Judith Batchelar - Blog on Modern Slavery

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Consumers care about where the products they buy come from and they put their trust in us to do the right thing on their behalf. This is why sourcing with integrity is key to our work with farmers, growers and suppliers in the UK and around the world.

Treating everyone in our own business and value chains fairly and with respect is an important part of the way we work at Sainsbury’s. So today, on Human Rights Day, the anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, we are proud to announce the next steps in our work to support the prevention of exploitation within our value chains.

In addition to the supplier training we undertake on a regular basis we are launching new training for our farmers and growers which will support them in the identification of vulnerable workers and prevention of exploitation, particularly for seasonal workers coming onto their farms for planting or harvesting. The launch of the training, which was developed for Sainsbury’s by the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLA), follows a successful pilot with our egg farmers and the production of practical tools and guidance specifically for our farmers by the GLA who were also recently at Sainsbury’s annual Farming Conference, on November 25th where they were on hand to offer our farmers and suppliers first hand advice on how we can work together to tackle unscrupulous, criminal activity in our value chain.

In addition we are introducing a further two new specific courses in early 2017. In the UK, over 20 supplying agents who source products from all over the world will be given guidance and support to manage ethical trade in complex supply chains where there are often multiple actors and several stages of processing involved. In South Africa, a bespoke course delivered by a local expert will build the skills and knowledge of our wine suppliers to embed good ethical practices not only at their own sites, but also through to farm level, where conditions are often most challenging.   

At Sainsbury’s we already engage in a wide range of activities to prevent modern slavery and human trafficking in our value chains. We are very proud of our long-standing strategic relationship with the GLA. This unique partnership led, in 2014, to the first of its kind training for suppliers, delivered by the GLA, on agency labour and the prevention of worker exploitation. Training dates for 2017 and sign up for both Sainsbury’s course and the wider industry (through a GLA course at the University of Derby) are available below.

The nature of modern slavery and other extreme forms of exploitation mean that this is not an issue we can tackle alone and so we work in collaboration not only with NGOs, but other retailers, organisations and governments. We are founding members of Stronger Together, a food industry initiative focused on human trafficking, forced labour and other hidden third party migrant worker exploitation. The programme aims to equip UK employers and labour providers with the knowledge and resources to recognise and tackle exploitation – over 250 of our suppliers have attended the training programme to date, which we require for suppliers using agency labour and is supported by our funding.

Following Prime Minister Theresa May’s prioritisation of efforts to tackle modern slavery, Sainsbury’s was invited to participate in discussions with the government, other retailers, NGOs and trade unions on how to tackle these abuses in retail supply chains. We have contributed to the development of Sedex’s Forced Labour Indicators, where members of the Ethical Trading Initiative’s (ETI) Modern Slavery Working Group, and the British Retail Consortium Ethical Labour Working Group which hosts discussions on the best ways we can work together to address modern slavery, encourage the responsible use of labour providers and increase awareness around emerging human rights issues that affect us and our value chain.

We continue to raise awareness and build capacity on this complex issue. Having previously had the Minister for Modern Slavery and Organised Crime give a keynote address, and Anti-Slavery International running a workshop sharing practical advice and case studies at our annual Ethical Trade conference, this year we further built on that with workshops run by Ergon, the Association of Labour Providers and the Ethical Trading Initiative covering, modern slavery, agency workers and accommodation and the Global Goals during our June Ethical Trade conference with over 200 key personnel in attendance from our major suppliers.

As we continue on the long-term work of creating fully transparent value chains, spanning over more than 70 countries from which we source, with the risks understood and the appropriate mitigations and management in place across our entire business, we know that multi stakeholder activity will play an important role in addressing issues that exist beyond the boundaries of a field, factory or even value chain.

This type of industry-wide challenge is reflected in the work we have been doing in our seafood supply chain. Since 2014, we have supported a leading public-private sector alliance set up to tackle human trafficking and forced labour in southeast Asia, initially launched as Project Issara and now known as Issara Institute. Comprising members from global brands and retailers, NGOs, academic and technical experts, the aim was originally to investigate, identify and resolve issues at all levels in Thailand’s export-oriented supply chains for seafood – though this remit has now broadened to sectors such as tuna, coconuts and canned fruit.

The initiative takes an innovative approach to achieving its mission, with key activities including; inclusive labour monitoring to gather intelligence from workers, businesses, field experts and local communities for a comprehensive understanding of what is happening on the ground, a multilingual hotline to report issues and the development of a new mobile phone app to empower workers with information and shared knowledge. Whilst we have not found any evidence of modern slavery within our direct suppliers we have benefitted from on-the-ground intelligence and value chain transparency through Issara Institute, which has enabled us to ensure improved conditions across a number of sites and for hundreds of workers.

We remain committed to playing our part to ensure the fair treatment of all workers throughout our value chains with heightened risks in the complex interdependent world we source from, and look forward to sharing our challenges and progress in the journey ahead.

Judith Batchelar, Director of Sainsbury’s Brand

UN Human Rights Day http://www.un.org/en/events/humanrightsday/

Agency Labour and Prevention of Worker Exploitation (course for Sainsbury’s suppliers): 31st Jan and 1st February, 13th 14th June, 11th and 12th October


University of Derby course:



Agricultural development dates: to be confirmed

More information about Sainsbury’s due diligence on modern slavery and human trafficking will be published in June 2017 alongside our annual report.