Corporate Social Responsibility
Debenhams Sustainability Report
< Back to overview

Human Rights & Modern Slavery

As a fundamental part of our Supplier Code of Conduct, Debenhams respects International principles of Human Rights, including but not limited to those expressed in our Human Rights Policy, UN Declaration of Human Rights, United Nations Guiding Principles, Sustainable Development Goals and those principles contained within the Modern Slavery Act 2015.

All Ethical Trade policies have ownership at company board level, with the aim to protect employee welfare and basic human rights within our supply chains. These policies have been made in line with the UN guiding principles and are influenced by civil society, unions, NGOs, multi-stakeholder and brand collaboration. 

Those polices are as follows:

Modern Slavery Statement 2016

Modern Slavery Statement 2017

Modern Slavery Statement 2018

Human Rights Policy

Code of Conduct

In 2019, as part of the Ethical Trade strategy we will be introducing detailed policies on Ethical Recruitment and Child Labour Remediation. Though these items are an integral part of the Supplier Code of Conduct, by creating individual polices we hope to strengthen and focus efforts within these areas, with the aim of protecting the most vulnerable.   

Living Wages

The Global Living Wage Coalition provides the following definition of a living wage:

“The remuneration received for a standard workweek by a worker in a particular place sufficient to afford a decent standard of living for the worker and her or his family. Elements of a decent standard of living include food, water, housing, education, health care, transportation, clothing and other essential needs including provision for unexpected events.”


Current Progress

To date Debenhams has engaged in the following initiatives and programmes, to actively support the payment of living wages within our extended global supply chains.

  • An internal review of purchasing practices highlighted necessary areas of improvement, giving us an opportunity to focus resources and create a targeted action plan.
  • Complimenting the internal review, we surveyed our supplier partners, encouraging them to rate and provide feedback on our current purchasing practices. The survey was conducted independently by Better Buying, which allowed for confidential, open and honest feedback. For more information on the Better Buying programme please visit 
  • Mapping of the Tier 1 supply base to understand current levels of worker representation. Freedom of association and the ability to bargain collectively is an integral part of the negotiation process needed to determine country-specific living wage levels.

Informed by the purchasing practices review, in 2020 we will be rolling out the ‘Purchasing Practices Academy’. This training programme will be completed by all relevant colleagues to continue internal conversations around purchasing practices, while establishing best practice for ways of working going forward.

Following the mapping of worker representation levels in the Tier 1 supply base we aim to facilitate the development and strengthening of worker committees and trade union partnerships (where applicable), enabling employees to create a worker-management dialogue regarding wage-related issues. Strengthening of the worker committees will be achieved through workshops in key sourcing countries as part of the Debenhams Partners Training Programme, as well as one-to-one on-site factory visits by members of the Ethical Trade team.

Creation and implementation of this programme was based closely on the ETI’s Freedom of Association and worker representation roadmap which forms the basis of discussions with factories on how they can improve on worker representation at site level. More information on this can be found here.