As a retail business we supply goods and deliver services to millions of customers.  We source products from all over the world, operate in hundreds of different communities across the UK, and provide direct employment to 91,5001 people. This reach means that a wide range of social and environmental impacts - also known as material issues - are relevant to our business. 

What Are Material Issues?

Material issues are those factors that could impact the business in the short, medium or long-term and which are of importance to our stakeholders.

How Did We Identify Our Material Issues?

Our materiality process, which began in 2014, has enabled us to prioritise the issues that are most important to our business and to plan and invest accordingly.  We worked with consultants EY to design a process that would allow us from the outset to engage Partners across the business in capturing issues of concern and to apply a structured method to quantify the relative importance of the issues.

The process involved an analysis of our operating environment and our business model combined with interviews with senior managers across the business.  This was followed by a consolidation exercise into cross-cutting key issues.  The outcome of this was a long list of issues which were scored in divisional workshops using four lenses:

  • Customers: Relevance of issue to purchasing patterns of our customers
  • Stakeholders: Interest amongst other stakeholders and Partners in issue and impact of issue on our reputation
  • Commercial: Impact of management of issue on our operational or commercial performance
  • Future Impact: ‘Horizon scanning’ to identify whether issues are likely to increase in or decrease in importance and assessment of their likely impact.

The output was then validated through stakeholder interviews (representing suppliers, NGOs, Community organisations, Government, Industry and Trade Associations and Partners) in order to obtain feedback on their current understanding of material issues.

Our material issues infographic
The materiality infographic lists our material issues as follows: - Our Partners: Pay, Performance, Productivity, Progression, Inclusive Ownership, Health and Wellbeing - Our Customers: Healthy lifestyles, Safe products - Our Communities: Community involvement and charity support - Sourcing responsibly: Human rights, Raw materials, Animal welfare, Sustainable farming, Fair trade terms, Buying British, Security of supply, Responsible aquaculture and fisheries - Our Environment: Operational emissions, Waste

1As at April 2016.