Co-op's slavery statement 'sends important message to suppliers'

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
10 May 2017

The Co-op has been held up as an example of how firm’s should be tackling the problem of modern slavery.

In its first slavery statement under the Modern Slavery Act 2015 the Co-op has outlined how it sources, the clauses it uses in contracts and the steps it takes to audit suppliers. It also describes how the Co-op helps former slaves into work.

The 10-page statement outlines the Co-op’s ethical policies, its supplier approval process and how it carried out 444 audits in 2016. Of 2,223 issues raised, 16 breached its code on employment being freely chosen.

The Co-op’s ethical trading monitoring programme covers 1,773 sites across 69 countries and six continents. It has identified eight “focus” countries, the UK, Spain, Egypt, Italy, Morocco, South Africa, Thailand and Kenya, due to their strategic importance and “increased risk of labour standards issues including modern slavery”.

The statement said: “Our expectation for suppliers to meet ethical trade requirements and tackle modern slavery is integrated into supplier contracts and approval processes.

“We have a long history of strong relationships with our suppliers – 75% of our suppliers have traded with us for over five years. We are seeking to stabilise further all relationships through longer-terms contracts especially within the key areas of produce and protein, which will enable suppliers to reduce their reliance on agency labour and invest in their workforce and labour standards.”

The Co-op said it provided training for suppliers and it planned to develop a new procurement academy and roll out a business-wide training and awareness plan on ethical sourcing.

Cath Hill, group marketing director at CIPS, said: “The Co-op’s modern slavery statement is an excellent example of what organisations should be doing to combat this important issue. 

“The robust governance, policy development and due diligence processes have provided them with a solid foundation for addressing labour infringements in their supply chain. This sends an important message to their suppliers on how the Co-op expect to do business. UK Plcs have a lot to learn from the Co-op.”

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