Human rights in the supply chain: METRO joins SEDEX as of 1 June

29 May 2019

METRO joins SEDEX with effect from 1 June. The non-profit organization aggregates data on social standards in the supply chain. METRO is thus strengthening its own commitment to the implementation of and compliance with social standards.

Human rights in the supply chain

METRO strengthens human rights in the supply chain

The international wholesale and food specialist METRO will join SEDEX (Supplier Ethical Data Exchange) as of 1 June. This London-based non-profit organisation is the largest collaborative platform that aggregates and administrates data about social standards in the supply chain and makes them available to its members. Founded by several British retail companies in 2001, SEDEX has been active since 2004 and meanwhile combines more than 30,000 buyers and suppliers worldwide on its platform.

SEDEX members can use a safe online platform to share and administrate information about labour rights, health, safety, environment and business ethics. The members also have access to a number of resources and reports including industry-specific questionnaires and market-leading risk analysis tools. The objective of the database is to create maximum transparency and provide efficient access to specific supply chain data to promote the implementation of social and environmental standards in the international value chain.

METRO’s way of securing social standards in the supply chain

With its SEDEX membership, METRO is strengthening its own commitment to the implementation of, and compliance with, social standards in the food and non-food supply chains. With operations in the wholesale and delivery business in 36 countries worldwide, METRO on average has around 50,000 food and non-food products on stock for its more than 24 million professional customers around the world. This means collaborating with a multitude of international suppliers, producers and manufacturers. “Our goal is to ensure socially acceptable labour conditions within our supply chains. The basic prerequisite for a cooperation with our business partners is that they respect values which are similar to ours. That is why the METRO Code of Conduct forms an integral part of any business relationship for us”, says Veronika Pountcheva, Global Director Corporate Responsibility METRO AG, who was elected Co-Chair of the Consumer Goods Forum Sustainability Steering Committee as recently as in March 2019 and in addition also serves on the Supervisory Board of the amfori Business Social Compliance Initiative (amfori BSCI), a monitoring and qualification system for social and environmental standards. The METRO Code of Conduct covers the respect of human rights as defined by the UN and ILO standards, protection of the environment as well as regulations on business ethics, especially on the fight against corruption and bribery, on antitrust and competition law as well as on data protection.

Good conditions need strong partnerships

METRO relies on social standard systems as a central element of its process for assessing standards in the supply chain and at the same time also as an instrument for sustainably implementing improvements. As one of the founding members of amfori BSCI, METRO has for many years stood up for systematically establishing socially acceptable labour conditions at its own brand producers. The approach used by the wholesale specialist is to support its own suppliers and their production facilities in establishing the management process required to this effect. That is why METRO is also a signatory of the BSCI Code of Conduct which is based on 11 principles and covers a variety of social and environmental standards. Besides the BSCI standard, METRO also accepts a number of carefully selected other standards and certificates to verify the compliance with social standards in its own supply chains:

  • SA8000 (Social Accountability)
  • ICTI (International Council of Toy Industry)
  • ICS (Initiative Clause Sociale)
  • ETI (Ethical Trading Initiative) provided that it is conducted according to the SMETA guidelines (SEDEX Members Ethical Trade Audit)
  • RBA (Responsible Business Association (formerly EICC, Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition)
  • FLA (Fair Labor Association)
  • ASC (Aquaculture Stewardship Council)
  • BAP (Best Aquaculture Practices)
  • RSPO (Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil)

Audits and Deal Breaker Processes for sustainable improvement

To ensure fair and socially acceptable working conditions in the supply chain management, METRO requires auditing according to amfori BSCI or to one of the above-mentioned, equivalent standards as a prerequisite for its business relationships. This requirement was introduced several years ago for all producers of non-food own brand products from risk countries as defined by amfori BSCI in which the local METRO organisations or the global import entity METRO SOURCING sources some of its products. Since January 2019, all non-food own brand suppliers must present a positive audit result.

With the additional Deal Breaker Process introduced in 2016, METRO has in addition defined a set of tools for ensuring socially acceptable working conditions. The assessment criteria include the aspects child labour, forced labour, safety at work and here in particular fire protection, as well as unethical behaviour. If a company violates the defined standards, the Deal Breaker Process ensures that new or follow-up orders for the suppliers concerned and their manufacturers are suspended until the violations identified by the Deal Breaker Process have been rectified.

Sensitisation begins at one’s own company

With the aim of not only demanding and ensuring compliance with the social requirements on the part of our suppliers, but also of improving them, METRO introduced first trainings dealing specifically with the subject of forced labour in the supply chain in 2018. METRO Turkey, Pakistan, China and Ukraine organised one-day training pilots for employees in relevant positions. The goal is to sensitise the employees so that they can identify potential and/or actual incidents of forced labour, react accordingly, and prevent them. These trainings were developed and conducted in cooperation with amfori BSCI. Our goal is that all METRO country organisations shall have completed these trainings by 30 September 2020.

For years, METRO SOURCING has been working with the local producers and supported them in the framework of trainings aimed at creating an understanding of, and ensuring compliance with, the requirements of the social standards. Following a focus on fire and industrial safety measures in recent years, the first trainings with a focus on corporate responsibility were held with suppliers and manufacturers in 2018. In financial year 2017/18, 13 three-hour workshops with 218 participants from 160 manufactures in the production countries Bangladesh, China, India and Turkey about topics such as social standards, water consumption, energy management and conservation of resources were held. Going forward, these courses are to be conducted at annual intervals with the aim of embedding awareness of sustainability issues more strongly also among METRO’s partners.

METRO is a leading international wholesale company with food and non-food assortments that specialises on serving the needs of hotels, restaurants and caterers (HoReCa) as well as independent traders. Around the world, METRO has some 24 million customers who can choose whether to shop in one of the large-format stores, order online and collect their purchases at the store or have them delivered. METRO in addition also supports the competitiveness of entrepreneurs and freelancers with digital solutions and thereby contributes to cultural diversity in retail and hospitality. Sustainability is a key pillar of METRO’s business. METRO has been the sector leader in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for the last four years. The company operates in 36 countries and employs more than 150,000 people worldwide. In financial year 2017/18, METRO generated sales of €36.5 billion. In September 2018 METRO AG initiated the divestment process for the food retail chain Real with its 34,000 employees.