We can say that WBA is committed to respecting and upholding the dignity, well-being and fundamental human rights of every individual affected by our business, but the company’s newly published Human Rights Policy Statement makes our expectations clear. In doing so, we ensure that all customers, team members, workers in our supply chain and local communities that are touched by our business have their rights understood, respected and recognized.
We caught up with Julia Chiu, senior manager of packaging and sustainability, WBA Global Sourcing, who played an instrumental role in publishing this statement. Learn how it all came together.
Why was it important for WBA to publish a Human Rights Policy Statement?
We want to take a very clear position on where we stand as a company when it comes to human rights, particularly with everything going on in the world right now. As all businesses can have a profound impact on human rights, where the impact can be positive (e.g., raising living standards) or it can be negative (e.g., where activities destroy people’s livelihoods, exploit workers or displace communities), we know we must remain vigilant and make sure our stance is conspicuous in the regions of the world where this is prevalent.
It is not compulsory for companies to publish a policy statement on these issues, but we feel it is important because we’re a global company that sources supplies from all over the world – we have the power to push for human rights to be respected and ultimately to try and make the world a better place.
How did industry guidelines help define WBA’s policy statement?
First an internal exercise was conducted to understand if there were any gaps in the way WBA operates against the UN Guiding principles for Business on Human Rights, which provides a blueprint for actions, defining parameters within which companies should develop policies, rules and processes based on their roles and particular circumstances. We know the importance of launching a WBA Human Rights Policy Statement to the public, so by referencing the International Labour Organization’s and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s globally recognized principles and guidelines, we show that we have left no stone unturned. Ultimately, we now have an approach to these issues that can be applied in all the countries where we are present.
How do large, global companies with complex supply chains monitor common human rights issue in their supply chain (e.g., work hours and use of child labor)?
This is done via an audit system that records the conditions observed against our internal ethical trading standard and local regulations. WBA can also demand an onsite audit. This is also usually done before a contract is signed and a partnership is formed.
What would happen if you found out that an affiliation was not respecting human rights?
If after receiving an audit report, we feel that the conditions are below the standard we wish to be associated with, we will work with the suppliers on the remediation plan. And if there is no progress or the supplier is being not corporative, we will terminate the contract or sever work on the site. There is a rating system in place to decide this, which includes a zero-tolerance policy for issues such as child labor, forced labor, human trafficking and bribery. We also demand suppliers source minerals and materials as ethically as possible, such as mica through the Responsible Mica Initiatives, which is committed to operating a responsible and sustainable mica supply chain in India free of child labor.
How does this document work alongside WBA’s other guiding principles such as the company’s Modern Slavery and Human Traffic Statement, our Code of Conduct & Business Ethics and our Supplier Code of Conduct?
The Human Rights Policy Statement is intentionally very broad; it indicates our values and how we aim to do business. The other documents are related, and together they show how WBA approaches business ethics and clearly state our expectations both internally and with our business partners.