Our human rights focus hero image

Our human rights focus

As a consumer co-operative, people are at the heart of everything we do. A changing environment and food system can bring uncertainty for the people involved in producing the food we love, so it’s more important than ever that we do what we can to make sure everyone gets a fair deal.

We believe that respecting human rights is a shared responsibility. That’s why we work with our suppliers to ensure everyone involved in producing our products is treated fairly. We understand that human rights issues can be systemic and require long-term sustainable improvements to address root causes and drive change. We also recognise the limitations of relying solely on audits in identifying risks to labour rights, therefore we have a comprehensive programme in place to tackle the issues on the ground with suppliers and other organisations around the world. Read more about our capacity building programme here

Our human rights commitment

We are committed to supporting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and protecting the fundamental rights of workers in our supply chain. In line with this, our ‘Sound Sourcing Code of Conduct’ sets out the workplace and employment standards that we strenuously apply across our supply base, which is based on the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) Base Code and other core international labour standards.

Our commitments on ethical trade, human rights and addressing modern slavery are outlined in three key policies.

Our priority labour rights risks

We have identified the most significant labour rights risks in our supply base as: modern slavery, exploitation of vulnerable workers, lack of worker voice and representation and smallholder livelihoods.

Modern slavery, vulnerable workers, worker voice & smallholders

Modern slavery

This includes forced and compulsory labour, servitude and human trafficking. Traffickers and slave drivers coerce, deceive and force individuals to work against their will into a life of abuse, servitude and inhumane treatment.

Exploitation of vulnerable workers

Many workers in agricultural and food supply chains are potentially vulnerable to discrimination, exploitation or abuse. Women, migrant workers and temporary workers are at particular risk. This can be due to language barriers, informal recruitment, lack of information on employment rights and seasonal work in rural locations.

Worker voice & representation

Many workers do not have proper channels through which they can voice grievances or concerns with employers, which can lead to fear of reprisal and issues of exploitation, ineffective communication, poor workplace culture and discrimination. Industry collaboration and employer facilitated worker voice initiatives are key to preventing and resolving conflicts effectively. Combined with representative structures, these mechanisms also empower workers to negotiate better conditions for themselves.


In supply chains across developing countries, there are many small farms operating within informal economies. Human rights issues can occur amongst smallholders due to the informal and small-scale nature of the work, the low prices they’re paid for their products, poor communication channels to share local and international standards and their lack of visibility in global supply chains.

Our top 8 identified high risk areas

To identify priority labour rights risks, we’ve used input from stakeholder and publicly available human rights indicators to evaluate key areas of risk in our supply chains. We then combined information on country-specific human rights risks and on specific labour standards issues, analysed where our greatest risks are, and identified existing initiatives which we are part of that could help mitigate these risks.

In 2019, based on this analysis, and as part of our commitment to greater transparency, we identified the following 8 priority areas of activity, covering 17 sourcing countries. The salient risk focus areas represent over 75% of all workers in the scope of the Ethical Trade Programme. We’ve set out what the issues are, the supply chain and products, and how we’re responding to the issues. Read about every area or focus on the one that interests you most by clicking on the links.

Our Future of Food ambition strategy for a sustainable future, sets out a range of human rights goals and commitments, outlined below, along with detailed targets to achieve these long-term goals.

These targets build our ongoing monitoring and supplier engagement programme as well as our commitment to work collaboratively in a range of initiatives to address systemic issues Find out more

Co-op Commitments

• We will carry out an independent review of our priority human rights focus areas and continue to publish the steps we are taking to mitigate the root causes of issues identified.

• We will support our suppliers in improving human rights across our supply chains through the delivery of our global capacity building programme, reaching over 2,000 delegates in 35 events in 2024.

• We will champion the role of women and vulnerable people in our supply chains. In 2024, we will continue to roll out training to address issues of gender-based violence in the supply chain and support collaborative initiatives to address the root causes.

• We will continue to work collaboratively to eliminate illegal and unfair recruitment fees in our global supply chain

Learn more in our annual Co-operate report and Modern Slavery Statement