Steps to improve working conditions

ICA’s goal is for every product to be produced under acceptable human rights conditions. To monitor this and to help the suppliers producing ICA's products to meet the requirements, social audits and training are carried out in the supplier countries.

Social audits

The Group is aiming for 100% of suppliers of ICA corporate brand products in high-risk countries to be socially audited. Key performance indicators linked to this are constantly monitored by ICA's management and are included in the ICA Group's overall risk analysis. At the end of 2013, around 77% (74%) of the factories, farms and processing plants in high-risk countries that produce ICA's corporate brands have been socially audited. Overall, the number of suppliers in high-risk countries decreased during the year as a result of, among other things, consolidated volumes for the Group and a continuous monitoring of the supplier base. In fruit, vegetables and flowers, however, the number of suppliers increased as a direct cause of ICA Sweden's health initiative, but the proportion of socially audited suppliers of fruit, vegetables and flowers have increased even more so. Further efforts are needed in the coming years to support suppliers in their efforts to ensure that production takes place in an acceptable form in terms of human rights.

ICA has produced its own tool for social auditing of suppliers: the ICA Social Audit. The requirements are based on similar criteria as the Business Social Compliance Initiative, BSCI. The combination of ICA Social Audits, carried out by the Group's own employees or consultants, and third-party audits, such as BSCI, ETI or SA8000 has successfully shortened the often time-consuming process of obtaining a social audit. The ICA Social Audit helps suppliers to improve working conditions in production more quickly.

Since 2008 ICA has a number of sourcing offices in Asia with teams for product quality, environmental safety and social responsibility. Being close to the Asian suppliers gives the Group better insight and valuable experience that helps these collaborations. The investment has resulted in greater mutual understanding and better compliance with ICA’s requirements. ICA’s Asian sourcing offices employ five persons whose job it is to verify human rights compliance. They also work preventively by reviewing the suppliers’ employment routines and discussing, among other things, what they can do to avoid hiring underage workers and improve work environments.

Action plan for violations

If ICA’s own auditors or third-party auditors detect violations at a production facility used by the Group, a concrete action plan is established and followed up in a re-audit. The first time a supplier violates the contractual requirements, they generally get a second chance to correct the problem. If they do so to the Group's satisfaction, ICA will keep working with them. If a serious offence is repeated, the agreement with the supplier will be terminated.

In 2013 ICA decided to terminate agreements with 20 (12) suppliers due to violations of the Group’s human rights requirements.

In social audits conducted during the year a number of shortcomings among suppliers were identified. These are mainly concentrated in five areas:

  • Health and safety
  • Management routines
  • Overtime working
  • Employees’ ability to join trade unions
  • Wage levels

Inspections of berry pickers

For the third consecutive year ICA has reviewed the conditions for organised berry pickers in Swedish forests. The review showed a number of improvements compared with the previous year. For example, there is now a clear handbook for berry pickers containing rules and important information about working in forests and on the land.

Combating child labour

ICA’s basic rule when it comes to child labour is that individuals younger than 15 may not work for any of the Group’s suppliers. If national laws have stricter limits, these apply. In China, for example, the statutory working age is 16. The Group also requires its suppliers to give special consideration to young workers (younger than 18) in matters such as the right to limited working hours.

If ICA detects or suspects that an a worker is not of legal age, ICA’s contract with the supplier obliges the supplier to take measures to protect the best interests of that person. Together with the supplier, ICA tries to find the best possible solution in light of the child’s age, education and social situation.

Since a number of years ICA’s sourcing office in Hong Kong has a partnership with CCR CSR (Centre for Child Rights and Corporate Social Responsibility) in China, an organisation started by the Swedish branch of Save the Children. ICA gets access to expertise from CCR CSR and comes into contact with buyers from other companies that it can share experiences with.

To promote the protection of youth and child rights in the world of business, the pilot project “Prevention and Intervention Services for the Protection of Young Workers in Chinese Supply Factories” (PISP) was established and supported jointly by ICA’s sourcing offices in Asia, and seven other international brands. The project was successfully implemented in 2011 and 2012, mainly in nine factories producing clothes, stationery, toiletries and tools. Among other things, personal development training sessions, including communication skills and general career planning, has been given to young workers.

Since November 2012 ICA has taken part in a series of workshops on the rights of the child organised by Swedish UNICEF. The aim is that the participating Swedish companies – all of which have global links and were specially invited by UNICEF – can spur each other on and develop new methods of preventing child labour and safeguarding children’s rights in society.