In July 2021, Ethical Consumer viewed Blackwells’ website for information on how the company managed workers' rights in its supply chain. A Modern Slavery statement was accessed on the ‘company statements’ webpage, dated 2021. No other information was found.
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.
The Modern Slavery statement applied to all of Blackwells’ “contractors, suppliers and other business partners, and as part of our contracting processes”. The company stated it had a zero-tolerance policy to modern slavery, and listed forced labour as one form of this.
The company did not provide any other information regarding its policies on child labour, discrimination, freedom of association, a working week or living wage.
As such, Blackwells received a poor rating for Supply Chain Policy.
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.
Blackwells Modern Slavery statement contained some reference to a complaints process for employees to report conflicts with the policy, in any part of the supply chain. However, this appeared to only be available to employees rather than workers in the supply chain, and it did not mention if this was anonymous, at no cost or in the employee’s first language.
The company did not state if it was a member of a multi-stakeholder initiative or process, nor if it had any third party involvement from trade unions, NGOs and/or not-for-profits. Overall, Blackwells received a poor rating for 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.
Blackwells had none of these things and therefore received a poor rating for auditing and reporting.
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.
Blackwells failed to provide evidence that it had or was doing any of these things and therefore it received a poor rating for its approach to difficult issues.
Overall, due to its lack of policies on its supply chain management, Blackwells received a worst rating.
Blackwells website (12 July 2021)