Ethical trading

Our customers want to be confident that the people who make or grow our products are not being exploited or exposed to unsafe working conditions. Our Supplier Policy on Ethical Trade outlines the employment practices and standards we expect from our suppliers, wherever in the world they may be. Our aim is for the policy to be adopted as a minimum standard and to see suppliers’ performance continuously improving.

As founding members of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), our Supplier Policy is consistent with the ETI Base Code as well as national and international laws. We pride ourselves on having good supplier relationships and work with them to support our ethical trade goals. Our Supplier Handbook is our legally binding code of commercial practice. It incorporates the Groceries Supply Code of Practice (GSCOP) and our Code of Conduct on Ethical Trade. Suppliers are required to ensure that our policy is cascaded and applied to their own suppliers and sub-contractors. Our teams in Hong Kong, China and Bangladesh complement our dedicated team in the UK to support our suppliers and reinforce our ethical trading standards.

Grape factory workers in South Africa


“Well run, relevant and enjoyable training. Useful to get feedback from other suppliers and real life stories to share learning and success.” – Course attendee

We train colleagues, including staff based in Kenya, South Africa, Spain, Hong Kong, China, India and Bangladesh to understand the importance of trading ethically so they can identify any issues during visits to suppliers.

Building long-term, stable relationships with our suppliers is a key priority for delivering consistently high quality products for our customers. We ensure our suppliers have the skills and capacity required to ensure both they and their suppliers comply with our requirements and promote best practice in people management. We achieve this through continuous dialogue and knowledge sharing through training as well as through our quarterly supplier magazine Working Together, conferences and working groups.

We provide the following formal training for suppliers:

  • Technical Management Academy in partnership with Campden BRI
  • Ethical Trade course which covers our approach to sourcing with integrity
  • Course on agency labour and the prevention of worker exploitation, delivered by our strategic partners, the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA)
  • Sainsbury’s Supplier Ethical Trade Training Links guide for support on a wide variety of training including preparing for audits, modern slavery, health and safety and effective HR management
  • Clothing and general merchandise suppliers supported by six-monthly ethical trade courses in-country

Fisherman on boat


of audits are carried out each year on Sainsbury’s supplier sites

All new supplier sites must have an independent, third party ethical audit. This analysis helps us determine a supplier’s eligibility to work with us:

  • We work with the Supplier Ethical Data Exchange (Sedex) to manage suppliers' audit performance 
  • Corrective actions which are identified through audits are resolved in a timely manner by suppliers with support from our Ethical Trade and Technical teams
  • Our teams visit suppliers throughout the year to ensure that our ethical requirements are being met and provide support on ethical issues where required
  • Close monitoring of suppliers means that we are able to identify trends of common and upcoming issues

We expect our suppliers to develop ethical trade strategies which should be incorporated into their overall business and include the adoption of an ethical code of conduct, a comprehensive communication plan, a risk assessment on supply chain, monitoring programme and training. We have regular meetings with key suppliers to discuss progress against their strategy.

We have specific programmes which address industry-wide issues and work in collaboration with a range of partners such as Stronger Together and the Issara Institute to influence the supply chains that we source from in a positive way.