Human Rights

Respecting human rights is relevant across every aspect of our operations. Behind every product we sell is a large number of workers.  As a retailer we source over 400,000 products from over 50 countries, which means we have a wide-ranging impact.  As we grow our business and predict and respond to external trends we must stay true to the commitments set out in our Constitution and strive to uphold the rights of these people.


Reviewing Our Impacts

In 2015, we completed a detailed review of our approach to human rights.  We drew upon stakeholder insight, the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) and a detailed analysis of our potential business impacts.  A key part of this work has been the development of our strategic plan for the Ethical Trading Initiative.  This focuses on human rights and labour standards in our product supply chains.


Framing Our Activity

We are committed to the UNGPs, which provide a framework to help us understand our impacts and focus our activity in the complex retail landscape.  This year, we have provided a more detailed report based on the UNGP Reporting Framework.  The report covers our responsibilities to our Partners, customers and supply chain.  Given the complexity of retail supply chains and challenges this brings we have focused much of the report on this group of rights holders. A key part of the strategy is respecting the rights of vulnerable workers such as migrant and seasonal workers in our supply chain - we know that they are at particular risk of forced labour and human trafficking. Our Human Rights report outlines our work in this area for the John Lewis Partnership including our two trading divisions Waitrose and John Lewis.


sourcing responsibly-human-rights-suppliers

Engaging Stakeholders



We have shared our strategies with a wide range of suppliers setting out our expectations and looking for collaborative opportunities. For example, at our Waitrose supplier conferences, Waitrose’s Commercial Director emphasised the Company’s responsible sourcing priorities. We have also provided advice to suppliers on how they can improve their ethical trading plans.

Rights Holders

Hearing from those people whose rights we are working to uphold is essential if our strategies and programmes are to be successful. We receive formal and informal feedback from Partners through our democratic structure, Registry function, in-house journalism and Partner survey. Our customers provide feedback regularly through our customer service function. We are committed to championing the principles of worker engagement through our supply chains, and worker feedback is an integral part of our supply chain programmes as set out in this Report.


In November 2015, we held a stakeholder breakfast to discuss our analysis and strategic priorities. Participants included Oxfam, Christian Aid, CAFOD, BT, Unilever and the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, among others. We used the feedback from these groups to refine our strategy and feed into our programme development. A key piece of insight was the link between worker engagement and vulnerable workers. It is important that any worker engagement mechanisms ensure that the most vulnerable workers are represented and do not reinforce any hierarchies that may exist in the workplace and community at large.


Through our work with organisations like the ETI, we contribute to collaborative projects which are driving improvements for workers across our supply chains.

Thought leadership

We have shared our strategy and reporting approach on public platforms, such as the annual ETI conference. We were also interviewed as part of the recent ETI/Ashridge University research into modern slavery.  The report can be downloaded from the Ethical Trading website (PDF 880KB).