In July 2021, Ethical Consumer viewed the Bookshop.org website for information on how the company managed workers' rights in its supply chain. A statement was found which reported that “Gardners Books” “fulfil all book sales, and their extensive inventory and supply chain ensures books reach customers in 2-3 days”. Ethical Consumer searched for information regarding Gardners Books supply chain management but no information could be found. In August 2021, Ethical Consumer received a completed questionnaire from Bookshop.org which contained some information regarding its supply chain management.
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.
In its questionnaire response, Bookshop.org stated that it did not have a supplier code of conduct or a supply chain policy that addressed workers’ rights at supplier companies, but that the company planned to “implement initiatives to set standards for vendor conduct in 2021”.
As Bookshop.org did not appear to have any policies surrounding supply chain policy it received a poor rating.
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 labour standards, and for workers to have access to an anonymous complaints system, free of charge and in their own language.
Bookshop.org stated in its questionnaire response that it was not part of a multi-stakeholder initiative, nor did it have input from NGO or not for profits or trade unions.
Given that Bookshop.org did not appear to have any documentation on its policies surrounding stakeholder engagement, it received a poor rating.
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.
Bookshop.org stated in its questionnaire response that “We are just beginning to formulate strategies to set standards and periodically audit our respective supply chains in the US and in the UK but have not conducted any audits as of this time.”
The company did not appear to have any of the criteria for auditing and reporting and therefore received a poor rating.
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 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.
Given that Bookshop.org did not appear to have any of these things, it received a poor rating.
Overall, due to a lack of policies on all parts of its supply chain management, Bookshop.org received a worst rating.
Bookshop.org response to booksellers generic questionnaire (17 August 2021)