In July 2021, Ethical Consumer viewed Amazon’s website for information on how the company managed workers' rights in its supply chain. The following documents were viewed to inform this rating: Amazon Supply Chain Standards, Amazon Supply Chain Standards, Modern Day Slavery Statement (UK) and a webpage entitled ‘Responsible Sourcing’.
1 SUPPLY CHAIN POLICY (Rudimentary)
Amazon’s Supplier Code of Conduct contained adequate clauses covering the following: child labour, forced labour, discrimination and freedom of association. The company's policy on wages was found to be inadequate because it only required the payment of legal minimum wages, not living wages. The policy on working hours was also found to be inadequate because it allowed working weeks of above 60 hours in "special or emergency situations". The policy was stated to apply to the company’s entire supply chain: “Amazon expects all products sold in the Amazon Store or provided to Amazon to be manufactured or produced in accordance with this Supplier Code of Conduct (“Supplier Code”).”
Overall, Amazon’s Supply Chain Policy was considered to be rudimentary.
2. STAKEHOLDER ENGAGEMENT (Poor)
Ethical Consumer deemed it necessary for companies to demonstrate stakeholder engagement, such as through membership of the Ethical Trade Initiative, Fair Labour Association or Social Accountability International. Companies were also expected to engage with Trade Unions, NGOs and/or not-for-profit organisations which could systematically verify the company's supply chain audits, and for workers to have access to an anonymous complaints system, free of charge and in their own language.
Amazon stated "Employees may raise questions or report suspected violations of our Code of Business Conduct and Ethics through Amazon’s Ethics Line in over 20 languages. Calls to the Ethics Line are answered by an independent third party and may be made anonymously upon request."
However, it was not clear whether this applied to workers its supply chain - it appeared to just apply to its own employees. No mention could be found of the other criteria for this section. Overall the company was considered to have a poor approach to stakeholder engagement.
3 AUDITING AND REPORTING (Poor)
Ethical Consumer deemed it necessary for companies to have an auditing and reporting system. Results of audits should be publicly reported and quantitatively analysed. No evidence was found that Amazon had publicly reported results of supply chain audits.
No evidence was found of a publicly available scheduled and transparent audit plan.
Amazon’s Supply Chain Standards Manual contained the following statement: “All suppliers must submit an Amazon-approved audit of their facilities before beginning production of Amazon-branded products”. However, no information was found pertaining to whether or not Amazon was committed to carrying out audits of any second-tier suppliers.
Amazon’s Supply Chain Standards Manual included details of the company’s use of ‘Corrective Action Plans’ for remediation. This included a staged approach to dealing with violations.
No information was found pertaining to who paid for the costs of audits.
Having met only one of the five criteria, Amazon was considered to have a poor approach to Auditing and Reporting.
Difficult issues (Poor)
Ethical Consumer also deemed it necessary for companies to address other difficult issues in their supply chains. This would include ongoing training for agents, or rewards for suppliers, or preference for long term suppliers. It would also include acknowledgement of audit fraud and unannounced audits, and measures taken to address the issue of living wages, particularly among outworkers, and illegal freedom of association.
No information was found covering the above issues. Amazon was therefore considered to have a poor approach to difficult issues.
Overall, Amazon received Ethical Consumer's worst rating for Supply Chain Management and lost a whole mark in this category.
Amazon corporate website sustainability section (5 July 2021)