Our approach to human rights in our supply chain

Last updated: 08/11/2017

Why it matters

One of our business values is that we treat people how they want to be treated. We also believe that every little help can make a big difference. We want everyone who works for or with Tesco to have their human rights upheld and we know our customers, colleagues and suppliers do too.

Overall we believe our trade is a force for good, creating jobs and opportunities for people and communities across the world. But we also want those jobs to be good jobs. It is important that clear standards are upheld around issues such as working hours, health and safety, no child or forced labour, freedom of association and ensuring that discrimination does not take place. It is also important that where evidence of human rights abuses does occur we ensure it is addressed and those affected receive redress.

We recognise that labour rights violations in global supply chains can be systemic. Addressing them requires understanding the root causes and collaborating with suppliers, other retailers, trade unions, NGOs, governments and other industry experts. For example, both governments and businesses play an important role to ensure that small-scale producers are resilient and prosperous, can earn a living income, and receive a fair share of the value accumulated in food supply chains. Similarly, the most serious abuses as set out in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, including forced and child labour, can occur when workers’ rights fail to be protected and when trade unions are absent or weak due to restrictions on their activities.

In some countries, workers can experience in-work poverty even where legal minimum standards are complied with. Furthermore, across many countries women face additional barriers to decent work, due to unequal gender norms and their greater share of unpaid care work. Migrant workers are also particularly vulnerable to some of the worst forms of abuse, especially where they are working in a country illegally and therefore unwilling or unable to turn to legal authorities if they are being abused. We will continue to advocate and work in partnership with governments and other stakeholders to help overcome such systemic challenges within our supply chains.

As founding members of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), we have been taking action on these issues since 1998. We support our suppliers to comply with the ETI Base Code and seek to use our business for good, helping suppliers to improve, adding our weight to collaborative initiatives which improve conditions for workers across industries, and working with suppliers to provide support for communities linked to our supply chain facing human rights challenges.

Our approach

Tesco’s human rights programme is a core element of our promise to buy and sell our products responsibly. Our customers want to know that everything they buy is produced under decent conditions, and everyone involved is treated fairly.

We are committed to upholding human rights and fully support the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Labour Organization Core Conventions and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. We are also committed to reporting regularly on our work to uphold human rights in our supply chains. 

Historically we sought to address human rights issues primarily through an ethical audit programme of our direct supply base. However, this approach was limited, both because audits do not always identify hidden or systemic issues such as modern slavery, and because the most serious risks of human rights abuses tend to occur further down the supply chain where we don’t have direct commercial relationships. Our leverage to instigate change further down the supply chain through audits and compliance approaches is more limited.

Our work on human rights is fully integrated within Tesco's operations, forming a key part of our broader strategy for responsibility and sustainability. Its objectives and activities are integrated within lead Technical Manager objectives and within the overall technical plan, as well as within individual commercial category plans. These are delivered by a wide range of commercial staff and overseen by a specialist responsible sourcing team, including dedicated local staff in 11 key supplying countries. Our human rights work is led by Giles Bolton, Group Responsible Sourcing Director who reports to Jason Tarry, Chief Product Officer who is responsible for product sourcing across all retail businesses. On a day-to-day basis, colleagues in our procurement teams manage supplier and site relationships, and ethical requirements with the support of Responsible Sourcing Managers. All UK Buying Managers, Technical Managers and Procurement Managers are required to attend internal Responsible Sourcing training.

Oversight of our human rights work sits with the Board’s Corporate Responsibility Committee for all markets and subsidiaries. Executive oversight sits with the Group Compliance Committee, led by the Group CEO.

While our work is most developed in the supply chain for our UK business, this update covers our approach to human rights issues across Tesco’s retail businesses.

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