In February 2021 Ethical Consumer viewed the Sainsbury's website for information on how the company managed workers' rights in its supply chain. Several documents were viewed, including: 'Supplier Policy on Ethical Trade –Sainsbury’s Brand'; Modern Slavery Statement 2017/18; Human Rights policy; Sainsbury's Fairly Traded Report 2019/20. A questionnaire received from the company in March 2021, and a company document linked in this titled 'Sourcing with integrity code of conduct' was also viewed.

Supply chain policy (reasonable)
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.

Sainsbury's had adequate clauses on forced labour, living wages, freedom of association and discrimination. The clause on child labour did not define the age of a child restricted from working, but it stated "Under the code of conduct, all our suppliers must comply with the ETI Base Code", and was a member. For this reason it was considered adequate.

It stated that working hours should not be excessive but did not clarify what twas considered excessive.

Overall Sainsbury's was considered to have a reasonable supply chain policy.

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.

Sainsbury's was listed as a member of the Ethical Trading Initiative.

Sainsbury's had a service called Rightline which was acessible on the Riskavert website. This stated that you could use Rightline to report wrongdoing. It said reports could be made anonymously but that "doing so can limit the scope of the investigations". It was unclear if this whistleblowing service was available to all workers in the supply chain, or if it was translated into several languages. The questionnaire stated "We ask our global food suppliers to advertise our hotline called Rightline to workers. We are also sponsors of the UK’s Modern Slavery and Labour Exploitation Helpline through Unseen. We are also currently piloting a worker voice program in India and Turkey. Workers from the factories can scan QR code on posters distributed around the factories or through IVR technology and answer a short questionnaire. The questionnaire has been designed to highlight any grievances that the workers may have." Although the question specifically asked whether this service was available at no cost and in the workers own language these aspects were not addressed in the company's response. No further information was identified.

Overall the company was considered to have a rudimentary approach to stakeholder engagement.

Auditing and Reporting (reasonable)
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.

Sainsbury's 'Supplier Policy on Ethical Trading', which stated: "We recognise the importance of being aware of labour practices in our supply chains and the need to monitor, evaluate and act on information about our suppliers’, sites’ and growers’ performance. To do this, we use a range of tools including independent, third party audits of suppliers and sites, self-assessment questionnaires and confidential mechanisms for workers to highlight issues. We view worker and supplier communication as critical for identifying and resolving supply chain issues."

It stated that all suppliers must:
"Ensure all production sites have a 2-pillar SMETA ethical audit according to their risk rating carried out by a Sainsbury’s approved audit body and other Sainsbury’s requirements:
High risk: every 12 months
Medium risk: every 24 months
Low risk: at TM discretion
New site: within 12 months prior to being registered on Evolve
Suppliers must directly commission any audit. We also accept Social Accountability International (SA8000) and SIZA audits." The policy included definitions of high, medium and low risk, based on previous compliance with the policy.

Although this constituted a transparent plan for medium and high risk companies, low risk sites were only inspected at the company's discretion, therefore there did not appear to be a clear or transparent plan for these suppliers.

However, in a questionnaire response the company stated "100% of Tier 1 sites that we work with must conduct an annual semi announced SMETA (Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audit), one of the most widely used ethical audit formats in the world. These audits need to be conducted by one of our 4 selected audit bodies and must cover the whole site. The audit is then uploaded onto the Sedex platform. If the audit result does not meet our requirements then the site will be asked to improve and action feedback within a set timeframe." This was considered to be a transparent audit plan.

The policy also stated that the company would implement corrective action plans for non-compliance, and outlined time frames within which any non-compliance or whistleblower complaint had to be referred to the company.

No information about auditing costs or audit results were identified. No further information was identified. Overall the company was considered to have a reasonable approach to auditing and reporting.

Difficult issues (reasonable)
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 meeting labour standards, 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.

Sainsbury's stated that it had a "strong heritage of building long-term relationships with our suppliers, farmers and producers". The questionnaire stated "The team conduct unannounced visits to sites to ensure the third-party audit is reflective of the situation on site."

The questionnaire further stated "We provide training to all new colleagues within Sainsbury’s Argos (including buyers) on our ethical code of conduct, including the process of onboarding a new site and responsibly exiting a supplier. Existing colleagues receive annual modern slavery training and the ethical team support with sharing any relevant ethical updates. We hold annual ethical workshops / webinars for all of our non-food suppliers to ensure they are kept up to date with our code of conduct, our requirements as well as any country / industry updates."

"We recently conducted a ‘sub-contractor amnesty’ in China and India to encourage our suppliers to declare sub-contracting sites too us without fear of reprisal, which has been successful. This allows us to have better visibility of our supply chain and work with suppliers on remediating any issues."

Overall the company was considered to have a reasonable approach to difficult issues.

Overall J Sainsbury plc received Ethical Consumer's best rating for Supply Chain Management and was not marked down in this category.

Reference: (26 February 2021)

In March 2021 Ethical Consumer searched Sainsbury's consumer website and found a number of tobacco products on sale. The company therefore lost a whole mark in the Irresponsible Marketing category.

Reference: (26 February 2021)

In April 2018, Ethical Consumer viewed a ruling on the Advertising Standards Agency website regarding J Sainsbury PLC, from March 2018. The ruling concerned Sainsbury's new Fairly Traded logo. The company was said to have used the logo on a box of tea, with a link below it to a webpage for more information on the new standard. 'A number of other products listed on the page were “Fairtrade” tea products, and the images showed that the packaging for those products included the Fairtrade logo.' Sainsbury's had therefore been accused of suggesting a misleading connection between its accreditation and the Fairtrade scheme. This was upheld by the ASA. The company therefore lost half a mark under Irresponsible Marketing.


ASA Ruling on J Sainsbury plc (7 March 2018)

The Advertisng Standards Authority (ASA) upheld a complaint lodged against Sainsburys Bank in October 2016. The bank was banned from showing a TV ad which was deemed "irresponsible because it implied that the best way to finance property renovation was by getting a credit card."
The ASA ruled that, "The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Sainsbury’s Bank to ensure that their advertising did not present consumer credit products in a socially irresponsible way."
The company therefore lost half a mark under Irresponsible Marketing.

Reference: (October 201

In October 2019, Ethical Consumer viewed Argos' website and found that the company sold diamonds and gold. The website did not appear to have any information on sourcing, and the About Us link led to the Sainsbury's website,

The Sainsbury's 2018 Sustainability update stated under an Argos heading, "As we progress with integration, we will review sustainability and ethical sourcing practices in our jewellery and packaging supply chains."

Sainsbury's website was therefore searched. It had a Modern Slavery section and the company's Modern Slavery Statement 2018/19 was downloaded. Neither mentioned jewellery, gold or diamonds. When searched, neither Sainsbury's nor Argos were found listed as members on the Responsible Jewellery Council website.

According to the No Dirty Gold Campaign, which aimed to end irresponsible mining practices, Argos had signed the Golden Rules and pledged to commit to responsible sourcing of gold. However, no supporting statement from Argos appeared on the No Dirty Gold website, nor on its own website or Sainsbury's website.
The January/February 2011 issue of Ethical Consumer highlighted the role of diamonds in fuelling conflict in Africa.
The Channel Four Dispatches programme “The Real Price of Gold”, which was broadcast on 27th June 2011 and in which Ethical Consumer participated, highlighted some of the problems in gold supply chains around the world, including environmental destruction, child labour and the human rights impacts of pollution. The publication “Golden Rules: Making the case for responsible mining”, published by Earthworks and Oxfam America, also highlighted issues of forced displacement of local communities as a result of gold mining.
Argos therefore lost half a mark in the Pollution and Toxics category due to its lack of commitment to responsible gold mining, and a full mark in the Human Rights category as a result of the impacts of gold and diamonds.

Reference: (4 January 2019)

In January 2021 Ethical Consumer viewed the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement website, which listed Sodastream on its page 'What to boycott'.

An update on the BDS website dated 22 August 2018 stated "SodaStream has faced global boycotts because of its complicity in Israel’s grave violations of Palestinian human rights."

In the article co-founder of the BDS movement Omar Barghouti stated "SodaStream is still subject to boycott by the global, Palestinian-led BDS movement for Palestinian rights. Its new factory is actively complicit in Israel's policy of displacing the indigenous Bedouin-Palestinian citizens of Israel in the Naqab (Negev). SodaStream's mistreatment of and discrimination against Palestinian workers is not forgotten either."

"The BDS movement sees SodaStream’s closure of its factory in the militarily occupied West Bank as a success, in line with our commitment to end Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights. This SodaStream factory was located in one of the largest illegal Israeli settlements built on stolen Palestinian land, on the ruins of seven Palestinian villages whose inhabitants were forced out to make way for a Jewish-only town, in contravention of international law and decades of stated US policy."

The company lost half a mark under Ethical Consumer's Human Rights category.

Reference: (1 March 2021)

In June 2020 Oxfam released an update to its 2019 report on
supermarkets. The report scored 16 of the biggest supermarkets in Europe
and the US on how they tackled critical issues affecting the people
working in their food supply chains. The specific areas covered were:
transparency and accountability; respect for workers' rights; fair
treatment of farmers; and fair treatment of women.

None of the supermarkets was found to be doing enough to ensure basic
human rights in their supply chains. The report observed that some
workers went to work and produced food all day, but went home hungry.
All the companies were given marks out of 100 in each of the above
categories. The lowest mark was 3% and the highest 46%.

Sainsbury’s scored 44% overall – up from 27% in 2019 – broken down as follows:

transparency 42%

workers' rights 54%

farmers rights 50%

womens' rights 29%

All companies lost half a mark under Human Rights for secondary criticism.


Behind the Barcode update (2020)

In March 2021 Ethical Consumer searched the Sainsbury's website for information on the company's cocoa sourcing policies.

The website showed a number of products with cocoa as a key ingredient and it was considered a significant part of the company’s offering.

Not all Sainsbury's cocoa products were certified. As the issue of child and slave labour within the cocoa supply chain had been raised as an issue since before 2000 Ethical Consumer would expect the company to be actively sourcing fair and sustainable cocoa only. The company therefore received Ethical Consumer's worst rating for its cocoa supply chain management and lost half a mark under Workers' Rights.

Due to the fact that the company was still sourcing some uncertified cocoa, and the issue of child and slave labour in cocoa supply chains had been known since before 2000, it was marked down in the Workers' Rights category.

Reference: (26 February 2021)

In February 2021 Ethical Consumer viewed an article on the Business & Human Rights website titled 'Cambodia: 250 garment workers protest over two months' unpaid wages after Sepia Garment factory suspends operations; Incl. Sainsbury's response' dated 7 December 2020.

This stated that 250 workers at Sepia Garment factory, Cambodia, were on strike over unpaid wages after the factory suspended operations during the COVID-19 pandemic in August. It stated that Sepia Garment produced for Sainsbury's, according to available supplier information.

Sainsbury's responded to a request for comment from Business & Human Rights. Sainsbury's responded to say that Sepia closed in August and Sainsbury's no longer has a relationship with the supplier, but understood some workers had reported not received the correct wages and benefits. It said it was working with the supplier to further investigate."

Ethical Consumer considered Sainsbury's to have a responsibility towards workers in its supply chain affected by Covid-19. As the situation did not appear to have reached a resolution for the workers Sainsbury's lost half a mark under Human Rights.


Cambodia: 250 garment workers protest over two months' unpaid wages after Sep (26 February 2021)

In December 2019, Ethical Consumer viewed a report on the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre website, titled 'Charity & police break up UK's largest modern slavery ring; victims worked in farms allegedly supplying UK retailers & supermarkets' and dated to July 2019. It stated:

"In July 2019, the largest-ever modern slavery ring uncovered in the UK has been broken up following a three-year investigation into its activities. Investigators found some of its 400 victims worked for as little as 50p a day, working on farms, rubbish recycling centres and poultry factories. Gang members were convicted of modern slavery offences and money laundering on 5 July 2019.

"According to an investigation by the Sunday Times [restricted access], UK supermarkets including Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Asda were supplied by farms where men and women controlled by the gang worked.

"The supermarket chains and companies involved said they did not know the workers were being exploited, and several said they only became aware of the mistreatment after being contacted by journalists. The British Retail Consortium issued a statement on behalf of all retailers affected by the slavery investigation which is available in the media articles below, along with statements by the companies.

"In a statement published on 29 July 2019, Britain’s anti-slavery commissioner said companies must use buying power to root out slavery."

The company lost half a mark under Workers' Rights.


Charity & police break up UK's largest modern slavery ring; victims worked in farms allegedly supply