John Lewis Partnership (JLP) is going through a process of vetting all suppliers on ethical issues such as slavery and the environment, a conference was told.
Todd Bradley-Cole, partner and senior manager CSR procurement at JLP, said all the company’s thousands of suppliers would be required to take part in a qualification process or face removal.
He said the main driver was GDPR data rules, and JLP not knowing which suppliers were holding personal information, but the company was taking the opportunity to go further.
Speaking at ProcureCon Indirect in Copenhagen Bradley-Cole said they had “big spend, lots of suppliers but we didn’t know if they were all complying with the law or whether they were capable of going beyond the law”.
He cited “Rule 96” of the JLP constitution. “We expect suppliers to respect the law, employees and the environment. That means it’s not negotiable,” he said.
Bradley-Cole referred to case of bed maker Kozee Sleep, which supplied JLP and whose owner was convicted in 2016 of slavery offences, and another recycling company. “There are people out there who we thought were recycling mattresses but they were going into a field somewhere,” he said. “Know what your suppliers are doing – that’s really key.”
JLP has decided to use a supplier information company to send out questionnaires and handle the responses. “We’re not going to do it ourselves,” he said. “Hellios are going to send questionnaires out. They will chivvy suppliers along to do it and we are going to get the data.”
He added: “We’ve had suppliers say they’re not interested, they don’t want to do this and it may end up we don’t trade with them.
“We had one supplier say they didn’t pay the minimum wage so we’re having conversations with them about why they think it’s all right to not pay the minimum wage.”
Bradley-Cole said other suppliers had responded positively and suggested innovations such as compostable bags and trucks powered by biomethane.
“We want procurement people to be inquisitive, to ask questions and be guardians of the partnership’s reputation,” he said.
“It’s going way beyond the law. We have one or two suppliers who are really excited about this.”