Debenhams Sustainability Report
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Ethical Trade Overview

Ethical Trade Overview

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

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 from our UK, Hong Kong and Bangladesh offices. Compliance is on-going monitoring, training and providing support, to help improve and achieve the highest standards for the benefit of the people in our global supply chain.

Debenhams has been a member of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) since 2001: the ETI Base Code is an internationally recognised code of labour practice founded on the conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). We are actively involved with various ETI initiatives, such as The Leicester Working Group, Living Wages, China Working Group and we continue to engage with other retailers, BRC (The British Retail Consortium), Stronger Together and ALP (Association of Labour Providers). For further information please go to

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

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 for remediation. Over 700 factory visits were conducted by the Ethical Compliance team within a 12 month period.

Debenhams Code of Conduct


During the course of a year over 900 factories will undergo an audit or 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 (ITS). We use an audit methodology called SMETA, which is industry standard across the retail sector, which creates continuity and standardised reporting. This also helps to reduce repetitive auditing for factories where retailers share the same manufacturing site.

All factories must be pre-approved before production can take place. This includes submission of a business case for the new factory and meeting our stringent on-boarding process and audit requirements. Once this is completed the factory is allocated a unique factory number and only then can the Buying teams create an order.

We run our own spot check programme, whereby each month factories are randomly selected for unannounced inspections by Intertek to conduct, to check for unauthorised subcontracting. It is clearly stated in our Code of Conduct, Conditions of Trading and company policies, that sub-contracting is not permitted under any circumstances.

We also focus on capacity building continually encouraging transparency and open dialogue. Recognising the challenges our suppliers and factories face from environmental, economic and political climates, we believe training and development, with on-going support and guidance, is imperative to drive positive sustainable change.