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Modern Slavery

In 2017, our first modern slavery statement was signed off by the Society Board. We developed it with other Co-op societies to make it clear, informative, and most of all, effective.

This statement gives our commitment to ensure modern slavery does not take place anywhere within our business or supply chain.

The main areas we focus on are:

Raising awareness: As part of Anti-Slavery International and Euro Co-ops Sustainability Task Force Group, we share information and best practice to help tackle the issue across the world

Supplier engagement: Whenever we engage with a new, direct supplier, they will receive a copy of our modern slavery statement and stick rigidly to our employment legislation

Training and employment: We support the Bright Future Programme and are strengthening our partnership with City Hearts, helping to give those rescued from modern slavery a safe environment and the chance of a better future

Modern Slavery by Justice in Motion

 

The following video was taken from Justice in Motion's theatre production to promote the issue of Modern Slavery...

Our Society continues to support the progression of Bright Future. We were one of the first organisations to join the Co-op Group in working with Bright Future, a collaborative employment scheme that brings charities and businesses together to create jobs for victims of Modern Slavery. The Bright Future scheme has grown to include 44 organisations, who are co-operating to support victims of slavery, including John Lewis, Typhoo, Dixons Carphone and the Body Shop. 

Within our Society’s ‘Values in Action’ plan we set out our aim to ‘become a founding member of Bright Future Co-operative and ensure employment opportunities for Modern Slavery survivors’. You will recall from last year that Bright Future was registered as a Co-operative, and as one of the founding members, our Chief Values Officer represents our Society as Chair of the Bright Future Board. 

We have engaged with six individuals as part of the Bright Future programme to support and develop employability skills and opportunities, with four of these gaining work experience through our Food Retail business, and two through our Childcare business. This has allowed them to gain skills and pursue their chosen careers, and we currently have one of these individuals in permanent employment with the Society, working in our Food Retail business.      

As part of our Society’s ‘Values in Action’ programme we will continue to support employment opportunities for vulnerable members of society and ensure employment opportunities for Modern Slavery survivors.

Within the last year, we have also implemented our ‘Ethical Co-operative Policy for business activities’, ensuring that our Trading Groups follow the letter and spirit of our ethical values when making business decisions including procurement, supplier engagement, and any business developments. Within the policy, we emphasise our commitment to ensuring that the people and communities providing the products and services we buy and sell are treated fairly and that their fundamental human rights are protected and respected. This complements our other associated policies already in place, ensuring we are conducting business in an ethical and transparent manner. 

Slavery and Human Trafficking Statement for the financial year 2021/22

Slavery and Human Trafficking Statement for the financial year 2021/22

This statement is made pursuant to s.54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 and sets out the steps that The Midcounties Co-operative has taken and is continuing to take to ensure that modern slavery or human trafficking is not taking place within our business or supply chain.  We issued our first such statement five years ago.  This statement outlines the progress we have made in the last year.

Modern slavery encompasses slavery, servitude, human trafficking and forced labour.  The Midcounties Co-operative has a zero-tolerance approach to any form of modern slavery.  We are committed to acting ethically and with integrity and transparency in all business dealings and to putting effective systems and controls in place to safeguard against any form of modern slavery taking place within the business or our supply chain.

 

Our business

Midcounties Co-operative is a consumer co-operative owned and controlled by its members.  We are part of the global co-operative movement and subscribe to co-operative values and principles that govern all co-operatives around the world.

We have four core values that underpin our Purpose and guide the way we work:

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We operate a range of businesses in Food, Travel, Healthcare, Childcare, Post Offices, and Utilities.  Our heartlands are in Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Buckinghamshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, the West Midlands, Wiltshire and Worcestershire. However, we also trade in the surrounding counties and our Utilities, Childcare, and Travel businesses trade across the UK.

 

Our high risk areas

We continue to take steps to ensure that we understand the areas of our Society and supply chain in which there may be a greater risk.  Work has been ongoing with our suppliers to ensure that our terms and conditions/contracts take into account ethics and modern slavery, and we continue to engage with our suppliers to further understand and discuss risks associated with modern slavery.

We endeavour to issue our suppliers with the following documents from our Head of Procurement:

  • Ethical code of conduct
  • Copy of our Modern Slavery Statement

As part of our due diligence processes and checks, suppliers must return a signed copy of our Ethical Code of Conduct, to confirm their adherence to all related Midcounties’ polices, including Modern Slavery. 

 

Our policies

We operate a number of internal policies to ensure we are conducting business in an ethical and transparent manner.  These include:

  1. Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Policy. This policy sets out the Society’s stance on modern slavery and explains how colleagues can identify instances of modern slavery and where they can go for help.

 

  1. Recruitment policy. We operate a robust recruitment policy; this includes conducting eligibility to work in the UK checks for all prospective colleagues to safeguard against human trafficking or individuals being forced to work against their will.

 

  1. Whistleblowing policy. We operate a whistleblowing policy so that colleagues can raise concerns about inappropriate practices within our Society or supply chain without fear of reprisal.

 

  1. Code of business conduct. This code explains how we behave as an organisation and how we expect our Colleagues and suppliers to act.

 

  1. Diversity and Inclusion policy. This policy sets out our commitment to equal opportunities and the avoidance of discrimination, and applies to all aspects of employment with us.  The policy outlines where colleagues can go for help and report any incidents of discrimination. 

 

  1. Ethical Co-operative Policy for business activities: Ensuring that our Trading Groups follow the letter and spirit of our ethical values when making business decisions including procurement, supplier engagement, and any business developments. Within this policy we emphasise our commitment to ensuring that the people and communities providing the products and services we buy and sell are treated fairly, and that their fundamental human rights are protected and respected.

We have independent and confidential services such as Speak In Confidence, an anonymous conversation system allowing direct communication between colleagues and senior managers, and an Employee Assistance Programme, offering a free confidential helpline service that is available to colleagues so they can talk to professionals on any personal, home or work related issues.  We also have a partnership in place with Grocery Aid, a national charity that helps people across the whole of the grocery industry with emotional, practical and financial support.  All of our colleagues are provided with the dedicated helpline number for Grocery Aid.

Within the last year we have also implemented our ‘Purchasing Policy’, ensuring the Society and every individual involved in purchasing, procurement and supply management processes within the Society, use their best endeavors to ensure that our purchasing and contracting activities are ethical, socially responsible and sustainable, and consistent with and in support of our Supplier Code.  Through this policy our Society is committed to buying from reputable suppliers who meet and promote ethical trading standards and behaviours throughout its supply chain.

 

Our Suppliers

The majority of the suppliers we work with transact with our Food Retail business. We are members of the buying group Federal Retail Trading Services (FRTS), which purchases on behalf of our Food Retail business. FRTS has its own Modern Slavery Statement and Sound Sourcing Code of Conduct (SSC) which can be found at https://www.co-operative.coop/ethics.  The SSC sets out the workplace and employment standards that we expect of all our suppliers.  It is based on the Ethical Trading Initiative Base Code and core international labour standards, and includes checks on forced labour and modern slavery. 

FRTS suppliers are identified for audit using a risk-based approach determined by their responses to Sedex (Supplier Ethical Data Exchange) questionnaires, worker profiles, country of origin and sector analyses.  Through this monitoring programme over 2,500 co-op own branded supplier sites are covered, comprising over 700,000 workers across six continents and 70 countries.

Training and capacity building of our suppliers through FRTS is also a key focus, and through the FRTS ethical trade supplier engagement programme we continue to provide a variety of bespoke and interactive training opportunities for suppliers on an ongoing basis, as well as providing access to tools and collaborative initiatives to help suppliers address the underlying causes of human rights issues, and to manage risks such as modern slavery.  Through this FRTS training and capacity building programme, over the last year 82 supplier events have been completed, reaching over 7,000 participants across the globe.

Outside of FRTS sourced products, our businesses follow our supplier ethical code of conduct.  A core focus area for our business within our direct supply chain is our ‘Best of Our Counties’ range in our Food Retail business.  This is a unique range of locally sourced food and drink found in our Food Stores, sourced preferably within the relevant Store’s home or neighbouring county.

We continue to carry out audit and risk assessments on our ‘Best of our Counties’ local supplier processes, working with a third party to carry out ongoing audits of these local suppliers, ensuring that all of our ‘Best of our Counties’ suppliers adhere to our ethical code of conduct and adhere to relevant employment legislation. Only local suppliers who adhere to these standards and pass our auditing process can be included in our ‘Best of our Counties’ range. 

In addition, our Head of Procurement works closely with each business group to plan and deliver a robust purchasing and procurement strategy for ‘goods not for resale’ across the Society. This work includes ensuring our terms and conditions take account of ethics and modern slavery for our preferred suppliers.

Within the last year we have also implemented ‘Intend’, an electronic contract management database that is used by our Procurement and Legal colleagues, and the relevant contract managers working for our Society.  The system allows us to hold all our contracts in a centralised place, so we have better visibility of both the suppliers’ and our Society’s obligations under each contract. 

 

Training

We have implemented training and awareness-raising activity in relation to modern slavery with our colleagues, members and partner organisations:

  • Managers across the Society have been briefed on our policies and processes and engaged in awareness raising around Modern Slavery

  • Our specialist HR colleagues have received additional training on Modern Slavery

  • Our Head of Procurement is examined each year on ethical procurement issues, including Modern Slavery, as part of her ongoing professional qualification

  • Colleague representatives have been engaged in awareness raising and signposting of support agencies

  • Access to our Modern Slavery and Human Rights policy is available to all colleagues through our ‘Colleagues Connect’ website. ‘Colleagues Connect’ also enables our colleagues to engage in two-way feedback and is an additional channel for concerns to be raised.  

  • We have a dedicated webpage on our website to raise awareness of Modern Slavery amongst our members, including hosting on this web page a theatre production in which we sponsored our community partner ‘Justice in Motion’ to raise awareness of Modern Slavery.

We will continue to raise awareness of Modern Slavery during the coming year. 

 

Employment  

We were one of the first organisations to join the Co-op Group in working with Bright Future, a collaborative employment co-operative that brings charities and businesses together to create jobs for victims of Modern Slavery. Business partners, such as ourselves, work with local charities to match employers with slavery survivors who are then offered a four-week paid employment work placement, leading to a non-competitive job interview. 

We were one of the founding members of the Bright Future Co-operative and our Chief Values Officer represents our Society as Chair of the Bright Future Board. 

The Bright Future Co-operative has grown to include a range of organisations, who are co-operating to support victims of slavery, and within the last year both Morrisons and Marshalls construction have joined as new members.

Through our Society’s Sustainability strategy, we will continue to support employment opportunities for vulnerable members of society and ensure employment opportunities for Modern Slavery survivors. 

 

Our performance indicators

On a broader scale, our Society uses the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to track our progress through Business in the Communities’ Responsible Business Tracker.   These 17 Development Goals form the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – including decent work and reduced inequalities.  We are one of a range of businesses that complete Business in the Community’s annual Responsible Business Tracker. Our overall score for this year was leading in our cohort group, and significantly higher than the cohort average.

We can gauge the effectiveness of the steps we are taking to ensure that slavery and/or human trafficking is not taking place within our business or supply chain if no reports are received from colleagues, the public, or law enforcement agencies to indicate that Modern Slavery practices have been identified.

We have received no reports of incidents relating to Modern Slavery to date.

All of our colleagues have access to our Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Statement through our Colleagues Connect website.

A further development within the last year has been the formation of our Society’s Sustainability Steering Group, focused on monitoring progress and supporting the achievement of our sustainability activity, including our ‘Co-operation in the Community’ strand which includes our activity around supporting vulnerable members of the community into employment linked to our Bright Future partnership.   

 

Action

We will take appropriate action if we suspect or are advised of any instances of modern slavery or human trafficking within the Society or our supply chain.

 

Review

An annual review of commitments made in this statement is undertaken by the Society to ensure due diligence. Specific measures we have taken include:

  • Suppliers: continue to ensure that whenever we engage a new direct supplier that they receive a copy of our Modern Slavery Statement, and that they sign up to adhere to our Ethical code of conduct

  • Training and capacity building of suppliers: through FRTS continue to provide a variety of bespoke and interactive training opportunities for suppliers on an ongoing basis, as well as providing access to tools and collaborative initiatives to help suppliers address the underlying causes of human rights issues, and to manage risks such as Modern Slavery.

  • Training our colleagues: ensure all Managers across the Society have been briefed on our policies and processes, and specialist colleagues have received additional training

  • Employment: monitor the number of colleagues we support through the ‘Bright Future’ co-operative, supporting those who have been rescued from Modern Slavery back into the workplace

  • Policies: on-going monitoring of our policies in place to ensure that we continue to raise awareness around tackling Modern Slavery throughout our operations.

Approval for this statement

This statement was approved by the Board of Directors on 30/07/2022.

 

Helen Wiseman

President