In December 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed SolarUK's website for information on 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.
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.
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.
As the company had an annual turnover of less than £10.2 million it was only required to demonstrated effective, not explicit, supply chain management.
No information on any of the above categories could be found on the SolarUK website. On manufacturing it stated "By manufacturing our own solar hot water systems in the UK we are able to have complete control over the production process and minimise lead times on orders. It also helps us ensure that we keep embodied carbon and carbon dioxide emissions to a minimum. By the end of 2010 we will have moved our entire manufacturing operation into a new purpose built facility. Located in East Sussex, the new centre will allow us to increase production as well as stock holding."
The company appeared to have control over its manufacturing process. However as there was no information regarding the standards or code of conduct it applied to its manufacturing operations it was not considered to have effective practice. Therefore the company received Ethical Consumer's worst rating for Supply Chain Management and lost a whole mark in this category.
www.solaruk.com/ (16 December 2020)