Following Walmart’s sale of Asda to the Issa Brothers and TDR Capital, which received approval from the Competition and Markets Authority in June 2021, we are building a new, standalone responsible sourcing program so we can effectively understand, monitor, and manage the risks that may be present within our supply chain.
We were part of the Walmart family for over 20-years and they set the responsible sourcing policy for all their subsidiary companies including Asda. Transitioning from Walmart to our own independent programme will take time but we are determined to do this as quickly as we can.
The first Asda programme requirements and standards for suppliers were launched, published, and communicated to suppliers in May 2021 and have recently been updated and recommunicated. Throughout this transition period we have worked closely with suppliers, informing them of our expectations of how workers should be treated and supported, making it clear that failure to adhere to our standards may result in consequences up to and including termination of business.
We have also kept workers safe by ensuring that the Asda Ethics hotline is available to all workers in our supply chain so that they can raise any concerns, with reports investigated as soon as we get notification. We have a robust incident management process in place to manage any cases that come through and ensure that impacted workers receive remediate where relevant.
Transitioning between Walmart and the new Asda programmes means that our score in this year’s Oxfam Behind the Barcodes scorecard is not where we would want it to be. This is not reflection of our ongoing commitment to protecting the rights and treatment of the people who work within our supply chain. However, over the next 12 months and beyond we believe our new ways of working will make a real difference in this area.
The new programme is almost complete and we are aiming for it to be fully in place by the end of June. It will be aligned with the United Nation’s Guiding Principles for Human Rights, which means that in practical terms, we are moving away from a programme based on geography to one based on data and insight as this will help us to identify areas that need the most attention.
A lot of the data will be provided through suppliers joining Sedex, giving detailed information about their business twice a year, providing us with an understanding of their ethical and labour standards across their supply chain.
This information will be supported by our first Human Rights statement which is currently in development and will help us evolve vital policies such as vulnerable workers and responsible recruitment.
To help shape our programme, we are working with NGO’s such as Oxfam and tapping into expert advice from our established memberships of organisations such as Spanish Ethical and World Banana forums as well as the Food Network for Ethical Trade. We will continue to work with partners to identify stakeholders, memberships and initiatives which best support us in addressing risk and providing solutions.
One of those initiatives is the Slave-Free Alliance which we joined last year. The social enterprise, supported by Asda, works with businesses that want to protect their supply chains and operations from modern slavery. As part of signing up, we will undertake a gap analysis to help alert us further to the hidden risks associated with modern slavery while providing an opportunity to set best practice standards and help us to further prioritise risk testing our assumptions and providing a level of reassurance about our processes.
Moving into new ownership has provided us with an exciting opportunity to develop new ways of working. We are moving forward with the new programme at pace and look forward to sharing further details on the progress we have made in the coming months.