Truly ethical trading

Co-op was founded on the principles of ethical trade.

For our food business, we champion the best labour standards in our supply chains, acting responsibly towards the workers who make our products and being proud of how we behave towards the people we do business with.

We believe that everyone deserves to be treated fairly

Our commitments

We’re committed to supporting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and improving conditions in our supply chain. In line with this, we’re looking to be the UK's leading retailer, and will continue to apply our Sound Sourcing Code of Conduct across our supply base. We’re also members of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) and other key stakeholder groups, read more below.

We’re all about working together

Driving continuous improvements in working conditions in a global supply chain is a shared responsibility. That’s why we have a ‘Supplier’s Guide to Ethical Trade’ setting out the standards we want our suppliers to meet and a comprehensive supplier engagement programme.

We work with key partners and member groups, because we know we can’t act on our own.

Our partners include:

  • An alliance of companies, trade unions and voluntary organisations working in partnership to improve the lives of workers across the globe who make or grow consumer goods.

    Find out more

  • The world’s leading community for managing data on responsible sourcing.

    Find out more

  • We are a founding partner of this multi-stakeholder collaborative initiative, whose purpose is to support organisations to tackle modern slavery within their businesses and supply chains.

    Find out more

  • The GLAA works in partnership to protect vulnerable and exploited workers.

    Find out more

  • The ALP is the specialist trade association promoting responsible recruitment for labour providers.

    Find out more

  • Collaborative supplier driven initiative established to improve human rights in global food supply chains through a common approach to managing ethical trade.

Collaboration is at the very heart of our approach. We believe it is essential to developing sustainable solutions to issues that put workers interests first. We take this approach in the way we implement our monitoring programme, the way we work with our suppliers and peers to identify solutions to challenging issues, and the way we deliver our supplier engagement activities. Working with our suppliers to deliver long-term sustainable change, the key behaviours we champion are:

  • Proactivity

  • Ownership

  • Partnership

Collaborating with suppliers

Over the last five years we’ve held nearly 130 supplier ethical trade events reaching thousands of suppliers from 2500 sites in countries across the globe. We are committed to working collaboratively to create long term sustainable solutions to issues and having a positive impact on all the workers in our supply chain

With growing challenges and increasing long and complex supplier chains, the need to build strong supplier relations based on trust and transparency is key to see long-term and sustainable improvements to working conditions in the supply base.

1,873 sites 6 continents 69 countries Over half a million workers†

100% of Tier 1 sites with SAQ complete and all Tier 1 high-risk sites were independently audited. We mapped and risk assessed our supplier base beyond Tier 1 in high–risk categories such as produce and protein. When we find issues, we work with our suppliers to put things right. In our 2016/17 audits, 2,975 issues were raised (70% are completed, we’ve agreed a plan to complete 26% in 2018, and 4% are outstanding and have been escalated).

†891 Tier 1 and 982 beyond Tier 1. Data correct as reported in our Co-op Way Report 2017, where more information can be found.

The programme

  • We have a set of objectives to drive improvements in working conditions, making sure that the workers who make our products are treated responsibly and ethically.
  • Our Sound Sourcing Code of Conduct is based on the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) Base Code and core international labour standards.
  • All our own-brand direct suppliers complete a self-assessment questionnaire on Sedex.
  • We carry out hundreds of independent ethical audits on supplier sites each year based on a risk assessment.
  • We have annual ethical trade review meetings with key suppliers to assess capability and strategy to manage ethical trade and to progress, develop and agree priorities.
  • We hold supplier workshops and conferences across the UK and the globe to provide capability building, support and guidance, and share best practice.
  • We provide practical support to site managers to help them understand and meet our requirements through workbooks and resources.
  • We have rolled out buyer training sessions to integrate ethical trade into core business activities.