Debenhams Sustainability Report
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Ethical Trade Overview

Sustainable Sourcing

Ethical sustainable sourcing underpins everything we do as a responsible international retailer. Our customers can enjoy their purchase with the full knowledge that all Debenhams’ suppliers have been carefully selected, as part of our supplier and factory comprehensive due diligence pre-assessment processes. We work closely with our suppliers’ and factories, taking into consideration at all times, the impact on the environment and the needs of the people who work within our complex global supply chains.

The Ethical Compliance and Corporate Responsibility teams are part of the Sourcing division working closely together with Buying and Merchandising and our suppliers to ensure a compliant, transparent, consistent and cost-effective flow of goods. We require our suppliers and factories to ensure that their employees are paid a fair wage, treated with respect and dignity, are not discriminated against or exploited in any way and provided a safe and clean working environment. The requirements are stated in our Supplier Code of Conduct which is embedded into our company policies and incorporated into the Suppliers’ Conditions of Trading.

We purchase goods from around the world; ‘right product, right country’. Ethical sustainable sourcing is essential to our business and integral to our decision making. We focus on potential risks as part of our company procedures and policies, reviewing issues such as geographical, social, political, economic and environment, which are reviewed with Senior Board Executives, the Trade Director of Global Sourcing and Director of Ethical Trade and Corporate Responsibility. We have an established supply base, but when looking at new countries and regions, we work with our overseas offices and existing suppliers to understand the local region, which helps to support and manage risk.

Our Global Teams

As well as the Support Centre located in London, Debenhams has a number of international sourcing offices, who also provide in country support for sourcing, merchandising, quality control and ethical compliance. We have four overseas offices located in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Bangladesh and have recently expanded into Sri Lanka. The overseas offices enable us to increase our direct sourcing, create closer working relationships, flexibility, control and transparency, as well as benefitting from improved costs. The in country Ethical Compliance teams visit and assess factories on an on-going basis and also manage capacity building programmes and CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) initiatives (click here for more information), Our Compliance team in Dhaka continue to support the remediation process within our approved factory supply base to ensure building, fire and electrical safety improvements have been met and are being monitored regularly as part of the Accord Bangladesh.

Our Code

Debenhams has been a member of the ETI (Ethical Trading Initiative) since 2001. The ETI Base Code is an internationally recognised code of labour practice based on the core conventions of the ILO (International Labour Organisation). We are actively involved with various ETI initiatives, such as The Leicester Working Group, Turkey Platform and China Working Group. We continue to collaborate with other retailers and organisations such as the BRC (The British Retail Consortium), Stronger Together and ALP (Association of Labour Providers), to share learning experiences and find solutions. For further information please visit or


ETI Logo

ETI Base Code

  • Employment is freely chosen
  • Freedom of association
  • Health and safety
  • Child labour
  • Living Wages are paid
  • Working hours
  • No discrimination
  • Regular employment and benefits
  • No harsh treatment

Debenhams Code of Conduct

Our Supplier Code of Conduct is based upon the ETI code and ILO Core Conventions. This code describes the absolute minimum requirements for all our suppliers and factories to adhere to. The underlying objective of the code is to protect human rights for all workers within our global supply chain, forming the basis of our Ethical Trade programme

Supplier Code of Conduct

Monitoring of the Supply Base

We believe that creating transparent and sustainable relationships with our suppliers and factories is essential to understanding and collaboratively improving issues that arise. Our continual focus on compliance is managed by our Ethical Compliance teams located in the UK, Hong Kong, China and Bangladesh. Compliance is an on-going process which includes monitoring, education, training and providing support to help improve and achieve the highest standards for the benefit of those who work in our global supply chain.

Currently we have 943 active factories consisting of almost half a million workers across our global supply base. All factories must undergo a pre-assessment process by the Ethical Compliance team before order placement, this includes:

During the course of a year over 900 factories will undergo an independent audit or be re-visited for follow-up remediation as part of our on-going monitoring programme. Whilst we recognise the international independent third party audit companies, our nominated audit partner is Intertek We use an audit methodology called SMETA, which is an industry standard across the retail sector, which creates continuity and standardised reporting. This also helps reduce repetitive auditing for factories where retailers share the same manufacturing site.

In addition to the third party audits, our Ethical Compliance teams regularly visit factories to monitor activity, helping to support the factory management and review any on-going remediation to agree the best course of action. Over 700 factory visits were conducted by the Ethical Compliance team within a 12 month period, 2016/17.

It is clearly stated in our Code of Conduct, Conditions of Trading and company policies, that unauthorised subcontracting is not permitted under any circumstances. This is also frequently communicated to all suppliers and factories. However, unauthorised subcontracting is still a challenge that retailers face. To minimise the risk of this happening Debenhams have a Spot Check programme, whereby each month factories are randomly selected for unannounced inspections conducted by Intertek or the Debenhams Ethical Compliance team to check orders are being produced in the approved factory.

The importance of supplier, factory engagement is essential to maintain open working relationships, always encouraging dialogue and full transparency. Therefore training and development coupled with on-going support and guidance, is imperative to drive positive sustainable change. For information regarding Debenhams in country initiatives and programmes, please visit Ethical Trade Initiatives.