Raw materials

We depend on the world’s natural resources for the 380,000 different product lines we source and sell each year.  Our commitment is to put controls in place to ensure that raw materials are sourced in ways that protect and enhance local ecosystems, and improve the livelihoods of the people in our supply chains.

In order to understand the impact of the key raw materials in our own-brand products, we are committed to tracing them back to source. Many of these contain commodities such as leather, palm oil, soy, timber and paper.  These have wide ranging environmental and social risks associated with their extraction and production.  As a consequence, we are continually working with our buyers and suppliers to ensure that we have traceable and well-managed supply chains.  This enables us to source products in a way that does not harm ecosystems and that respects human rights.

Target Progress
100% of our own brand timber and paper products will be from responsible and sustainable sources by year end 2020/21.

38%* of material sources are responsible and sustainable.  When calculated by volume of sales, this equates to 32%1*. See our policy (PDF 664KB) for further detail.

By year end 2020/21 50% of cotton (by volume) in own-brand products will come from more sustainable sources. 3%*.  We expect significant progress over the coming year, in particular as a number of our high volume suppliers have agreed to switch their sources over to more sustainable sources in our product ranges.

*We engaged KPMG LLP to undertake an independent limited assurance engagement, reporting to the Partnership, over selected information

In order to understand the impact the materials in our products have, we need to understand where they come from in the first place. For this reason, we are committed to tracing key raw materials back to source.

Timber and paper

Our target is to ensure 100% of the timber and paper used in our own-brand products comes from responsible and sustainable sources (as defined by our policy (PDF 664KB) by year end 2020/21.

We have completed a significant supply chain mapping exercise on over 500 different timber sources and their supply chains. For the majority of sources, we have been able to establish a supply route back to country of origin

Lumberjack cutting timber

We assess each source against the criteria of our policy and continually evaluate the information provided. This mapping work is helping us to better understand where our risks and opportunities lie, and to focus our efforts accordingly. 38% of these sources are responsible and sustainable. When calculated by volume of sales, this equates to 32%1. Although there is still work to be done, we are pleased with the progress we are making towards our target. This progress is as a result of an increase in the ability of our suppliers to provide us with more detailed information about their supply chains than in previous years. 

We have also increased our capacity to support and assess our suppliers. In particular, this year we have introduced a programme for auditing and species testing. This has added to the robustness of our due diligence procedures. It has also provided us with valuable insights, which we have been able to share with both our suppliers and buyers to support sourcing decisions.

1This year fitted furniture has been excluded from our reporting scope. 

Better Cotton Initiative logo


Cotton is one of the most significant raw materials we use, both in terms of volume and the environmental and social risks associated with it.

Last year we set a target that 50% of our cotton would come from more sustainable sources by the end of 2020/21. So far, we have been able to verify that 3%* of our cotton is from more sustainable2 sources, either through the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) or the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). This is just the start of our journey. We expect significant progress over the coming year, in particular as we focus on our Home ranges which comprise the biggest volumes and a number of suppliers of these ranges have agreed to switch to more sustainable sources. In addition to our supplier engagement programmes, we are also involved in a number of projects to support the expansion of sustainable cotton practices.

Women at a soil report meeting from the BCI project on farmer training
In 2016, our Better Cotton Initiative membership fees funded a farmer training project in Maharashra, India.

Since 2011, the John Lewis Foundation (JLF) has worked with CottonConnect, on several initiatives to transform the lives of cotton farmers and communities and helping them to develop more sustainable cotton supply chains. The first programme supported by the JLF was in Gujarat, India where 1,500 farmers were trained on sustainable growing methods over a three-year period. In 2016 the programme came to an end having achieved some great results. Over five years, farmers saw a reduction in water-use, pesticides and fertilizers, as well as a growth in yields and profits in comparison to those who did not receive the training. JLF also funded the provision of 750 vermicompost units, providing a nutrient-rich organic fertiliser and soil conditioner to further improve growing conditions.

In 2016, our Better Cotton Initiative membership fees funded a farmer training project in Maharashra, India. This equipped women farmers with the skills and tools needed to support their livelihoods through sustainable farming methods. The three-year project aims to train and support more than 1,500 women farmers in the region.

In 2017 the JLF is funding a new three-year training programme with cotton farmers in Xinjiang, China. This will support 200 Uyghur Farmers in the region, building their knowledge and skills, both economically and sustainably, and supporting them to create opportunities as entrepreneurs within their communities. Find out more about the Foundation.

2This includes Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) and Organic including Global Organic Textile Standard and Fairtrade.

*We engaged KPMG LLP to undertake an independent limited assurance engagement, reporting to the Partnership, over selected information


Leather has a considerable environmental footprint at every stage of the supply chain, from animal farming to hide processing and manufacturing of the final product. Our efforts are focused on overcoming the environmental impacts of the leather-tanning process as this is where we have the most leverage with our suppliers.

In 2016 we joined the Leather Working Group (LWG) - an independent organisation of brands, retailers and suppliers which has developed an environmental audit for tanneries. Our initial aim is to ensure we have 100% traceability of the tanneries that produce leather for John Lewis products. Once this is in place we will work with our suppliers to ensure these tanneries have been audited to the LWG standard. This year we began mapping the tanneries that supply our suppliers in India and have conducted on-the-ground research to understand the issues facing the sector. In addition, we are developing more resources and training for our Buyers to understand the impacts of leather production.

Luxury Hungarian Goose Down products

Feather and Down

Feather and down are essential filling materials for our range of duvets and pillows. However we recognise the animal welfare risks associated with geese and duck farming. We have strict animal welfare standards in place and have been working with the animal welfare charity Four Paws since 2015 to help us improve our approach to feather and down sourcing.

In 2016 we committed to sourcing 100% of our feather and down from certified-responsible sources such as those covered by the Responsible Down Standard (RDS) by the end of 2020/21. These standards provide independent verification that the feather and down we use does not come from sources that practice live plucking or force feeding. We are working with all of our suppliers to understand their supply chains and transition to certified responsible sources.