks (based on commodity groups and sourcing countries).” In addition to its Social Monitoring Programme, Aldi’s website stated that it implemented “ALDI Social Assessments (ASAs) & ALDI Producer Assessments (APAs)”, in which ALDI employees together with external auditors and business partner representatives, in countries considered to be high-risk.
No results of audits were found to be published
No transparent schedule for audits was found to be published
No policy was found committing the company to auditing labour standards across the entire breadth of the supply chain
No mention of the costs of audits was found.
Ethical Consumer expected companies to give details of their policy for handling instances of non-compliance with the code, and for this policy to include a staged approach to dealing with violations. The following statement on Aldi’s website satisfied this criterion: “Following every audit, a Corrective Action Plan (CAP) is developed which sets out an individualised timeline for eliminating any issues that may have been found. Our business partners are obliged to implement the measures together with the production facility’s management. Our CR departments closely monitor the process to ensure successful remediation.”
Overall, Aldi South Group’s approach to auditing and reporting was rated poor
Difficult Issues (rudimentary)
Ethical Consumer looked for acknowledgement that problems of audit fraud exist and a systematic approach to addressing audit fraud. The following statement on Aldi’s website satisfied this criterion:
“We consider third party social audits to be an important first step in gathering information about the human rights situation in our production sites and initiating improvement. We are also aware that they may not always provide a true picture of working conditions and may fail to identify hidden issues such as forced labour, discrimination or harassment.
We therefore commit to adopt an approach to ethical trade that goes beyond compliance and does not rely solely on social audits, complementing our audit approach with additional activity such as our own on-site visits, communication to and training for business partners, production facilities and producers, participation in multi-stakeholder initiatives, capacity building and projects on the ground.” Furthermore, the company’s 2018 Modern Slavery Statement contained the following assertion: “Our teams regularly carry out announced, semi-announced and unannounced site visits and assessments of supplier facilities to check they meet our ethical standards and requirements”
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 measures taken to address the issue of living wages, particularly among outworkers, and illegal freedom of association.
Aldi’s approach to Difficult Issues was rated rudimentary.
Overall, Aldi received Ethical Consumers Middle rating for Supply Chain Management and lost half a mark in this category.
cr.aldisouthgroup.com (30 January 2019)