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Responding department: Corporate Affairs (with additional input from Commercial, Personal)

Stock exchange symbol: (TSCO:LN)

Does your company have a publicly available commitment to respect human rights?

Link to our current ‘stand-alone’ Human Rights policy: [link]

Our approach to Human Rights is also referenced in the below documents:

  • Annual Report 2013/14 (page 19): [link]
  • Our Ethical Trading Approach (including the ETI base code): [link]
  • Our Code of Business Conduct (to be updated soon): [link]
  • Our diversity statement: [link] 

How are human rights governed in your company?

Our core company value is: 'We treat people how they want to be treated'. This is central to how we treat our colleagues, customers, communities and people within our supply chains. [link]

Ultimately our CEO is accountable for human rights through the Compliance and Social Responsibility (SR) Committees, both of which he chairs. On a day to day basis, responsibility is integrated into the operational areas most relevant: Personnel (for our own employees), Commercial (for human rights in our supply chain) and Corporate Affairs (overview of human rights impacts across the business). An Employment Group, chaired by our UK Personnel Director and including the Responsible Sourcing Director within Commercial, also meets every eight weeks to ensure oversight of a range of human rights issues in our supply chain and among our colleagues.

How are human rights managed within your company?

Within our supply chains we start by assessing all of our own brand manufacturers, packers and service providers using Sedex risk assessment questionnaires. These help us identify suppliers that might pose particular risks due to where they are located, the type of work they do and the composition of their workforce, for example whether they directly recruited locally or through intermediaries, potentially from abroad. Information from these questionnaires is supplemented by and cross-referenced with the knowledge from our own ethical and technical specialists based in sourcing Hubs around the world. All sites assessed as medium or high risk (for example, all Asian clothing factories) are then visited either by our in-house ethical experts or independent auditors we have approved as competent. Any non-compliances identified through these audits must then be addressed, with any issues we rank as critical addressed immediately. Our experts also seek to assess management commitment, competence and transparency at sites, and to support improvement efforts, such as through the creation of corrective action plans which can then be monitored. In addition we are increasingly starting to look deeper into our supply chains to assess if there are unacceptable practices in lower tier operations such as farms, abattoirs and spinning mills.

To enable meaningful and effective management of our ethical trading programme, we have continued to grow our global team of in-house labour standards experts, which now numbers 55 and includes locally based experts in the following countries: Bangladesh, Cambodia, China (north and south), Costa Rica, India, Pakistan, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey and the UK. They work alongside technical and commercial colleagues within our global sourcing Hubs with an independent reporting line to the Responsible Sourcing Director and give us an unrivalled ability to understand human rights challenges in our key supply chains, identify suppliers committed to meeting our standards, support improvement where problems are found, and maintain an ongoing dialogue with external stakeholders to both understand sector risks and collaborate in industry-wide improvement efforts. All of our commercial and technical colleagues also attend a one-day ethical trading awareness course within six months of joining Tesco. In terms of raising the issue with business partners, ethical trading forms part of our standard Terms & Conditions of trade. In addition, we issue all own brand suppliers with a ‘Tesco Ethical Trading Requirements’ document, supplemented with access to our ‘Ethical Trading Guidance Website’ and other induction meetings and materials. We track the effectiveness of our actions with monthly reporting of all suppliers with regards to whether they have had an audit (if required) and whether they have addressed the issues raised. In regards to our colleagues, our established ‘Protector Line’ provides a secure channel for them to report suspected breaches of our code of business conduct or internal company policies. Feedback is then reported to the Executive. A formal and robust grievance and disciplinary process is in place. We also provide a variety of listening mechanisms to prevent any negative human rights impacts, including social media forums, our annual colleague survey, on-site personnel managers and regular review mechanisms.

What is the company’s approach to the engagement of stakeholders (including workers, and local communities impacted by the company’s activities), on human rights issues?

We are active members, sponsors or participants in several multi-stakeholder initiatives that work with supply chains to identify and address issues. In other cases we form bilateral agreements with relevant organisations. For example:

  • The Ethical Trading Initiative, which (in addition to general membership activity) has several active programmes in which we are participating, for example Tamil Nadu (Southern India), Bangladesh and Africa: [link]
  • The Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety: [link]
  • The Global Social Compliance Programme: [link]
  • The World Banana Forum: [link]
  • Project Issara (Anti-Slavery International): [link] 
  • UNICEF and the Ethical Tea Partnership: [link]
  • Working with Community the Union on issues in the UK garment sector: [link]
  • Sustainability Initiative of South Africa (SIZA): [link]
  • Stronger Together initiative to combat human trafficking and slavery in the UK: [link]
  • In addition we have presented at the UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association (UKSIF) [link] , at the UK Parliament, had regular dialogue with the NGO Unseen and engaged the UK Government regarding the Modern Slavery Bill.

Internally we have a Diversity and Inclusion Steering Group which is chaired by a UK Board member and includes representatives from across the business. We work with this Group to obtain engagement across the business for diversity and inclusion initiatives. We recently identified a need to improve our approach to maternity and so engaged an external research company to interview colleagues, line managers and business leaders to understand their views on what was important to them and how we could make this better. We have recently launched new products, tools and materials as a result.

Priority human rights issues: What are some of the priority human rights issues for your company?

The company selected the following from a check list:

  • Health (including environmental health, workplace health & safety)
  • Workplace  diversity / non-discrimination
  • Forced labour and human trafficking (including in supply chains)
  • Operations in  conflict zones
  • Sexual harassment
  • Housing
  • Freedom of association and trade union rights
  • Freedom of expression and/or right to  privacy / digital rights
  • Transparency in payments to governments / responsible tax practices
  • Product Misuse
  • Women
  • Children (including child  labour)
  • Indigenous peoples
  • Migrant workers


Actions on workplace diversity / non-discrimination

An example from within our own operations are our colleague-driven networks, including our Asian Network, Women in Business, ABC (African, Black, Caribbean) and Out at Tesco (LGBT Network), which are supported by Tesco both financially and in terms of business support. We also have a partnership with Remploy and The Shaw trust and work closely with Job Centre Plus to recruit and support colleagues with disabilities. We are accredited with the ‘Two Ticks’ Symbol by Job Centre Plus in reflection of this.

Actions on forced labour and human trafficking

In June 2014 shocking accounts emerged of slavery in the Thai fishing industry, an industry which provides fish as a component of the feed used to cultivate prawns in our supply chain and the supply chain of all those sourcing Thai prawns. It would have been possible to switch our supply but we decided not simply to walk away from the problem, but rather to use our scale and influence to ensure a long-term fully-developed solution to it. We have sought to work in collaboration with the International Labour Organisation (ILO), leading NGOs and others to bring about change. We have been using our local experts to map all the major fishing ports in Thailand by volume, fish type, boat type and method of catch so that we can assess the risk of each port and develop clear action plans. We are auditing all of the shrimp feed mills involved in the supply base and their associated supply chains to test their traceability and transparency. In addition our suppliers have confirmed they already now have full traceability for our supply down to registered boats for all the fishmeal used in their prawn ponds. The work we are now undertaking is to ensure that traceability is watertight and to verify the status of the people and the conditions on those boats. Some of the challenges we face are industry-wide and will require significant external support to ensure changes are sustained. But stakeholders, including a number of NGOs, have recognised that our commitment is industry-leading and are supportive of our approach. By tackling this problem head-on we intend to achieve our commitment of moving (with our suppliers) to a long-term, fully traceable, 100% certified, slavery free source of fishmeal as soon as possible.

How are human rights commitments and information about how the company addresses its human rights impacts communicated, internally and externally?

In addition to discussing human rights in our Annual Report 2013/14 (page 19), we have a comprehensive Code of Business Conduct in place supported by an e-learning programme that all colleagues must complete. The Code sets out our key policies and principles at Group and local level, helping colleagues understand what behaviour is expected of them and to ask questions and speak up when they need to. Our Code is crucial to fostering a culture where colleagues not only comply with the law but are also committed to doing the right thing. We are confident that it is a clear and relevant guide, which covers the key issues that all our stakeholders, including customers, colleagues, suppliers and investors, expect us to address. Like all our policies, the Code is subject to regular evaluation and we therefore expect to conduct a thorough review in the year ahead. We also publish periodic updates about specific human rights issues on our website, for example an incident regarding slavery in the Thai fishing industry: [link]

What provisions does your company have in place to ensure that grievances from workers and affected communities or individuals are heard, and can you provide examples of remedies provided?

As mentioned in Answer 3, our colleague Protector Line ensures that any concerns, such as dishonest activity or a criminal offence, can be raised effectively and confidentially. We have a robust grievance procedure which ensures that all colleague concerns are investigated fairly. Examples of remedies provided include the training of managers, provision of coaching or dismissal from the business. We also have a Partnership Agreement with USDAW, the key union to which our colleagues belong, which ensures a constructive working relationship. All ethical experts we use to assess conditions at suppliers’ sites, whether internal or external, are trained in confidential worker interviewing and also leave contact details for any confidential concerns to be raised privately, at the time or subsequently. Contacts through these channels over the past year have, for example, led to unannounced visits from our own experts leading themselves to improvements in working and dormitory conditions, and to liaison with, and investigation by, relevant authorities such as an instance involving the UK Home Office and Gangmasters Licensing Authority to verify no practice of modern slavery.

Which external and collaborative human rights initiatives does your company participate in, and what is the nature of your involvement?

Please see section 4. Our Personnel team are also members of various forums/ organisations such as Opportunity Now (the gender-focused arm of Business in the Community), Business Disability Forum, Stonewall and the Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion.

Which are the key one, two or three elements of your approach to human rights that been developed or amended since June 2011? Please indicate if these actions were in response to the UN Guiding Principles.

We have continued to grow our global team of in-house labour standards experts, which now numbers 55 and includes locally based experts in the following countries: Bangladesh, Cambodia, China (north and south), Costa Rica, India, Pakistan, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey and the UK. The principles of “protect, respect, remedy” are part of our daily approach to issues and frequently referred to, particular in projects with MSIs. We also partnered John Ruggie’s team (the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative on business & human rights) in piloting the use of grievance mechanisms in South Africa, which we have subsequently been rolling out more widely in our supply chain: [link]

Furthermore we are in the process of developing a global Employment Code which will not only define a set of standards for use throughout the Tesco operation, but will provide a robust measurement tool and portfolio of evidence, which can be used by each business format to develop a five year plan for progress. We are also currently reviewing our human rights policy and will publish a new one later this year.

What are some of the obstacles and challenges that your company encounters in implementing its human rights commitments?

There are various challenges across the world due to differing approaches to regulation and enforcement of the law, which in many instances is due to a limited capacity or capability of governments to enforce the rule of law across its geographies. Combined with increasing fragility of employment in some countries (increased use of migrant, seasonal and agency labour), this increases the needs for us both to grow our own internal capability to monitor supply chain working conditions and support improvement, and to collaborate with other organisations (businesses, unions, NGOs and others) to help drive sector improvement where the efforts of individual players will not be sufficient. Where appropriate, we also seek to engage positively with governments, generally collectively rather than as an individual organisation, to lobby for and support their efforts to meet their own responsibilities under the Ruggie framework to protect human rights.