Human rights

Our Founder, John Spedan Lewis, instilled a culture in the Partnership of acting with courtesy and kindness. This extends not only to our co-owners, but to all those with whom we interact. Our approach to tackling modern slavery is influenced by these business values. It forms part of our broader human rights strategy which ensures we work with suppliers to raise labour standards, improve working conditions and create fairly rewarded employment.

Front cover of John Lewis Partnership Human Rights progress report 2016-17

Our 2017 Human Rights and Modern Slavery report provides an update on progress against our plans. It shares information about the issues and challenges we have faced over the course of 2016/17, and exceeds the requirements of the Transparency in Supply Chains clause of the Modern Slavery Act.

The report focuses on workers in our supply chains - both in our Goods for Resale (GFR) and Goods Not for Resale (GNFR). The global nature of our supply chains and the diversity of products and services that we use and sell, means that this is where the greatest complexity and risks lie. Our strategy and programmes address the most salient issues faced by workers and are delivered in those areas where we can have the greatest impact.

We are committed to providing greater transparency of manufacturing supply chains. In support of this commitment, in August 2017, John Lewis released the names and addresses of the factories supplying  own brand clothing, accessories, footwear and homewares. 

This transparency strengthens our human rights due diligence and better enables us to collaborate with civil society in identifying, assessing, and avoiding actual or potential adverse human rights impacts. The list will be reviewed and updated every six months to ensure it reflects the current supply base. 


Worker engagement workshop in China

Our projects and programmes address the most salient issues in our supply chains. Below are two examples of projects that we progressed in 2016/17. Further examples are outlined in our Human Rights and Modern Slavery Progress Report 2016/17 (PDF 1.6MB).

John Lewis addresses worker engagement in China

John Lewis sources from 780 factories in China. Through our auditing programme and our work in-country, we know that workers don't always have effective communication channels to express opinions and positively influence working conditions. Low levels of engagement can compound poor productivity rates and increase absenteeism and staff turnover. We have partnered with Impactt, an expert ethical trade consultancy to deliver a pilot programme that aims to build managers' confidence in bringing workers together to address specific workplace concerns and build the foundations for meaningful and sustainable communication. The pilot involves training for managers on effective engagement followed by workshops which gather insights from workers about current communication channels in the factory and actions that could improve their experience of being at work.

Once the pilot is completed we will review progress with our factories to evaluate the improvements needed and monitor the impacts with a longer term view to scaling this project up across our supply base in China.

Workers in processing factory washing bananas - image by Fran Afonso

Waitrose partnership with Fairtrade Foundation  

In 2015 we entered into a strategic partnership with the Fairtrade Foundation through which we hope to increase the breadth and depth of the positive impact on worker welfare and livelihoods across our respective networks. One of the four focus areas of this partnership is to tackle salient issues within Waitrose's Fairtrade supply chains. Specifically we are investigating how worker wages on banana plantations in the Dominican Republic can be improved so that by 2020 they are closer to living wage benchmarks.

Through on site engagement with exporters, managers, workers and association representatives on the issue of worker wages, Waitrose established a multi-stakeholder working group to discuss and understand the challenges and drive the programme forward. Independent research was commissioned to inform the programme and a workshop was held to identify specific recommendations and agree actions. Based on these insights we are developing a programme to tackle the systemic issues identified.