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Article

Commentary: Human Rights Due Diligence - Tesco's Journey

24 May 2021

Tesco is a proud member of The Consumer Goods Forum’s Human Rights Coalition — Working to End Forced Labour (HRC)... [T]he Coalition has now released its first strategic document: the HRC Maturity Journey Framework for Forced Labour-focused Human Rights Due Diligence (HRDD) in Own Operations. Tesco has an existing HRDD approach — and we want to share how and why this has been an important tool in ensuring we respect human rights...

[W]hile there is growing momentum in support of employing mandatory HRDD in consumer goods’ supply chains — such as the existing French “Duty of Vigilance” law and proposed European Union legislation, which we welcome — coverage in companies’ own operations has often been less of a priority due to a misconception that own operations pose less risk. 

We believe that own operations can remain a high-risk area for human rights violations, which is one reason why the HRC’s commitment to achieve 100% HRDD coverage in members’ own operations is so important. If we are going to ask our suppliers to prioritise human rights in their business activities, we should be able to do the same in ours. For Tesco, we define ‘own operations’ as the labour, goods and services used within our own business and subsidiaries. It includes agency workers, security guards and cleaners, all the way to the sourcing of our shopping trolleys and reusable plastic bags – the HRC Framework offers a useful, more detailed definition...

Historically, we primarily sought to address human rights issues through ethical audits of our direct supplying sites. This approach did have its challenges firstly, audits do not always identify hidden or systemic drivers of issues such as modern slavery. Secondly, the most serious risks of human rights abuses often tend to occur in businesses further down the supply chain where we, as a retailer, do not have direct commercial relationships. As a result, our leverage to instigate change can be more limited.

In 2018, in consultation with over 50 key internal and external stakeholders and in line with the UNGPs, we developed a broader HRDD approach to cover both our supply chains and our own operations... Our established programme is actively deployed in priority regions and supply chains, for forced labour this includes the UK and Southeast Asia and our Poultry and Seafood supply chains. The programme is implemented by our team of over 40 responsible sourcing specialists based across nine key sourcing countries, increasing our ability to find out about local concerns, through dialogue with a range of stakeholders, ensuring our approach continues to reflect changing risks...

We believe the actions of the private sector would be further strengthened by the introduction of well-designed mandatory HRDD legislation, which we continue to advocate for. Another important step is aligning on best practices and transparency expectations, which the HRC Framework clearly lays out...