Corporate Social Responsibility
Debenhams Sustainability Report

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Debenhams Code of Conduct

  1. Introduction

Legal Requirements

Employment is freely chosen

  1. Freedom of Association
  1. Working Conditions are Safe and Hygienic

Building Structure Safety and Fire Safety


  1. Employment of children

The following are the definitions to be used for the above:

Child™: Any person less than 15 years of age unless local minimum age law stipulates a higher age for work or mandatory schooling, in which case the higher age shall apply.

Young Person™:
Any worker over the age of a Child as defined above and under the age of 18.

Child Labour™:
Any work by a Child or Young Person younger than the age(s) specified in the above definitions, which does not comply with the provisions of the relevant ILO standards, and any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the Child’s or Young Person’s education, or to be harmful to the Child’s or Young Person’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development.

  1. Fair wages are paid
  1. Working hours are not excessive
  1. Disciplinary practices and Discrimination
  1. Regular employment is provided

Modern Slavery Act

  1. Labour Providers

Monitoring, Inspection and Assessment

Debenhams expects all suppliers, service providers and other business partners to be transparent at all times. All suppliers should have detailed information of where the products are being produced, including subcontracting and homework and should regularly monitor and conduct audits on their supply base with relevant documentation.

Senior management of suppliers must be appointed with responsibility for ensuring that:

Debenhams own brand suppliers should ensure that factories are approved as per Debenhams Conditions of Trading prior to the production of goods and services. In such cases, access to the factory premises shall be permitted to Debenhams staff and their representatives for the purpose of monitoring, inspecting and auditing the implementation of the Code at all times, announced or unannounced.

  1. Sub-Contracting



  1. Environment
  1. References

The Code of Conduct has been drawn up with reference to the International Labour Organisation Conventions and Recommendations, Modern Slavery Act 2015 and ETI (Ethical Trading Initiative) Base Code.

ILOC 1 Hours of Work (Industry) Convention, 1919

ILOC 26 Minimum Wage-Fixing Machinery Convention, 1928

ILOC 29 Forced labour Convention, 1930

ILOR 85 Protection of Wages Recommendation, 1949

ILOR 87 Freedom of Association & protection of the Right to Organise Convention 1948

ILOC 95 Protection of Wages Convention, 1949

ILOC 98 Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949

ILOC 100 Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951

ILOC 105 Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957

ILOC 111 Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958

ILOC 131 Minimum Wage Fixing Convention, 1970

ILOC 138 Minimum Age Convention, 1973

ILOR 146 Minimum Age Recommendation, 1973

ILOC 155 Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 1981

ILOR 164 Occupational Safety and Health Recommendation, 1981

ILOC 181 Private Employment Agencies Convention, 1997

Article 32 N Convention on the Rights of a Child

ETI Base Code Base Code is founded on the conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and is an internationally recognised code of labour practice.

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 (Transparency in Supply Chains) Regulations 2015



Debenhams are involved in a number of Ethical Trade programmes that aim to reduce inequalities within our global supply chains, focusing on life skills that will empower women and their communities.



In 2015, Debenhams partnered with Swasti, an International Health Resource Centre based in Bangalore, India to implement our LIFE programme (Life Skills for Empowering Women), By delivering a number of training modules, the programme objective was to raise awareness and empower workers, particularly women, working in the Debenhams Indian supply chain.




The workers are trained on five key areas:

We have already seen positive results with the current Swasti Life women empowerment programme in India, impacting over 6,400 workers to date. We now plan to expand this into other sourcing countries within the supply chain where there is a high concentration of women.

Success Stories

“I have begun to look at women with respect after the program. I would look down upon women, and feel that they were not equals. The training made me realize that we are equals. I also learnt about menstruation, and realized that I need to help my mother and sister at home, especially during those days as they need to rest. I have shared learning on nutritious food with them, and they follow it now. My mother cooks a variety of vegetables at home. I discuss my finances with my mother, and I have been able to save Rs.5000 every month in the bank. My mother and aunt save in the post office every month.”
Rajashekhar, Sample, Cutting Assistant

“Workers maintain hygiene at the workplace. Men and women mingle with each other, and help each other at work. They have begun to eat nutritious food, and drink boiled water. I give boiled water to all the children in the crèche.”

“Someone I know is separated from her husband. She lives all alone, and I have been able to build her confidence to live her life. I have shared the learnings from the program, and encourage her to go ahead in life. Today, I am able to help and talk to someone because of the program. Swasti should reach more people through this training, so that they are able to lead enriching lives.”
Shanti, a caretaker in the Crèche

Some of the Impacts of the programme is shared through the below videos from our factories:

Please visit for more information.

Sudokkhu Skills Training

Sudokkho is a five-year skills training and employment programme in Bangladesh funded by UK aid through its Department for International Development (DFID) and the Swiss Agency Sudokkho’s objective is to reduce poverty through better training and job opportunities. The “Industry Based Training” (IBT) of Sudokkho works together with private sector employers to support industry to develop innovative and sustainable skills training systems that allow existing or new employees to acquire the skills that lead to employment in higher valued semi-skilled or skilled jobs.

Sudokkho trainings are customised and factories are encouraged to use their monthly labour turnover and forecasts to define their workforce planning and training requirements. The training system adopts a Competency Based Approach and focuses on three core elements, Quantity, Quality and Time (QQT).

The training statistics from December 2015 to December 2017 are:

Debenhams factories Number Trained
Women 3,161
Men 789
Total 3,950

Benefits reported by the factories

Testimonials from factories

For further information please visit

Other existing programmes that aim to reduce inequalities include HER Finance, supporting digital banking for Bangladesh factory workers and sexual harassment training conducted by ILO Better Work in Vietnam and Cambodia.

Environmental and Chemical Policy

Debenhams as an international retailer sources and sells goods globally. We have a responsibility to ensure that all products are produced to the highest standards, are safe for use, and exceed customers’ expectations, whilst protecting their health and the environment. Therefore it is essential that we source responsibly by engaging with our suppliers and manufacturers by providing training and support to ensure Debenhams meet all requirements and standards whilst adhering to all local or national laws.

Our RSL (Restricted Substances List) specifies the chemical limits permitted in our products in line with REACH (Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) and standards set by international markets. The aim of the Debenhams RSL is to reduce and/or eradicate harmful chemicals by substituting them with available alternatives. Operating within the chemical limits of our RSL ensures that we protect the environment in which we operate, and the health of people in our global supply chain and consumers. Our policy and RSL (Restricted Substance List) are regularly reviewed and updated in line with developing legislation.

Animal Testing and Animal Welfare


To ensure all animal derived materials are sourced from farms practicing good animal husbandry to protect the fair and ethical treatment of animals.


Animal Testing – Prohibited:

Debenhams does not support the use of animal testing across any product range. We do not knowingly acquire products or ingredients from suppliers that have commissioned animal testing. Animal testing in the EU has been banned since March 2013, the EU Cosmetics Regulation (EC) No 1223/2009 prohibits the performance of animal testing in the European Union for finished products or ingredients.

Animal Fur – Prohibited:

Endangered Species – Prohibited:


Live plucking and force feeding of geese and ducks is prohibited. Feathers used for Debenhams products must be a by-product of the food industry and evidence of this should be submitted to product technologists during the product approval process.

Evidence includes and is not limited to: Origin of source, species, handling and transparency of full supply chain, which must be recorded and available upon request.

Examples of acceptable documentation include valid 3rd-party certification to the following:

Feathers and down used for Debenhams products must be:

Supplementary requirements for feather and down-filled products:

Cashmere and Mohair

Must be sourced from suppliers and producers with good animal husbandry. Animal fibres must be responsibly harvested by natural shedding and combing practices.


All leather used must be a by-product of the food industry. Debenhams supports farms practicing the ‘Five Freedoms’:


Must be sourced from farmers with good animal husbandry and do not practise the activity of mulesing.

Cosmetic Regulations

Cosmetic Regulation (EC) No 1223/2009

This legal requirement came into force on July the 11th 2013 throughout all the EU member states.

It places greater requirements on the Responsible Person’ that manufactures or imports a cosmetic product. To demonstrate safety, the Regulation places more rigorous demands to generate, record, document and update information in a more stringent manner.

This includes the registration of product, with notification of sale and compositional information supplied to the EU Commission who issue the information to the Poison Centres and Member States. The regulation provides for the assessment of product safety and the prohibition of animal testing.

Timber Sourcing

Debenhams has a complex supply chain. We continually assess our suppliers as part of our on-going ethical compliance programme. Part of our policies and procedures for good forest management include the requirement that our suppliers source timber legally.

In 2010 the EU parliament voted to outlaw illegal timber or products made from such wood from entering the EU.

The EU Legal Timber Regulation (995/2010) places responsibility on importers to have undertaken sufficient guarantees that timber and timber based products they bring into the EU are legally harvested and fully traceable back to the source of the forest. Only when an acceptable risk level has been identified, may merchandise be placed on the EU market, post 3rd March 2013.

We have partnered with Bureau Veritas (BV) to carry out risk assessments and traceability of the timber sourced for our own brand products within scope of the regulation.

BV is accredited as a monitoring organization by the EU commission. (

Documentation demonstrating compliance to applicable legislation in the Country of harvest i.e. Right to harvest/ Payment for harvest rights and duties, Timber harvesting, Tenure & Use rights, Trade & Customs documents.

Working with our suppliers we continually monitor and improve as necessary our due diligence process for assessment and management to mitigate our timber risks. This is particularly crucial for our suppliers in jurisdictions that lack robust environmental protection. We recognize and support the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification).

REACH Policy


The EU REACH Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 came into force on the 2nd of June 2007. REACH stands for Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation of Chemicals, and is the most significant piece of chemical legislation to enter into force since the introduction of the Dangerous Substances Directive in 1967. REACH has a significant impact on manufactures, importers and users of chemicals, as well as retailers and their suppliers.


The fundamental requirement of REACH is that EU business that manufactures or import Annex XVII chemical substances into the EU in excess of 1 tonne per annum, must register said substances with the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), who are based in Helsinki.

Substances of Very High Concern (SVHCs)

Under Article 33(1) of the EU REACH Regulation producers, importers and other suppliers have to inform recipients about Substances of Very High Concern (SVHCs) contained in articles above 0.1% weight by weight (w/w), by law, within 45 days.

Waste Electrical (WEEE), Batteries and Waste Packaging


The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE Directive) was introduced into UK law in January 2007 with the aim of reducing the amount of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) going to landfill. As a producer and a distributor of electrical goods Debenhams are:

In 2016 Debenhams achieved a 100% compliance rate in store audits conducted by National Measurement Regulation Office (NMRO) the enforcement body responsible for compliance to the WEEE and Batteries Regulations.

Each store visited by the NMRO demonstrated compliance to Retailer and Distributor obligations which can be found:


The EU Batteries Directive was introduced with the aim of reducing the amount of used batteries ending up in landfill. As a producer and distributor of batteries, Debenhams are:

Waste Packaging

The Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste Regulations) were introduced in 1997 with the aim of reducing the amount of packaging ending up in landfill. As a Producer of packaging Debenhams are obligated to:

Sustainable fashion has never been so in demand and more and more people are choosing a vegan lifestyle than ever before. In line with this growing focus on ethics, the demand for compassionate and sustainable homeware is also on the increase…

To celebrate the work of designers and retailers who are considering animal’s cruelty, the environment and sustainability, PETA have created the first ever PETA Vegan Homewares Awards.

Debenhams has been awarded: Best Down Free Bedding Feels like down™ Micro-Fibre Duvet


A sustainable business knows the importance of engaging with people. At Debenhams we are proud of our strong and enduring relationships with customers, employees – past and present – and the communities we serve.

Customers are at the heart of our decision making. We put a lot of time and effort into getting to know our customers, helping us speak their language and meet their needs.

Delivering on our customer promise relies on the commitment of our employees. Debenhams is a major employer with around 30,000 staff in the UK, Republic of Ireland, Hong Kong and Denmark, plus thousands more who work in our franchise stores. We are committed to attracting, retaining and growing the very best talent in the industry.

Debenhams is proud to support the communities in which it serves.  In line with our mission we aim to support charities that boost confidence and wellbeing, with particular focus on empowering women.

In addition to fundraising we endeavour to support charities and our local communities through empowering our colleagues to conduct volunteer activities, recognising those who are ‘doing their bit’ and investing in our people to build confidence internally and provide a workplace with wellbeing of its staff at the forefront.

Community Achievements

This year we raised £1.5m for our national charity partners’ Look Good Feel Better, Help For Heroes, Breast Cancer Now, Children In Need and Make A Wish Ireland. These funds are generated from a variety of activities including; a donation of profits from the sale of exclusive products; the sale of charity partners’ merchandise; an annual supplier and business partner funded charity ball as well as a range of colleague challenges from a 500km bike ride to bake sales. Customer and colleague donations raised throughout the year linked to specific events and causes complete the effort.

We also raise funds and make donations to the Debenhams Retirement Association, Retail Trust and Regent’s Place Community Fund.  Further funds are raised by the Salvation Army Trading Company through the donation of unwanted and unsalable goods.

We have developed a number of volunteering initiatives this year to empower our colleagues to support our partner charities.  Over 400 of the beauty sales consultants have voluntarily completed training with Look Good Feel Better to advise those undergoing treatment for cancer on how to deal with physical side effects.

A number of our London Support Centre colleagues have more recently volunteered to become mentors for the C4WS Jobs Club as part of its support for the Regent’s Place Community Fund.  In addition, colleagues are also invited to support fundraising activities instores on a voluntary basis.

We have a number of community initiatives in place to support activities taking place in the areas that we serve including hosting Look Good Feel Better workshops in a number of our stores where customers can receive advice and support from trained colleagues.  In addition, we have worked with Help For Heroes to support the Band of Sisters and create respite areas in our restaurants to meet and socialise with women who understand what it is like to care for a loved one, who has been wounded injured or sick as a result of their service.

For one participant, the Debenhams Band of Sisters event was their first touch point with Help for Heroes and was the first time she felt strong enough to leave her loved one at home in 3 ½ years. This opportunity allows much needed time for self-care and enables individuals to find new confidence following periods of social isolation.

Later this year, 14 trained volunteers will commence their support for C4WS Jobs Club by mentoring members of the homeless community gain employment.

Look Good Feel Better


Look Good Feel Better (LGFB) is the only international cancer support charity that helps women and teenagers manage the visible side effects of cancer treatment.

Our free confidence boosting skincare and make-up Workshops and Masterclasses are held across the UK for women undergoing treatment for any type of cancer. Led by LGFB Beauty Volunteers, the sessions are an opportunity to meet others in a similar situation whilst being taught vital skills such as how to draw on missing eyebrows and eyelashes.

Introduced in to the UK in 1994, the first LGFB Workshop was hosted at the CancerKin Centre in the Royal Free Hospital, London. Workshops are now held regularly in 98 locations across the UK, alongside more than 300 Masterclasses – supporting over 19,500 women and teenagers annually.

Each two hour session is led by volunteer beauty professionals who donate their time and expertise to the LGFB Programme. They share tips and techniques to help with problems such as eyebrow and eyelash loss and changes to the skin.

LGFB receives no government funding, so relies entirely on the support and generosity of member companies, supporting organisations and individual fundraisers.

Help for Heroes

Help for Heroes believes that anyone who sustains a life-changing illness or injury in the line of duty deserves the very best support, for life. Their holistic approach to recovering is underpinned by three core objectives, to improve:

Physical wellbeing – when a previously active and physically fit person is faced with a life-changing injury or illness, it can seem as if sporting doors have closed. Help for Heroes’ world-leading Sports Recovery Programme enables individuals to lead a more active, healthy and independent life.

Psychological wellbeing – thousands of those who served are suffering from ‘hidden wounds’ – low level mental health problems such as depression, anger management and stress. By developing their new psychological wellbeing service, support can be provided to Veterans and families of the Armed Forces community living with the everyday challenges of anxiety, depression and stress.

Social wellbeing – becoming wounded, injured or sick, whether physically or mentally, impacts on every aspect of life. The Help for Heroes Band of Brothers and Band of Sisters Fellowships have helped to support both the individuals and their family through the transition back into civilian life, and to forge a happy and purposeful future.

Nepal Earthquake


Debenhams also supported the Disasters Emergency Committee in its work to provide emergency shelter, food, clean water, blankets and support to rebuild lives to the survivors of the June 2015 Earthquake in Nepal. Over £14,000 was raised through customer donations collected at Debenhams stores.


Energy efficiency lies at the heart of our clean and green approach. Over the last 5 years, we have delivered a continuous programme of energy investment and benefits spanning people, procurement and projects. This has helped to achieve absolute year on year reductions in carbon emissions, despite our growing estate. We have been reporting our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions since 2008 and reporting online to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) since 2010. We participate in the UK government’s CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme where we and have achieved reductions in both carbon emissions and overall energy consumption since the inception of the scheme. Our greenhouse gas (GHG) foot printing, reporting and assurance services are provided by Ricardo Energy and Environment. 

Power to the People

People play a very important part in delivering and sustaining our energy reductions, so we provide store colleagues with simple targeted tools to help monitor and minimize their energy usage. Using energy alerts store teams are able to view their energy profiles on a daily basis and receive a weekly summary of their usage and whether they are breaching energy thresholds. Regional league tables help to identify which stores are performing well and help to generate competition between them.  

LED Project

In 2018, we invested over £3 million and retrofitted LED lighting in 12 stores. These projects have not only delivered excellent results in reducing energy use but have also led to a more comfortable customer environment.

Committed to the Cause

Debenhams is committed to continuously improving the energy efficiency of our buildings and operations and continue to make progress towards our group wide carbon target of reducing absolute operational CO2e emissions by 10% by 2020 against our 2007/08 baseline.

This will drive us to deliver continuous improvements in energy efficiency and explore innovative technologies to help reduce energy and carbon usage across our stores, logistics operations and offices.