Tesco finds slavery issues in supply chain

Following a number of potential concerns raised internally, Tesco has discovered several breaches of the anti-slavery policy within its supply chain.

Last year the supermarket giant commissioned a report from Impactt, an independent human rights consultancy, to conduct an assessment of migrant workers’ rights stores and distribution centres in Thailand and Malaysia. The findings in Malaysia, based on interviews with 168 migrant workers, identified several serious allegations, including cases of passport retention and illegal wage reductions.

In response Tesco created a raft of policies changes and new methods of business, and also a similar action plan for Thailand, where a number of abuses were also reported. The Group Risk and Compliance Committee, chaired by the Group CEO, says it continues to monitor progress against these plans.

Stephen Beer, CIO, Epworth Investment Management and part of the Church Investors Group in a coalition to engage with companies on modern slavery, commented: “Any incidence of modern slavery is deplorable but at first sight this actually appears encouraging from Tesco. Its latest statement shows it followed up on these concerns, using a human rights consultancy to investigate, and it looks as if changes were made. If Tesco had reported no cases of modern slavery that might have been a matter of more serious concern. We want to see such evidence of companies actively addressing the problem.”

Think slavery is ancient history? Think again, says Airmic CEO John Ludlow. "It is estimated that there are more than 40 million slaves globally, more than a million of them in Europe. Companies operating in the UK with a global turnover in excess of £36m have a legal duty to combat it. Yet, too few firms to date have paid much attention to the Modern Slavery Act 2015 (MSA), even though failure to comply carries a huge potential for reputational damage."

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