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Working with the John Lewis Partnership to tackle modern day slavery

The University of Hull’s Wilberforce Institute is working with the John Lewis Partnership to address risks of slavery in supply chains, both in the UK and overseas.

The John Lewis Partnership’s commitment to tackling modern slavery is influenced by its values as an employee-owned business. It forms part of its broader human rights strategy, through which the leading retailer works to raise labour standards, improve working conditions and create fairly rewarded employment.

Building on its long established due diligence and risk assessment programmes, the John Lewis Partnership approached the Wilberforce Institute to better understand some of the systemic issues workers can face, specifically in fresh produce supply chains.

Waitrose sources fresh produce from over 2,000 growers around the world. These growers often rely on migrant and seasonal workers at peak times of the year. Working with the University’s Wilberforce Institute, Waitrose was able to identify risks arising from informal recruitment in seasonal supply chains, raise awareness of risks associated with labour providers and help improve and enhance management practices.

The Wilberforce Institute’s comprehensive approach incorporated analysing not just the processing and manufacturing plants, but the elements involved across the whole supply chain. On-site visual inspections assessed working conditions – and accommodation blocks – filtering all the way down to site visits of smallholder farms.

The assessments involved consultation with local and national industry bodies, non-government organisations and Trade Unions to uncover existing labour standards, policies and practices. The University’s Wilberforce Institute completed detailed risk assessments on the ground at 37 sites across the UK, Spain, Italy, Peru and Chile that supply fresh produce to Waitrose.

"We are using the insights from the University of Hull’s Wilberforce Institute to help drive more improvements in our supply chains and beyond - sharing findings with suppliers and raising awareness of best practice."

Sam Ludlow Taylor, Ethical Trade Manager, Waitrose

The University’s Wilberforce Institute also carried out training with Waitrose suppliers, sharing learnings with suppliers and external stakeholders. Training was provided in order to enable staff to identify risks, implement solutions and understand better ways to engage with suppliers.

As a result, Waitrose has been able to implement several practical steps to mitigate risks of slavery and increase protection for workers in their supply chains. These include ensuring working conditions are effectively-managed, strengthening personnel processes and improving systems to raise awareness and identify risks of modern slavery.

The University of Hull’s Wilberforce Institute is working with the John Lewis Partnership to address risks of slavery in supply chains, both in the UK and overseas.