24 May 2007
High-street retailer Waitrose has issued 300 of its suppliers with advice on how to improve labour standards.
A manual provides managers at production sites with guidance on what the supermarket calls "Responsible Sourcing". It tackles issues including child labour; health, safety and hygiene; discipline; freedom of association and staff representation; hours; wages; and the environment. Each section includes case studies, ranging from working with contractors in India, to tackling sexual harassment on farms in Zimbabwe and the (part-time) employment of schoolchildren by a UK salad supplier.
Waitrose is a founder member of the Supplier Ethical Data Exchange, which enables suppliers to share information on workplace practices at any organisation they trade with. The retailer's suppliers fill in a self-assessment survey once a year, and are subject to random inspections.
- An activist Tesco shareholder has pushed the issue of ethical supplier relations on to the agenda at the retailer's shareholder meeting in June. Ben Birnberg, a retired solicitor, has attracted support to include a resolution demanding higher standards in its dealings with farmers and suppliers in developing economies.