In a recent communication to its agricultural suppliers, Waitrose declared the issue of Modern Slavery “not only a horrific affront to basic human dignity, but a huge risk to all our businesses.”
In a pioneering attempt to tackle the risk of hidden labour abuses in its supply chains, Waitrose & Partners, along with sister business John Lewis & Partners, and parent company The John Lewis Partnership, have established a Responsible Sourcing Code of Practice, encouraging suppliers to make a concerted effort to look out for signs of exploitation.
According to the International Labour Organisation, the combined industries of farming, agriculture and fishing make up the fourth highest percentage prevalence of Modern Slavery and exploitation.
Waitrose has been working with its suppliers from the agriculture industry to raise awareness of the risks associated with large numbers of seasonal workers, which can make it particularly difficult to interpret people’s behaviour when looking for signs of exploitation.
Waitrose is keen to highlight the way in which media coverage is often unforgiving when cases of labour abuse are exposed – even if the businesses involved have not sanctioned illicit practices.
As part of their most recent campaign to raise awareness, suppliers have been requested to watch a 16-minute video created by Sam Ludlow Taylor, Ethical Trade Manager at Waitrose, which includes interviews, statistics and photographs documenting the rise of Modern Slavery cases in the UK.
Once suppliers have watched the video, they are requested to fill in a self-assessment questionnaire which aims to establish levels of risk and identify the need for further support and training based on data collected on the Authenticate platform.
Taking a proactive stance towards securing their own supply chains, Waitrose is offering trading partners voluntary training workshops provided by 3rd party organisations.
Training will be provided by leading anti-slavery charity Stronger Together and the Responsible Recruitment Toolkit, which aligns ethical labour practices with the achievement of commercial goals to benefit businesses and workers alike.