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In July 2021 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 December 2020. This policy stated that "This policy applies acrossall Oxfam-GB operations and supply chains. This includes all UK based procurement teams and all UK based budget holders who manage spends of up to £500,000." It also stated, "Where contract value is over £500,000, or if an item is deemed high risk or carries the Oxfam brand, Oxfam GB staff are required to engage the Central Procurement Team to ensure they complete all necessary procurements steps."

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. It was a founding member of the Ethical Trade Initiative and used the ETI Base Code.

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 on its Modern Slavery page that Oxfam GB advocated for The UK's Modern Slavery Act 2015. 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. Its Modern Slavery statement 2019/20 stated, "Although workers in our supply chains could in theory report a concern through Oxfam’s systems, this is not common.... we support suppliers to develop their own whistleblowing channels, in line with best practice principles."

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

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.

In Oxfam's Modern Slavery Statement 2019/20 it stated "The overall aim of the Sourced-by-Oxfam framework is to increase the percentage of suppliers we buy from that prioritize people and the environment through how they do business, by creating targets for buyers and incentives for suppliers to move up the framework." "Over the last year, we have drafted the roadmap and shared it with our suppliers and leading Fair Trade companies to invite comments and challenge. We had to deprioritize this work as we responded to the coronavirus pandemic. In the next reporting period, we plan to restart our work with key supplier(s) to begin trialling this tool and to publish an initial version of the roadmap to invite wider feedback." It only referred to "Our first-tier sourcing countries (final point of manufacture)". It was not yet considered to be assessing its whole supply chain although it had a commitment to do so, but not beyond first tier suppliers. As it detailed all work undertaken so far as by Oxfam, it was understood to bear the costs of assessment.

It also stated, "The framework is intended as a tool to facilitate targeted dialogue between buyers and
suppliers... agreeing a human rights action plan, measuring progress, and targeting dialogue to co-create more effective solutions with our suppliers over time." This was considered to be a policy for non-compliance. Staged consequences for non-compliance were also listed in its Ethical and Environmental Policy 2020.

However no details were given regarding its auditing schedule or details of audit results. It was considered to have a rudimentary approach to auditing and reporting for its retail arm.

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, 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 2020 stated, "The Integrity and Ethics Division is responsible for the ongoing rollout of the holistic Code of Conduct training", " The online training was launched in November 2019 and is now a requirement for all Oxfam GB staff worldwide. We also focused on ensuring that the Code of Conduct is understood by Oxfam GB staff and contractors in priority countries where we are piloting new approaches."

Its Ethical and Environmental Policy 2020 stated it was committed to, "Recognising the contribution that stable business relationships can make to labour and environmental standards, and endeavour to establish long-term relationships with its suppliers."

It also stated that suppliers should commit to, "Being open and transparent about the standards in our supply chain and operations, and provide information requested by Oxfam to enable assessment.•Informing customers if their purchasing practices are undermining the supplier’s ability to uphold decent working conditions (including predictable work and living wages) and working with customers to build trust and share accountability for doing no harm and continuously raising standards over time."

Ethical Consumer considered Oxfam to have a reasonable approach to difficult issues within supply chains. Overall it received a best rating for Supply Chain Management.

Reference: (1 June 2020)

In July 2021, Ethical Consumer viewed an article on the Guardian website dated 8 April 2021 and titled 'UK halts funding for Oxfam over sexual misconduct claims'.

It stated that:
"The UK has halted aid funding for Oxfam following allegations of sexual misconduct made against staff in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"The charity confirmed last week that two members of staff in the DRC were suspended as part of an ongoing investigation into allegations of abuses of power, including bullying and sexual misconduct.

"In a statement on Wednesday night, the Foreign Office (FCDO) said: “All organisations bidding for UK aid must meet the high standards of safeguarding required to keep the people they work with safe.

“Given the most recent reports, which call into question Oxfam’s ability to meet those standards, we will not consider any new funding to Oxfam until the issues have been resolved.”

In September 2021, Ethical Consumer viewed The Times website where an article was found titled "Oxfam sacks aid workers after Congo scandal" dated 17th June 2021. The article stated that Oxfam GB sacked three members of staff following an investigation into sexual misconduct, bullying and intimidation and other claims in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Allegations were also held against a fourth member of staff but their contract expired before the disciplinary process was complete.

As such, Oxfam lost half a mark under Ethical Consumer's Human Rights category.


Oxfam sacks aid workers after Congo scandal (2 September 2021)

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 alleged 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 denied 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 said Oxfam did not warn other aid agencies about problem staff caught using prostitutes. It emerged 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 July 2021 Ethical Consumer viewed the Oxfam website and saw that it sold Sourced by Oxfam cotton bags and other cotton crafts. Some were Fairtrade, some were recycled cotton, some were neither. It did not have a policy to only use organic or recycled cotton. It did however have a new Cotton policy in its 2020 Ethical and Environmental policy which stated, "We will not knowingly source new products with cotton fibre or fabric from Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan or Xinjiang (China), unless the supplier can demonstrate how forced labour concerns are being robustly addressed." However, as a widespread campaign not to source from Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan was called, without more detail this could not be accepted.

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 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 June 2021, 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. Oxfam lost half a mark under Workers' Rights.

According to the 2020 Sustainable Cotton Ranking published by Pesticide Action Network UK, Solidaridad and WWF, conventional cotton production involved the overuse and misuse of pesticides and synthetic fertilisers, which has significant impacts on ecosystems, and the health of farmers and their communities. Due to these impacts in cotton production worldwide this issue is covered by the Pollution & Toxics rating.

According to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA), a non-profit pro biotech organisation, “Biotech cotton was planted to 25.7 million hectares, covering 79% of the global area of cotton in 2019.” 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 Oxfam did not have a policy to avoid GM cotton, it lost half a mark under the Controversial Technology category.


Oxfam online shop (5 July 2021)