Our business touches the lives of millions of people around the world and treating people fairly is at the heart of everything we do. We believe that every single person in the Waitrose & Partners supply chain – from our Partners, to the people who grow, pick, pack and make our products – should be safe, well treated and fairly rewarded for their work.
We take a long term view, working with suppliers to continually raise supply chain standards, manage risks and ultimately, create better jobs for all workers. Employee engagement in the workplace is highly valued and we use our knowledge and experience as a co-owned business to encourage better worker voice channels in our supply chain.
Lujeri Tea Estates
Waitrose source all own brand black teas as Fairtrade as we recognise the challenges of low incomes and poor working conditions within the tea industry. Fairtrade pays a minimum price and an additional Fairtrade Premium which supports improvements to worker livelihoods.
We source a proportion of our black teas from the Sukambizi Association Trust (SAT) a Fairtrade co-operative in Malawi. Tea from SAT is processed by Lujeri Tea Estates Ltd.
We condemn all forms of abuse to workers and were extremely concerned to learn about the disturbing allegations that have been recently reported in Malawi.
Although this is an active and developing lawsuit, we are working closely with industry organisations such as Fairtrade and the Ethical Trade Initiative as well as the supplier to fully investigate this case and will take whatever steps we need to ensure the welfare, rights and livelihoods of all those affected are protected.
Others in the industry have taken the decision to suspend orders but we believe strongly in this case that this is not the most ethical approach and could result in more harm than good.
By suspending orders in countries like Malawi where communities depend on international trade to make a living, we would be causing deeper economic and personal hardship. The best way to ensure this can never happen again is to work closely with NGOs, the supplier and affected communities and individuals rather than walk away from this awful situation.
We have sought independent feedback from NGOs and industry groups who are on the ground in Malawi working with Lujeri. They have also offered us assurance Lujeri have shown commitment to tackling gender equality, sexual harrassment and discrimination and informed us that further improvements are underway.
We will continue to engage with our supplier in Malawi, who has pledged to implement immediate corrective actions within their operations. This included them commissioning an independent review, conducted by Impactt, the recommendations of which have been shared. We will be monitoring developments closely and are prepared to take further action if dramatic improvements are not made within the agreed timeframe.
We will continue our engagement and are committed to be more directly involved in Malawi going forward in order to help our suppliers end this systemic problem of sexual abuse in team plantations. We pledge to undertake further human rights impact assessments in other tea supply chains where these systematic problems exist and take assertive action to protect the rights and welfare of women and all workers that source our product.
Lujeri have committed to the following immediate actions, which we will monitor the progress of:
1) Further investigation and resolution (already in progress)
Lujeri continue to investigate allegations made and to uncover the extent of the potential cases of sexual harassment. They commit to providing safeguarding measures and victim support and counselling.
2) Strengthen management systems
Lujeri are implementing an independent grievance helpline, which will be free to access for workers and will be operated by the third party human rights consultant Impactt - with local staff to overcome any language or literacy barriers.
They will also build the capacity of their HR team and committee representatives to ensure that grievances are properly recorded, elevated and resolved.
Lujeri has pledged also to improve and reform their own existing grievance mechanisms as well as review their recruitment and promotion structures to ensure equality for all workers.
3) Reset mindsets and behaviours
Lujeri are implementing a company-wide campaign to strengthen awareness of women’s rights and ensure that all workers are aware of and understand Lujeri’s commitment to a safe and inclusive workplace.
4) Monitoring and Evaluation
Lujeri will ensure that clear KPIs are in place and monitor and evaluate their remedial actions throughout the change programme.
Women in John Lewis Partnership Supply Chains 2021
To mark International Women's Day 2021, we have released our first in-depth report on women in John Lewis Partnership supply chains.
The report shines a light on the specific challenges that women working in our global supply chains continue to face and provides information on what we're doing to try and address these issues.
We hope that through a process of transparency, reporting and action, we can create meaningful change.
Respecting human rights
As long-standing members of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) we take our responsibility towards the people whose labour helps us stock our stores extremely seriously. Our Responsible Sourcing Code of Practice reflects the ETI base code and details what we expect from all of our suppliers, including terms of pay and working conditions, workers’ rights and representation, health, safety and working hours.
We seek to build lasting relationships with our suppliers and are committed to upholding human rights throughout our product and services supply chain. We support the United Nations (UN) Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
We only work with suppliers who share our values of fairness and respect for human rights and welfare. All our suppliers are monitored on how they are performing against our Responsible Sourcing Code of Practice through regular independent inspections. This provides a valuable snapshot of our supply chain working conditions and helps us tailor our ethical trade programme to address issues in high risk sectors and regions.
We recognise that ethical audits can be limited in their ability to identify and prevent human rights abuses such as modern slavery. We work with suppliers to develop their knowledge and skills so they can identify and address these risks in their own businesses.
We also offer free training to all suppliers on addressing modern slavery and responsible recruitment. Suppliers are encouraged to engage openly with us on these issues.
Knowing our supply chain
We work with NGOs, trade unions and industry experts to identify workers most at risk and tailor our ethical trade programme to address human rights abuses in the supply chain where it is most needed.
We train our Partners to spot signs of modern slavery and provide training and resources to suppliers to help raise standards. Our Partners regularly visit farms, growers and fisheries and work closely with our suppliers to ensure they meet our expectations on worker welfare. Through the Waitrose Farm Assessment and the Livestock Worker Welfare Programme we monitor conditions at farm level, share Waitrose & Partners values, ensure compliance and reward best practice.
We also work with organisations in key sourcing countries such as the Spanish Ethical Trade Forum (Spain), Issarra Institute (Thailand) and Stronger Together (UK, Spain and South Africa). More than 450 staff at our supplier sites have now completed Stronger Together’s modern slavery training.
WISE risk assessments
The seasonal nature of fresh produce, such as vegetables, fruit, flowers, fish, meat and poultry, means at peak times, farmers often rely on seasonal and migrant workers. We know these workers can be vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.
To address this, we have worked with Hull University’s Wilberforce Institute on Slavery and Emancipation (WISE) since 2015 to evaluate our supply chain and areas of highest risk.
WISE have now assessed the risk of modern-day slavery at more than 35 high-risk sites supplying Waitrose & Partners with produce from the UK, Spain, Italy, Peru and Chile. Their findings help strengthen our policies, improve protection for workers and raise awareness among suppliers.
Giving workers a voice
At Waitrose & Partners, every Partner has a say in how our business is run. We believe that when workers and management engage effectively to share ideas and discuss issues, their welfare improves.
One example of promoting worker voice is the Waitrose & Partners Foundation which launched in 2005 to help improve the lives of workers and their communities within our supply chain.
Every time you buy produce from the Foundation range, a proportion of the sales are invested back into the communities that grow, pick and pack it. Locally-elected worker committees decide the best ways to spend this money on projects that benefit local lives the most.
Shop the range from Waitrose & Partners Foundation
We are transparent and accountable
Running a global supply chain is complex, but we always try to do right by those who work for us, and with us. To improve transparency and traceability along our supply chain, we publish a list of factories that manufacture or pack our products around the world, known as Tier 1 sites.
Our annual Modern Slavery Statement highlights what we are doing to prevent abuse and protect those in our supply chain from being exploited.