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14 July 2011 | Adam Leach
UK retailer John Lewis is setting up an India-based buying team of up to 20 staff to purchase supplies from the country and surrounding areas.
Stephen Cawley, merchandise standards manager at John Lewis, told SM the company hopes to have the sourcing operation up and running by October but since the development stage is still under way it may take longer.
The new office will be based in the city of Haryana, just outside Delhi, and will be staffed mainly by local workers who will become partners in the company through the same scheme that operates for UK-based employees. Cawley said one of the key benefits will be the opportunity to have “some John Lewis partners on the ground [in India]”.
The sourcing centre will deal with suppliers from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, as well as India. The move marks the first foreign base for the company since just after the Second World War when it set up a buying office in Paris.
The development of the Indian office is part of the company’s overall strategy to build relationships with suppliers around the world. The retailer will also look to collaborate with competitors and non-government organisations to improve the rights and wellbeing of workers throughout the supply chain after it signed up to the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI).
The ETI is an alliance of companies, trade unions and voluntary organisations. It works in partnership to improve the working lives of people across the globe who make or grow consumer goods. Cawley said while the company can work on getting fire exits, smoke alarms and first-aid kits installed at the foreign factories of its suppliers, working with the ETI will help tackle “big things” such as pay rates and workers’ rights.
Although the ETI features a baseline code of ethical practice, John Lewis will not be required to make any substantial changes because its own code of sustainable sourcing meets the criteria.