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Achilles helps Tesco reach new ethical employment standards

Case Studies

Achilles helps Tesco reach new ethical employment standards

Tesco is one of the largest multinational food retailers and employs over 330,000 people across the UK, the Republic of Ireland and Europe. Across thousands of sites worldwide, Tesco’s complex supply chains provide millions of customers with healthy and sustainable food.

With thousands of people working for Tesco across its supply chains, ensuring everyone is treated with the high standards it expects is a key commitment for the business. To guarantee the right standards were being met across its complex and international supply chains, Tesco needed a partner that could comprehensively audit a sample of its own operations in Central Europe to ensure high ethical standards were being applied throughout. It turned to Achilles and its holistic supply chain monitoring solutions: the Ethical Business Programme.


With supply chains operating in markets around the world, ensuring everyone working for Tesco is treated with respect and fairness has always been a key priority for the business. Whether people working in its stores and warehouses are employed directly or, as in Central Europe, are more typically employed through agencies, Tesco is committed to putting its employees at the centre of its operations.

With a number of its team in Central Europe sourced through agencies, Tesco wanted to engage with its workers directly to understand how they felt about their working standards, how up-to-date their knowledge of modern slavery practices was and areas where employees felt their working experience could be improved.

Ensuring all of Tesco’s people, whether they are direct employees or agency workers, benefit from a positive working environment is a top priority for the business, as Courtenay Forbes, Human Rights Manager, explained: “We’re committed to making sure everyone working for Tesco, whether they are employed directly or through agencies, is treated in exactly the same way and with absolute equality.”

Tesco wanted to directly engage with workers across its supply chains in Central Europe in a comprehensive supply chain audit. Tesco needed a partner that could audit its global operations, engage employees directly and proactively highlight areas for improvement. It turned to Achilles.


Tesco maintains high employment standards thanks to the Achilles Ethical Business Programme. This programme works in partnership with businesses to help them proactively identify and prevent unethical practices within supply chains and support continuous improvements across a wide range of areas including health and safety (H&S), human rights, modern slavery and equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI).

To help Tesco understand the working standards of its agency colleagues, Achilles carried out unannounced inspections and ethical employment audits, including interviews. In total, Achilles carried out 412 ethical employee interviews across 12 sites, including distribution centres and supermarkets. These anonymous interviews asked workers about their employment standards and their knowledge of ethical working practices.

Through these surveys, Tesco has gathered significant evidence from its employees, helping it better understand the working standards of the people working for Tesco. These audits confirm the strengths of Tesco’s ethical employment standards as well as identify areas where an even stronger worker experience can be developed.

In addition, the Achilles surveys drew attention to broader areas of interest for Tesco. For example, Achilles highlighted that a large number of Tesco’s workforce was aging, potentially compounding existing labour shortages experienced by many in the retail sector – which, in some circumstances, have been linked to increased risks for high ethical working standards.

By collating a wide range of data, Tesco is able to engage in more holistic supply chain management, as Courtenay Forbes explained, “We had not conducted such an assessment in Central Europe before, and while a focus on worker engagement was key, we didn’t want to be prescriptive on what the worker experience looked like. We knew Achilles was very thorough and very flexible in its audit approach and that this was something we really benefitted from in working together.”


Tesco raises the standards of ethical employment in its own operations
Using the assessment results and interview responses, Tesco has taken its ethical standards even further. With an in-depth understanding of how the business sources some of its employees and where there were areas to be strengthened, Tesco can plan for improvements by allocating additional resources. Courtenay Forbes explained further.

“We’d now like to expand the programme of due diligence that we have elsewhere in the business. For example, rolling out regular and up-to-date modern slavery employee training as our standards continue to evolve.”

Tesco develops a more resilient supplier chain
Through the Achilles surveys, Tesco highlighted that high levels of agency labour were reducing Tesco’s visibility of its supply chains. With this in mind, Tesco is looking at ways to tighten its oversight in this area.

Tesco can better inform its human rights strategy for Central Europe
Thanks to Achilles’ Ethical Business Programme, Tesco can call upon a wide range of data and evidence to inform its future human rights strategy for the region.

Achilles is proud to be working with Tesco as it builds a more sustainable, cleaner, safer and fairer working environment for everyone. Tesco is continuing to set new standards when it comes to continuous supply chain monitoring, allowing it to build an even more positive working experience for all who work for the business.

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