Ethical retail supply chains: our top five
In a consumer market that increasingly favours ethically sound companies and products, hundreds of retailers have put ethical processes and systems in place in their supply chains – some to a greater extent than others. In light of the launch of our Ethical Trade software module we took a look at 2013’s stand out ethical supply chains.
M&S had ethical processes in place far before it became ‘fashionable’ or commonplace; in 1999, in partnership with their suppliers, it set out requirements for suppliers to comply with all relevant local and national laws, particularly regarding working hours and conditions, health and safety, rates of pay, terms of employment and minimum age of employment.
M&S encourages and supports its suppliers to improve working conditions in line with Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) standards. It does this through a combination of internal, third- party and self audits to assess supplier performance, the results of which are reported in detail to the ETI. It also performs excellently on the environmental front; in 2012 it sent zero waste to landfill.
2013 highlight: The success of its recycling partnership with Oxfam which resells, reuses and recycles unwanted clothes in order to support people living in poverty.
UK-based handmade cosmetics company Lush has over 800 stores worldwide, uses factories in more than 40 countries and saw sales of £321m in 2010/11. It’s no surprise that Lush is often cited as example of why ethical supply chains and financial success aren’t mutually exclusive.
Lush describes its ethical sourcing approach as “creative buying” – it looks beyond lowest price and bottom line, and sources safe, quality, ethically sound ingredients and processes in accordance with its ethical policy. For example, it purchases coconut oil from fairly traded coconuts grown by locals from the Hinako islands, off the coast of Indonesia. Profits gained from the oil fund a ‘Coconut Kids Club’ school for the islanders, and also provide valuable income to people affected by tsunamis, earthquakes and tropical storms.
3. New Look
New Look’s ethical strategy is keeping workers in its supply chain safe and improving the quality of their jobs. It requires all its suppliers to sign up to its Ethical Aims (based on the ETI base code), and supports them in fulfilling every objective. New Look’s first phase of ‘Factory Improvement Programme’, has helped the company’s factories to increase productivity and limit absenteeism and turnover, with a particularly positive shift in some of the factory owners’ mind-sets. Elements of its approach include on-site Human Rights programs, training to raise health and safety awareness, and ways to improve management-worker relationships. It also has a strong policy on animal welfare; it immediately suspended production of angora products following the recent angora farming scandal while it ensured its suppliers weren’t implicated. View its most recent ethical trade report here.
- Partnered with The Prince’s Trust in a special fundraising scheme to help change the lives of disadvantaged young people.
- Came top of Ethical Consumer’s buyer’s guide rankings.
ASOS is committed to maintaining high ethical standards, and strives to keep its suppliers and factories well managed and socially and ethically responsible. ASOS believes that for suppliers to become more efficient they need to invest in the safety and welfare of their workforce, and with the aid of Ethical Trade software, ASOS actively helps them to identify ways to do this. Its corporate responsibility programme ‘Fashion with Integrity’ embeds sustainable working practices at all levels throughout the company. In an effort to further reduce the environmental impact of its supply chain ASOS joined the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP).
2013 highlight: Introduced ‘signposting’ images for all products with a social or environmental benefit in order to promote sustainable fashion to its customers, and to help its buying team to choose sustainable fashion items for future season clothing lines.
Monsoon is a founding member of the ETI, and requires all of its suppliers to commit to The Monsoon Accessorize Code of Conduct, which is based on ETI standards. It enforces minimum requirements relating to working conditions, pay and employment rights, arranging regular audits (some unannounced) and working closely with suppliers to help them improve and monitor progress.
It’s incredibly hands-on with production and procurement, reaching out past the factories to assist the craftspeople who help create some of its products, often in homes and villages. It supports SEWA, India’s Self Employed Women’s Association, to set up embroidery centres and community programmes in Delhi and Bareilly in North India.
2013 highlight: Partnered with tsunami orphans Rob and Paul Forkan to sell their range of flip-flops, with a percentage of the proceeds to go to Sri Lankan charities.