About Us

Our approach to human rights

Last updated 18 October 2019

Our position

Overall, we believe our trade is a force for good, creating jobs and opportunities for people and communities across the world. But we also want those jobs to be good jobs. It is important that clear standards are upheld on issues such as: working hours, health and safety, no child or forced labour, freedom of association and ensuring that discrimination does not take place. We have a responsibility to respect the human rights of, and an opportunity to make a difference to, our colleagues, our customers, the communities we operate in and the people who work throughout our supply chain.

We recognise that labour rights violations in global supply chains can be systemic. Addressing them requires an understanding of the root causes and collaborating with suppliers, other retailers, trade unions, NGOs, governments and other industry experts. For example, both governments and businesses play an important role to ensure that small-scale producers are resilient and prosperous, can earn a living income, and receive a fair share of the value accumulated in food supply chains. Similarly, the most serious abuses as set out in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, including forced and child labour, can occur when workers’ rights fail to be protected and when trade unions are absent or weak due to restrictions on their activities.

In some countries, workers can experience in-work poverty even where legal minimum standards are complied with. Furthermore, across many countries women face additional barriers to decent work, due to unequal gender norms and their greater share of unpaid care work. Migrant workers are also particularly vulnerable to some of the worst forms of abuse, especially where they are working in a country illegally and therefore unwilling or unable to turn to legal authorities. We will continue to advocate and work in partnership with governments and other stakeholders to help overcome such systemic challenges within our supply chains.

We are committed to upholding human rights and support in full the United Nations (UN) Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Labour Organization (ILO) Core Conventions on labour standards, working hours and health and safety for workers. As founding members of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), we have been taking action on these issues since 1998. We support our suppliers to comply with the Base Code of the ETI and seek to use our business for good, helping suppliers to improve, adding our weight to collaborative initiatives, and providing support for communities linked to our supply chain.

How we integrate human rights within our business

Our work on human rights is fully integrated within our operations, forming a key part of our broader strategy for responsibility and sustainability as laid out in the key commitments of our Little Helps Plan. For Tesco UK, our human rights strategy is led by our Responsible Sourcing Director who reports to our Chief Product Officer, who is responsible for product sourcing across all Tesco’s retail businesses.

On a day-to-day basis, colleagues in our commercial and technical teams manage supplier and site relationships, and ethical requirements with support from a specialist responsible sourcing team, including dedicated local staff in 9 key sourcing countries. Responsible sourcing is a core component of our technical manager’s responsibilities. All Tesco UK Buying Managers and Technical Managers are required to attend internal training which covers topics such as responsible sourcing, human rights and modern slavery to build awareness and knowledge and to ensure they are aware of relevant escalation procedures. Our training is regularly reviewed to ensure its on-going relevance.

We recognise that improving labour standards in the supply chain is a shared responsibility and in general our view is that the cost of doing business responsibly in any supply base should be integrated wherever possible into the final cost of goods, rather than an additional ‘bolt-on’. Our new human rights strategy, which is being initially rolled out by Tesco UK, includes a clearer focus on the integration of our human rights agenda into purchasing practices, including tackling any unfair trading practices. We use our human rights due diligence process to help us decide which suppliers to source from and how to reward existing supplier’s performance on human rights.

Our commercial plans, which we agree and monitor with our strategic suppliers, are a central tool for achieving this goal. They are overseen by senior commercial stakeholders and now include specific Key Performance Indicators relating to human rights and broader responsible sourcing. Our responsible sourcing and technical team members meet regularly with our strategic suppliers to discuss their human rights risks and mitigation approaches.

This overall approach has led to the development of ‘Blue’ factory ratings for our F&F business, which rewards factories who have consistently demonstrated good ethical standards. Eligible factories must have had independent audits and due diligence checks by our human rights experts. We then assess their management systems and support them to develop the correct internal mechanisms and processes to monitor and address human rights issues identified. All Blue factories must conduct regular self-assessmentsand share their reports with us.

The effectiveness of our approach of course depends on us treating suppliers fairly ourselves and building open and trusted relationships. For more information on our business practice, please find it here

Our human rights due diligence approach

Our human rights supply chain programme extends to everything we source for our Own Brand including Tesco-exclusive brands, services and goods not for re-sale to customers.

Historically we sought to address human rights issues primarily through an ethical audit programme of our direct supply base. However, this approach was limited, both because audits do not always identify hidden or systemic issues such as modern slavery and because the most serious risks of human rights abuses tend to occur further down the supply chain where we don’t have direct commercial relationships and our leverage to instigate change is often more limited.

We now have a broader due diligence process to ensure that we are identifying and then focusing our resource in areas of highest risk, wherever this is in the supply chain. The process was developed in consultation with over fifty internal and external stakeholders, including suppliers, multi-stakeholder bodies such as the Ethical Trading Initiative, trade unions, civil society groups such as Unseen and Oxfam and government bodies.

Our due diligence framework has five stages which are outlined below:

1. Risk assessment

Our risk assessment framework for own-brand products looks at five metrics, which have the potential to increase the vulnerability of workers:

  1. Country of origin – assessing the enabling environment of the supply chain
  2. Type of work – assessing whether a role requires a skilled, semi-skilled or unskilled worker
  3. Type of labour – identifying whether a role is permanent, seasonal, or through an agency
  4. Known industry, cultural or community issues – identifying any endemic challenges such as gender discrimination
  5. Supply chain capability – assessing the knowledge and capacity suppliers have to address supply chain risks

These risk metrics are then mapped end to end in our key supply chains, allowing us to identify the most salient supply chain risks, wherever they occur. To underpin this process, Tesco UK, Republic of Ireland and Central Europe use the country risk ratings from the Food Network of Ethical Trade (FNET) – a collaborative industry platform. The rating is based on a number of sources, including the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) Global Rights Index, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Index, the Modern Slavery Vulnerability and Prevalence Indices compiled by The Walk Free Foundation’s Global Slavery Index (GSI), the United States Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report, Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, Freedom House’s Freedom in the World index and UNICEF and the Global Child Forum’s Children's Rights and Business Atlas. Our risk assessment is reviewed regularly with stakeholders including trade unions, NGOs and suppliers.

2. Prioritising and identifying leverage

Our risk assessment enables us to identify our highest areas of risk and to work out our priorities for the next three to five years. Our new human rights strategy, which is being initially rolled out by Tesco UK, identifies four priority thematic areas:

  1. Forced labour
  2. How workers are represented in the workplace
  3. Gender; and
  4. Sustainable livelihoods for workers and smallholder farmers.

Further details are provided in each of these thematic areas in the Transform section below.

Direct operations

In our direct operations, our risk assessment process has identified that the greatest risks of forced labour come from service providers such as temporary workers in distribution, office cleaners or carwashes. This is because of the significant proportion of migrant workers in these sectors, in many of the countries we operate in, who may be less aware of their rights and more vulnerable to abuse. It is also because we have less direct visibility over these areas, relative to areas where we directly employ workers. We have therefore mapped the UK service providers in our offices, retail operations, property, distribution, HR and in specialist services such as IT and car washing. We have then worked to identify the service providers that contain the greatest risks based on their contract type, the level of skill involved in the work, wages and our visibility of the service provider. Professional and specialist service providers on permanent contracts, such as lawyers and IT consultants who operate in high wage sectors, we would consider to be at low risk. In contrast, workers in lower skilled roles on temporary contracts and within lower wage industries would be at higher risk.

Through this process we have identified priority sectors including:

  • Workers in the construction industry who build our stores and carry out renovations
  • Agency labour in our distribution and logistics operations
  • Workers in security for our offices and stores, and cleaning staff
  • Our car wash supplier in the UK who operates the business as a franchise model.

Product supply chains

In our supply chains, we are prioritising work on our four themes in the countries where Tesco UK’s top 20 products and ingredients are sourced from. The top 20 are those products and ingredients most regularly bought by customers which have the biggest sustainability impact where we have the ability to drive change. Ten of these ‘Top 20’ have significant and systemic human rights risks associated with them and will therefore be our immediate priorities for the next three to five years:

  • Bananas: livelihoods and worker representation
  • Berries: gender equality (especially in Morocco), livelihoods
  • Citrus fruits: gender equality (especially South Africa)
  • Coffee: forced labour
  • Cocoa: forced and child labour
  • Cotton: forced and child labour
  • Palm oil: forced labour
  • Prawns: forced labour
  • Sugar: livelihoods, gender equality
  • Tea: livelihoods, gender equality.

Outside of these top 20 products and ingredients, we focus on an additional seven regions and issues because of the known risks associated with them and/or their commercial importance to our business:

  • All non-food factories across Asia: livelihoods and working hours, health and safety, worker representation
  • Peruvian agriculture: worker representation and working hours
  • Turkey and Syrian refugees: forced labour, livelihoods
  • Spanish salads: forced labour
  • Italian tomatoes: forced labour
  • UK agriculture: accommodation standards
  • Indian spinning mills: forced labour, gender equality.

More examples of our work within the supply chains of our top products can be found at www.tescoplc.com/top20. Work on these issues is led by the Group Responsible Sourcing team

3. Mitigating risks

Once we have identified our priorities, we then seek to work collaboratively with our suppliers, wider industry, civil society and, where appropriate, policy-makers to mitigate human rights risks - i.e. what steps can we take to avoid, reduce or manage those risks. This may include ethical audits, collaborative projects or training workers to understand their human rights.

Our recent review process has led us to modify how we mitigate human rights risks in our supply chain. Our new approach is based on three pillars: improving standards for people working in our own operations and our supply chains through continuous improvement programmes with suppliers, driving transformative industry-wide efforts to address endemic labour and community issues, and using our convening power to advocate for change.

Improve Transform Advocate
Improve standards for people working in our supply chains Drive industry-wide efforts to address endemic and community issues throughout key supply chains Use our convening power to advocate for change where it is needed
  • Audits
  • Improvement programmes
  • Certificaton
  • Piloting alternatives to audits
  • Better intergration of human rights agenda into purchasing practices

Focusing on:

  • Forced labour
  • Gender equality
  • Worker representation
  • Sustainabe livelihoods
  • Engaging governments and state agencies where we need to influence regulation and legal frameworks
  • Calling on other companies to join our efforts


Own operations

In our own operations and procurement, dedicated head office staff work closely with all service providers, as well as our internal People function, to help address risks. This includes training staff to spot potential indicators of modern slavery such as workers with shared addresses and bank details. We have implemented a Recruitment Charter as part of our contracts with labour providers to our Tesco UK operations. This prohibits work-finding fees being charged to workers as this increases the risk of debt bondage, one of the most prevalent forms of modern slavery. The Charter also sets out our expectations with regards to other practices which can be problematic (e.g. provision of accommodation). We also encourage our labour providers to use the Stronger Together Responsible Recruitment Toolkit.

Our UK labour providers are registered with the Gangmasters Labour and Abuse Authority and prohibited from actively recruiting from outside of the UK without the prior agreement of Tesco, as recruiting people who have moved to the UK autonomously, and have the legal right to work here, reduces the risk of human trafficking and exploitation. We work collaboratively with service providers to help ensure all temporary workers receive a reasonable number of paid hours each week and have the opportunity to transfer to permanent employment when vacancies arise.

We are also assessing our labour providers in other Tesco markets, starting with Thailand and Malaysia where we know that the charging of fees to workers by recruitment agents can be commonplace. We are working to reduce the number of labour providers we use in Thailand, placing our business with those we trust most, and recruiting directly from migrant workers’ home countries where we need to do so, rather than recruiting via middlemen, which can increase risks of worker indebtedness.

Supply base

Our programme to improve standards for people working in our supply chains uses a combination of in-house visits by our expert responsible sourcing team, independent ethical audits by trusted partners and independent certifications to assure working conditions in high risk sites. Importantly, each of these tools include direct engagement with workers, visits to associated facilities such as housing, and a review of relevant documents.

Ethical auditing is predominantly focused on the ‘first tier’ of the supply chain, i.e. sites producing the final product, such as a clothing factory or food manufacturing plant. High risk sites must have an audit before supply and then on an annual basis. We also audit beyond first-tier based on the risk of the products being produced. For example, we audit down to grower level for our fresh fruit and vegetables and do this in collaboration with our first-tier suppliers who cascade our requirements along the supply chain. Ethical audits are conducted in accordance with SEDEX Members Ethical Trade Audit (SMETA) guidelines. SMETA, a SEDEX initiative, helps consumer brands and their suppliers reduce duplication and ensure better quality auditing by setting out a robust methodology and a common format for the audit report and its corresponding corrective action plan.

All audits are conducted by specialists who are required by Tesco to go through an internal review of auditor experience and competency before completing any audits or interviews with workers in their own languages. The size and composition of the audit team and duration of the audit are tailored to the supplier/site and reflect the gender profile of the workforce and the main languages spoken.

Announcing the date of audits to suppliers in advance helps ensure that all necessary records are present for inspection during the audit and helps build ownership of ethical issues by the supplier’s management team. However, this practice can present an opportunity for some suppliers to prepare sites and coach workers prior to an audit in an attempt to manipulate findings. To address this risk, we nearly always operate ‘semi-announced’ audits, a process where suppliers are given a one-month window during which the audit will take place as opposed to an exact date. This enables suppliers to ensure that the relevant records are present on site, but that there is less chance for manipulation. In addition, we sometimes make entirely unannounced visits if we have particular concerns, including to validate audit findings.

During the closing meeting for all audits, all non-compliances are discussed and a Corrective Action Plan Report (CAPR) agreed between the supplier and the auditor. If any critical non-compliances are found, the audit company will notify Tesco directly. They will also inform Tesco of any issues that the supplier refused to acknowledge or that could not be verified. Any attempt to interfere with the course of the audit through fraud, coercion, deception or interference is treated as a critical non-compliance and reported to Tesco.

Following the audit, suppliers are required to resolve all corrective actions identified in the audit report, addressing non-compliances with the ETI Base Code and local law. The supplier is responsible for completing all corrective actions on the CAPR within agreed timescales, and for obtaining verification of closure from the independent auditors — normally within six months. The whole process, from planning, through supplier completion to final auditor verification, is tracked through SEDEX, enabling our Commercial teams to have oversight of progress and take action where necessary.

Although we have a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to critical breaches of the ETI Base Code, it is important to note that we do not abandon suppliers facing such problems. Our first aim is to ensure the issues are remediated and practices put in place to avoid recurrence. If we then believe that there is both commitment from the suppliers to avoid recurrence, and capability to do so, we will usually continue to work with them until and unless there is any repetition. We believe this approach supports improvement and that a simple ‘cut and run’ approach, as well as being bad news for workers when orders are cancelled, discourages transparency with suppliers about the challenges they face.

On the rare occasions that we do not believe the supplier is committed to remediation, we will then seek to exit in a responsible manner, often continuing orders for up to three months to allow workers to have good notice of any changed hours as a result of our business moving.

A good example of this in action is when we occasionally find that workers have not been paid for all hours worked, which is a critical issue. Rather than exiting the relationship with the supplier, we seek to agree that workers are back paid at least three months of any missing salaries. If the supplier agrees and implements this approach, we will continue working with them. For more details, see page 14 of our 2017/2018 Modern Slavery Statement.

Talking directly to workers about workplace concerns is a powerful addition to intelligence gathered through other routes including audits, participatory interviews and links with local stakeholders on the ground. An essential part of all audits are the worker interviews which gather concerns and suggestions and pass these on to management to ensure continuous improvement of labour conditions. As part of our core programme we require that suppliers display ETI posters and audit results on suppliers’ notice boards so that workers know what their rights are and that they are being met or remediated.

We also use certification standards to help us improve standards for workers and smallholders in our supply chain. Our primary certification partner for a number of key supply chains is the Rainforest Alliance, who use the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) standard. We also use the Fairtrade standard for a number of important products. You can find more information about other certification partners here. There is more detail about how these partners work across our ‘Top 20’ most important products and ingredients here.

As part of our new strategy, Tesco UK will be exploring supplementary tools to audits including a commitment to conduct human rights impact assessments to understand if they provide a clearer understanding of the impact which Tesco’s trade has on workers and their communities.


We recognise that in many cases we cannot address labour rights abuses without first addressing the root causes which underly them. Our four new themes for our Tesco UK strategy are helping to address some of these underlying issues

Sustainable livelihoods

We have recently incorporated sustainable livelihoods for workers and smallholder farmers as one of four themes in our revised human rights strategy, in recognition of the need for workers and farmers to receive a fair share of the value they contribute to a company’s products. We acknowledge that legal minimum wages may not be sufficient to meet workers’ needs and in high risk supply chains, we work with suppliers to understand these issues further. We have added clear due diligence for smallholders into our human rights requirements for suppliers covering banana, tea, cocoa and coffee producers. This due diligence is intended to provide more information on the sustainability of smallholder farmers’ incomes.

We are committed to working with workers, trade unions and NGOs in relevant supply chains to identify living wage benchmarks and publish examples of the gap between prevailing wages and credible living wage benchmarks. Examples of this work include our involvement in the Malawi 2020 tea project, which has specific targets to pay living wages to workers by 2020, and our involvement, in the Living Wage Advocacy Initiative, part of the World Banana Forum. The initiative has recently completed research on living wages in Costa Rica (where our suppliers already pay 20-25% above the minimum wage) and Ghana, and is undergoing a validation process of the draft benchmarks for Colombia and Ecuador. The World Banana Forum has promoted Living Wage benchmarks through collaborative initiatives with relevant stakeholders including producers, industry associations, importers, retailers, trade unions, Governments, NGOs such as Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance to ensure all participants in the banana value chain – especially the most vulnerable (farm workers) benefit from the trade of this important product. More information on our human rights collaborations is available here.

Forced labour

Our second strategic theme in our revised human rights strategy is forced labour, an issue which we recognise is widespread in food and non-food supply chains. In addition to work in our own operations on this issue detailed above, we have supported a number of programmes linked to tackling forced labour. In recent years, we worked on Sumangali and the restriction of workers’ freedom in India through the ETI’s Tamil Nadu Programme and we are members of the Local Consultative Committee of the Tamil Nadu Multi-Stakeholder Forum. We also helped to establish Stronger Together, combating forced labour risks in the UK, Spain and South Africa. More information can be found in our Modern Slavery Statement and details of our collaborations to address forced labour can be found here.

Worker representation

We have incorporated effective worker representation as the third theme in our revised human rights strategy, recognising input from stakeholders including global trade unions and our experience of working to remove barriers to effective worker representation in our supply chains. Our work in this area currently includes promoting dialogue between trade unions, suppliers, industry organizations, certification & audit companies as well as some governments in Latin America which is detailed below. We have also worked with factories in Bangladesh, India and Turkey which supply to Tesco to engage in the ETI Social Dialogue Programme to empower worker representatives and ensure free election of worker representatives. Our work will increasingly mean engaging strategic suppliers in the importance of worker representation via the new ETI resources on Freedom of Association, Collective Bargaining and worker representation.

In sites where there are trade unions, we work with suppliers to ensure trade union representatives are treated with respect and no discrimination takes place. When there have been complaints of discrimination Tesco actively participates to ensure bilateral negotiations take place to resolve the disagreements and promote management training to ensure better relations with trade union leaders. We have worked with ETI closely to address multiple cases of trade union discrimination in factories in Sri Lanka, India and Turkey. 

In sites where there is no trade union affiliation, we seek to ensure all our suppliers have independent, democratically elected worker committees.

In our banana supply chain for example, we are in regular dialogue with union representatives at the Ethical Trading Initiative, alongside representatives from the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), International Union of Food (IUF) and Trades Union Congress (TUC). We also have regular bilateral meetings with regional civil society organizations such as Banana Link and COLSIBA- the Confederation of Latin American Banana Unions.

In Latin America we work actively to ensure strict assessments of labour conditions to promote continuous improvement of workplaces. We monitor all sites (both pack houses and farms) to ensure workers are able to democratically elect their representatives to worker committees and/ or Health and Safety committees. It is our belief that where workers organise independently and select their representatives without management interference, most labour conditions will tend to be considerably better than in sites where there is no worker representation. We have also found management are usually more respectful of organised workers.

The most significant impact of our work in this area has been in Peru where five years ago almost none of our suppliers had democratically elected worker representatives – as is common across the local industry. Now all Tesco suppliers have free and fair elections by workers to elect their representatives and management holds regular meetings with worker representatives. Written records are kept to ensure management commitment to address workers concerns and requests. Audits also assess if a majority of workers are aware of who their representatives are and if they are satisfied with their effectiveness.

Tesco have been actively supporting work by the Ethical Trading Initiative to ensure best labour practices- including freedom of association- are shared and extended more widely in the region. This programme has included sharing examples from farmers in Mexico and Colombia to improve worker representation across the region.

Gender equality

The final theme of our new human rights strategy is a commitment to identifying gender equality issues in our operations and supply chain and working to mitigate and remediate these.

In Latin America, as part of our ethical due diligence and SMETA audit quality programme we have begun strict enforcement of gender balance in all the worker committees to guarantee female workers have adequate representation.  This ensures issues of specific importance to women are given the necessary attention during worker / management meetings.

We are currently also engaged in gender programmes through the World Banana ForumAssam tea programme, the ETI Tamil Nadu Working Group in India, and Malawi 2020. More information is available here.

Our collaborations

We collaborate in a number of different ways to address specific, entrenched human rights issues which include our four themes. Our collaborations fall into one of five models:

  1. Funding or co-funding in-depth investigations into supply chains where human rights risks are identified, for example investigations into the efficacy of grievance mechanisms in Thai poultry supply chains in 2018
  2. Using our in-country resourc to investigate potential human rights risks in partnership with suppliers, for example work with our condom manufacturers in Malaysia to understand risks associated with labour agency management in 2019
  3. Funding in-country resources to work alongside suppliers in high risk regions including South America and Southern Africa. We have dedicated staff in South Africa and Costa Rica who are in regular contact with suppliers in their respective regions to provide training and guidance on issues ranging from discrimination to working hours and labour agency management
  4. Working with suppliers to establish forums that build suppliers’ capabilities to manage human rights effectively globally or in particular countries. Examples include the Seafood Ethics Action Alliance (SEAA), the Food Network for Ethical Trade in the UK (FNET), Stronger Together (UK, Spain and South Africa) and the Spanish Ethical Trade Forums (Spain)
  5. Funding collaborative multi-stakeholder initiatives to tackle systemic human rights issues including the Accord (Bangladesh) and the Issara Institute (Thailand).

More information on our human rights collaborations is available here

The collaborative nature of our work leads us to engage with a wide range of individuals and organisations who support workers globally to realise their human rights. In some countries, we recognise that there is increasing pressure on human rights defenders, including trade unions. We do not tolerate threats, intimidation, physical or legal attacks on human rights defenders in relation to our operations.


Our recent review of our human rights strategy recommended that our approach should have a greater focus on using our convening power to advocate for change where it is needed.

  1. Joint advocacy through the Seafood Ethics Action Alliance (SEAA) in 2018 to engage governments in high risk seafood producing countries on issues of labour rights
  2. Advocacy via our in-country human rights teams with labour ministers in a number of countries to promote decent wages and working hours for agricultural workers, which have helped encourage dialogue between government and trade unions
  3. Advocacy with the UK government calling for greater support for victims of modern slavery
  4. Advocacy by strategic suppliers to Tesco with governments in Europe to promote formalised labour recruitment systems akin to the model used in the UK
  5. Signing up to the Environmental Justice Foundation’s Transparency Charter to end illegal fishing and slavery at sea

4. Remediating risks and grievance mechanisms

We recognize the need for workers to have access to UN Guiding Principle-compliant grievance mechanisms to ensure any concerns they have can be raised and resolved. We are publicly committed to supporting, and not impeding access to state-based judicial or non-judicial mechanisms. We do not require individuals or communities participating in a grievance process to permanently waive their legal rights to bring a claim through a judicial process as a condition of participating in the grievance process.

All Tesco employees and workers in Tesco’s ‘first tier’ supply base have access to our confidential, independently managed Protector Line. Workers in lower tiers can also use the line and all concerns will be investigated, but it is not communicated directly to these workers. Protector Line is promoted in the relevant language.

We investigate any reports immediately and provide confidentiality for complainants where requested. Insights from these services are reviewed at Risk and Compliance Committee meetings in each of our operating markets and, at a group level, by the Group Risk and Compliance Committee chaired by the Group Chief Executive.

Our team of 45 responsible sourcing specialists based across 9 key sourcing countries increases our ability to find out about local concerns, through dialogue with a range of stakeholders. They will investigate any issues of concern and will take appropriate remedial action. Where we identify clear cases of human rights abuses, we work to rectify those abuses and make sure that the harm inflicted on workers is put right, partnering with charities and NGOs as required.

We are committed to work closely with at least three of our high-risk supply chains to ensure that by the end of 2020, workers, and where relevant smallholder farmers, have access to appropriate grievance mechanisms and remedy, in accordance with the UN Guiding Principles.

In 2019, we entered into partnership with the charity, Unseen, who run the UK’s only fully independent and confidential Modern Slavery helpline. Helpline advisors are able to support potential victims of modern slavery as well as offer a way for businesses and the general public to raise suspicions or concerns. We are in the process of assuring that all our primary supplying sites in the UK as well as our distribution and fulfilment centres promote the helpline, enabling us to continue to raise awareness of modern slavery. Our partnership will not only support the expansion of the helpline but, where cases of modern slavery are identified, Unseen will support us in effectively remediating victims – an area of our strategy we identified as requiring further development.

5. Monitoring and communication

Our performance against our plan, risks and trends is reported annually through our Little Helps Plan and to stakeholders including the Ethical Trading Initiative. The ETI report we prepare is scrutinised by trade union and NGO members of ETI (members include the Trades Union Congress, CARE and Anti-Slavery International) and feedback is provided to us to help us review our activities and improve.

Tesco is a founding member of Sedex and tracks the majority of its data through the Sedex platform. Tracking reports are generated periodically and shared with our technical colleagues to manage with the supply base (with oversight by the responsible sourcing team). The reports provide detail of site audit data of first tier sites, including non-compliances with the ETI Base Code.

We have taken steps in the last six months, to refine the indicators we use to measure the effectiveness of our Tesco UK due diligence approach and to move beyond a focus on the outcomes of ethical audits. We plan to rollout a monitoring framework in 2019 for Tesco UK which includes measuring indicators of worker satisfaction within our supply chains such as worker returnee and turnover rates. We are currently involving suppliers, NGOs and trade unions in the development of this framework and will consult them once initial data has been collected. We also regularly consult and engage closely with stakeholders about human rights challenges throughout our supply chain, in particular through our responsible sourcing experts based across 9 key sourcing countries.

The collaborations we are part of provide another route for tracking the impact our work has on human rights. For example, within the Malawi 2020 project, we track the impact of the programme on farmers, who are predominantly women. For example, increases in yields were 15-20% higher for women trained in agricultural practices than untrained groups in 2018.

We are committed to evolving and developing the tools we use to measure our human rights impact as a business. With this in mind, we have committed to publish the findings of at least three multi-stakeholder human rights impact assessments over the next three years which will be conducted in consultation with key stakeholders including NGOs. Each of the assessments will focus on one product and one country and will differentiate, where relevant, between impacts on women and men, migrant and local workers and workers and small-holder farmers.

Tesco signs up to the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles

Everyone is welcome at Tesco. We are committed to providing an inclusive working environment where difference is embraced and valued.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day on the March 8, 2019, Tesco has signed up to the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles to reaffirm our commitment to achieving gender equality. This set of seven standards, developed by UN Women, promote gender equality in the workplace, marketplace and community. As signatories, we will collaborate with other businesses and share best practice as we continue to make progress on gender equality.

Whilst there is more to do, we are already taking action to support women to succeed in our business and in our supply chains. As members of the 30% Club, we share the belief that gender-balanced boards and senior management teams encourage better leadership and governance. 31% of our Board is female. To help develop future female leaders we have established a targeted development community supporting talented female colleagues.

Gender equality is one of the key focus areas of Tesco’s supply chain human rights strategy and we are partnering with NGOs and the wider industry to address challenges facing women in our supply chain. We have worked with UNICEF on the Assam Tea Project which protects girls and young women from exploitation. In its first phase the project helped to empower more than 35,000 adolescent girls. In Malawi we have supported the establishment of women’s welfare and gender committees to ensure gender issues are raised and acted upon.

Tesco’s Executive Sponsor for Diversity and Inclusion, Alessandra Bellini, said:

“We are proud to become signatories of the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles. I passionately believe in the need for balanced representation of women in all parts of our company, supply chain and society.

“We have already done a lot of important work in this area, from supporting our network of Women in Tesco and their initiatives, to working with UNICEF to empower young women in tea growing communities. But we know that there is more to do and welcome the opportunity to collaborate with others to learn from and share best practice.”

Promoting human rights at Tesco

As a global retailer we have a responsibility to respect the human rights of, and an opportunity to make a difference to, our colleagues, our customers, the communities we operate in and the people who work throughout our supply chain.

We are committed to upholding human rights and support in full the United Nations (UN) Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Labour Organization (ILO) Core Conventions on labour standards, working hours and health and safety for workers.

To demonstrate our commitment to high standards and transparency in our business, we have joined the UN Global Compact; an initiative for companies to align strategies and operations with universal principles on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption. The initiative is centred on ten principles and we report our progress against these ten principles on a regular basis.

To support our commitment to diversity in the workplace in our operations and supply chains, we are signed up to the 30% Club, the Women in Finance Charter, the Tech She Can Charter, and were one of the first companies in the UK to report publicly on our Gender Pay Gap. We have also recently committed to uphold the UN Standards for Business to tackle discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans and Intersex People and the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles.

Below we outline our approach to respecting and supporting human rights for colleagues, those in our supply chain, as well as customers and communities.


The wellbeing, security and safety of our colleagues is of utmost important to us a business. We make the right decisions for colleagues by living our value - to treat everyone how they want to be treated. We deliver our human rights policy for colleagues in line with local culture and labour laws, whilst ensuring we address any actual or potential adverse impacts our colleagues may experience whilst working for us. We promote a culture of trust and transparency through:

  • Promoting inclusivity and equality. We value the diverse nature of our workforce across the group and do not accept any discriminatory practices or behaviours. Our employment decisions are made solely on the basis of job-related skills, achievements and performance, which is illustrated in our local diversity and inclusion policies as well as our code of business conduct.
  • Ensuring that working environments across the business do not endanger the health or safety of our colleagues. Looking after our people’s health and wellbeing through enabling safe working environments and ensuring colleagues do not work excessively is a minimum requirement. To support this, we provide health & safety training, have a clear policy position on working hours, and provide protective equipment for colleagues wherever required. Details of which can be found in our Health and Safety policy.
  • Enabling colleagues to have a voice through our fair and trusted methods of resolving concerns. We recognise the importance of trusted and open dialogue between us and our colleagues to create relationships which are built on mutual trust and cooperation. Our relationship with our recognised trade union, Usdaw, in the UK helps to strengthen this dialogue by having a shared agenda at consultation working parties and colleague national forums.

Supply chain

Building strong partnerships with trusted suppliers will ensure that we deliver high-quality and safe products that are responsibly produced. As a founding member of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), we have long been aware of the potential for labour and human rights abuses to occur in our supply chains but also our opportunity to help create good jobs that enable people to care for their families and develop their skills. We recognise that it is our responsibility as a business to respect and enhance the rights of people in our supply chains in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Human Rights.

Our starting point is the Base Code of the ETI, which covers the health and safety of workers and prohibits forced labour, child labour and human trafficking. Upholding the Code is one of the requirements for our suppliers of doing business with Tesco. Our suppliers are required to communicate our requirements along their supply chain and to relevant stakeholders.

We are committed to working with trusted supplier partners to apply this Code and to identify where human rights impacts may occur. Our team of 45 locally-based responsible sourcing managers work with our suppliers, NGOs, trade unions and other groups around the world to address human rights impacts and improve working practices.

If human rights issues are identified, we will seek to address them and understand the root causes of these abuses, working with suppliers, and other stakeholder groups to drive improvement.

We know that many of the serious abuses that exist in countries around the world can be in lower tiers of supply chains, hidden from easy sight and hard to identify – particularly forced labour. Addressing these requires collaborative efforts with other businesses and civil society. We have committed to working to eradicate forced labour from our supply chains and have taken on a leading role through our membership of the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) to develop this work.

Governance and monitoring

Oversight of our human rights work sits with the Board’s Corporate Responsibility Committee for all markets and subsidiaries. Executive oversight sits with the Group Risk and Compliance Committee, led by the Group CEO. Our governance committees consider financial and non-financial risks to our business and, in particular, consider risks related to our Human Rights Policy which are maintained on our company risk register.

All Tesco Group human rights commitments, and our approach to managing human rights, are approved by our Group Quality Director. On a regular basis, and at least annually, the Group Risk and Compliance Committee reviews performance and updates on our supply chain human rights covering all human rights issues associated with sites supplying Tesco, key risks in our extended supply chain and actions to mitigate risks and remediate issues. The Corporate Responsibility Committee of the PLC Board also receives regular updates on this and wider sustainability issues. Key elements of our Human Rights Policy are incorporated into our Code of Business Conduct which is reviewed and updated where necessary once a year.

Everyone in the business must comply with the Code and colleagues in office roles, along with store and distribution managers, are required to make an annual declaration of compliance. Our established ‘Protector Line’ is a free professional, confidential and secure service that enables our colleagues, suppliers and their staff to raise any concerns that the Code is not being adhered to via telephone and email. Issues are recorded, investigated and where necessary action is taken.

Human rights in our supply chain


Make sustainable products accessible and affordable for all

  1. Lead industry in addressing the sustainability challenges of our most important products and ingredients
  2. Ensure international human rights standards are respected at all our supplier sites
  3. Focus on the most serious risks to workers throughout our supply chains, working transparently with NGOs, unions and others to identify and address them
  4. Support sourcing communities facing complex social and environmental challenges

It’s all part of our Little Helps Plan.

Assessing and understanding risk. In December 2018 we completed a stakeholder review and updated our human rights strategy to ensure it focuses on the most important issues affecting workers in our supply chains.

Here are the 4 areas of focus:

  1. 1. Sustainable livelihoods
  2. 2. Worker representation
  3. 3. Forced labour
  4. 4. Gender equality

Case study

Worker Representation in our supply chain

It is extremely important that workers in our supply chain are able to raise any concerns they may have through a confidential and responsive grievance procedure.

In our clothing supply chain, we are one of 19 brands participating in Action Collaboration Transformation (ACT), an initiative aiming to transform the garment industry. The objective is to enable workers to negotiate wages and other conditions of employment at an industry-wide level within a country, so all workers can benefit, regardless of the factory they work in, and the retailers and brands they produce for.

What else are we doing?

Working with NGOs We recognise that sometimes human rights abuses are the result of deeply entrenched issues in the countries we source from. Therefore we work with NGOs and the wider industry to help address the root causes.

Working with certification organisations helps us tackle issues further down our supply chains and reassures our customers that the products they buy are produced to high ethical standards. 100% of our UK Own Brand bananas and black teas are Rainforest Alliance certified. In 2019 we announced that 100% of the cocoa sourced for our UK Own Brand chocolate products, as well as all our green coffee beans, are also now Rainforest Alliance Certified.

Case study

Supporting UNICEF and the Ethical Tea Partnership

In Assam, we are empowering tea growing communities by continuing our support for a joint initiative with UNICEF and the Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP). To date the programme has equipped more than 35,000 adolescent girls with the knowledge and life skills that will help them secure a better future and reduce their vulnerability to violence, abuse and exploitation.

The second phase of the partnership will tackle a broader range of issues affecting women and children, including healthcare, child nutrition, sanitation and hygiene. The programme has also run sessions with 1400 boys aged 10-14 to challenge traditional attitudes about the role of girls and women with the aim of creating a safer and more equitable community.

Find out more Tescoplc.com/LittleHelpsPlan