John Lewis Case Study: Safeguarding its ethical supply chain with ‘Lighthouse Ethical Trade’ software
The Client: John Lewis
John Lewis is the UK’s largest department store retailer with a total of 43 stores across the country. Each of its 90,000 permanent staff is a partner in the business which operates in an open, fair and transparent way. Its ethos is to operate with integrity and to build customer relationships based on honesty and respect. These same principles underpin a commitment to monitor its supply chain practices to ensure it sources and trades in an ethical way that contributes to the wellbeing of the communities where it operates.
The Challenge: Accelerate reporting and improve visibility of factories across its supply chains
John Lewis sells over 350,000 product lines across 50 different product categories sourced from more than 50 countries and as a socially responsible retailer the subject of working conditions is one that it takes very seriously and expects its suppliers not only to obey the law, but also to respect the rights, interests and well-being of their employees, their communities and the environment.
The John Lewis Code of Practice on Responsible Sourcing sets out in detail the standards that it expects its suppliers to meet on labour standards, the environment and animal welfare. The Code reflects International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions and national law in sourcing countries. John Lewis expects all its own brand suppliers to make a firm commitment towards the requirements of this Code regardless of the products they supply us or the country that they manufacture in. This ensures a consistency is applied across its whole supply base.
John Lewis is also a member of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), a leading alliance of companies, trade unions and NGO’s that promote workers’ rights around the globe. This means John Lewis must follow strict guidelines and be able to easily validate that the suppliers and factories it uses are operating in line with ETI base code and submit annual reports.
With its large and complex global supply base, John Lewis recognised that many of its existing methods for recording and monitoring ethical compliance in its supply chain were becoming too complicated. Furthermore, generating the reports required were becoming too labour intensive due to an over dependence on paper processes, such as spreadsheets which also needed strict version control and would quickly become out of date.
In addition, a newly developed ‘Audit Grading’ process had been designed to identify the issues that may exist within its supply chain, to allow for the implementation of suitable remediation programmes. The data generated then feeds into the Buying teams to allow for responsible purchasing decisions to be made. A system was needed to support the implementation of this new process to make it simple.
Considering these factors as well as the increasing pressure on retailers to not only operate responsibly but also easily verify its ethical supply chain practices, John Lewis embarked on a supply chain project to purchase a system that could provide them with improved visibility and management of factory audits as well as speed up management reporting and analysis.
John Lewis needed a system that would provide the business with the most up-to-date and accurate picture of its ethical compliance all the way back to its source factories. To do this it needed to have visibility of all of the suppliers and associated factories involved in its supply chain, along with details of audits that take place and the results of risk assessments carried out by internal teams or third parties.
Relevant partners within the business, anywhere in the world, would also need easy access to share and input information so vital information is always in one place.
Along with needing improved visibility of factory audits and more efficient reporting, John Lewis needed an efficient way of prioritising and managing corrective action plans based on audit results so they could continually improve and build on relationships throughout the supply chain.
As a result, John Lewis investigated what out-of-the-box software solutions were available to the retail market. It needed an affordable and trusted solution that could be implemented quickly. The chosen solution also needed to be adaptable in order to include existing and possible future requirements without the need to pay expensive license fees or be locked into lengthy contracts.
The Solution: ediTRACK’s Lighthouse Ethical Trade Software Product
ediTRACK was chosen due to its reputation in being a trusted Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) provider to the retail industry. Its ethical compliance and tracking module ‘Lighthouse Ethical Trade’ was also being used by many existing members of the ETI. Lighthouse is a modular product that covers the end-to-end supply chain. It is based on best practice as a result of ediTRACK working collaboratively with its retail clients.
Lighthouse Ethical Trade was a perfect fit as it could be implemented quickly with minimal upfront cost including configuration and the importing of existing data. It was affordable due to its ongoing cost being comprised of monthly subscription payments based on John Lewis’s specific usage. In addition it’s designed to be intuitive so John Lewis could be up and running quickly with minimal training.
Being web-based it is easily accessible to sourcing offices and partners via logons which are managed by the central team at John Lewis. Lighthouse holds a database of all suppliers, factories and sub contracting factories, along with details of product types and complex relationships between them. It provides alerts for when factories are due for audit and John Lewis now has complete visibility of its suppliers and their factory audit results so it can act quickly to rectify any non compliances.
Grading suppliers is simple to manage as each factory is assessed and given a relevant ‘Audit Profile’ to determine the level of audit required. Factories are then audited and measured against a number of factors including the ETI’s base codes. In doing so each factory is given a risk rating in line with John Lewis’s audit grading and classification process, which is then made available to buying teams, so informed responsible purchase decisions can be made.
If non compliances are found during audits, they are managed via ‘Corrective Action Plans’ (CAP’s) within Lighthouse so that John Lewis can easily keep track, manage and progress tasks. There is also an ‘Improvement Programme’ tool within Lighthouse that can be used to manage more specific and strategic projects to improve potential areas of concern that may fall outside the structured audit process.
Today, John Lewis can see the ethical status of its supply chain in a few mouse clicks. Dashboards show a workflow of tasks required by urgency and dynamic reporting tools enable management to see the status of all its factories. The reporting wizard enables reports to be easily set up that can be run instantly which has significantly reduced the time required to collate reports for internal management meetings and external ETI assessments.
“The time it takes to compile reports has been significantly reduced; a report which used to take five whole days to complete is now accomplished within a single day!” Sam Brown, Responsible Sourcing Co-ordinator – John Lewis.
Using Lighthouse Ethical Trade has had a positive impact on productivity and assists John Lewis in safeguarding its ethical supply chain practices. This can be attributed to the added efficiency of improved communications, increased visibility of information and automated alerting and reporting.