METRO’s business is a people’s business and we value each and every person working with and for us as our most precious resource. Therefore, METRO stands strong for ensuring Human Rights within its own operations and its value chain, empowered through trustful partnerships with relevant stakeholders. That is to ensure our customers know that we care about people as much as they do.

Human rights principles

Our overarching human rights principles demonstrates our conviction of respect for internationally recognized human rights within our own operations and throughout our entire value chain.

We pledge to respect all human rights, as set out in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Bill of Human Rights, the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work of the International Labour Organization (ILO). This obligation applies to our own employees and to our business partners within our value chain.

In order to unfold effective impact METRO closely collaborate with its supply chain partners and peers, e.g. by joining the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) CGF Human rights coalition of action in October 2019, which aims to fight forced labor in our sector as well address potential other human rights violations at a later stage. Key commitments of the coalition are – built in great alignment in a multi-stakeholder approach including NGOs, government bodies and other key stakeholders:

  • Establish and deploy Human Rights Due Diligence (HRDD) systems in own operations aiming to reach 100% by 2025
  • Collaborate with selected suppliers starting in one of the most Human Rights sensitive commodity – the palm oil supply chains to develop and deploy HRDD systems from the refinery to the plantation level by 2023.

To meet its corporate diligence under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, in 2012 METRO published its own Principles on Fair Working Conditions and Social Partnership. They are based on the UN’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, on the key labour standards of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and on the 3 main principles of the Consumer Goods Forum’s Resolution on Forced Labour. Our principles include the topics on freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining, the ban on forced labour, child labour and discrimination, structured working hours and wages, occupational health and safety management. The objective is to establish and ensure a culture of fair working conditions for the employees, and in doing so, contributing to the growth of the company.

A review and audit process is designed to ensure that the company is not involved in violating human rights, either directly or indirectly. Our objective is to identify any weaknesses and develop prevention- and countermeasures. The focus is on entering into a dialogue with our colleagues and promoting the knowledge sharing in order to learn from one another, not only with regard to working conditions but also in terms of dialogue with employee representatives.

Since financial year 2016/17, extensive reviews on compliance with the METRO principles have been performed on-site in 15 national subsidiaries (Pakistan, Bulgaria, Japan, Hungary, Italy, Serbia, India, Slovakia, Moldova, Spain, Russia, Croatia, Kazakhstan, Portugal and France). Many areas returned satisfactory results, while others showed potential for improvement, in particular in the area of occupational safety. During Covid-19 pandemic no on-site reviews are carried out, which is why online surveys are being conducted instead. Limited review procedures were carried out at 5 selected METRO companies after the survey to follow up on a deeper level.

To ensure the transnational social involvement of the employees and safeguard their right to collective labour wage agreements and organising in unions, the Euro Forum performs the function of the European works council of METRO. In addition, METRO collaborates with the international union umbrella organisation UNI Global Union.

Occupational Health and safety – it’s always safety first

METRO aspires to be a leader in operational safety performance for our employees, suppliers and customers. Operational safety is integral to the way we conduct our business and must be incorporated into every aspect of our work. This commitment has motivated us to develop a new occupational safety and health (OSH) strategy, which provides transparency for improvement opportunities and highlights key OSH issues. As a first step, we have introduced a new organisational structure at the company level to support our OSH activities. This is how we aim at achieving the highest level of safety performance and meeting all local and international standards.

Our objective is the proactive management of identifiable risks and the elimination of injury to personnel, contractors, and customers, as well as damage to equipment. With our group-wide Operational Safety Management System (OSMS) we structure the safety environment in accordance with the requirements of ISO 45001 ‘Occupational health and safety management systems’. It manages and controls the interlinked processes of the various business activities so that METRO can fulfil its security relevant obligations as an operator. Starting in financial year 2020/21, the system will apply accordingly throughout the group. This is how we will continuously examine our operations for potential risks and hazards, improve the existing measures, and establish new measures to minimize them to acceptable levels.

Ultimate responsibility for safety in the company rests with the Management Board. However, with various initiatives, we are working to increase awareness among employees that each individual bears responsibility for occupational safety. Accordingly, we have expanded our OSH performance and are well on the way to a robust safety culture.

As an international wholesale business, METRO works with a large number of suppliers, growers and producers. Our objective is to ensure socially equitable working conditions throughout our procurement channels until 2030. With that we particularly contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) of the United Nations:

  • SDG 1 (no poverty)
  • SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth)
  • SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production)

In this respect METRO also declares its ambition to contribute to a living income for those producing for METRO’s own brand/no-name supply chains by assessing and eventually paying a living wage until 2030. Whilst various methodologies are acceptable when defining a living income, METRO gives preference to the Anker Methodology where possible.

Respect for similar values is also important to us on the part of our business partners. We formalised this in the METRO Code of Conduct for business partners. It includes compliance with human rights according to the International Bill of Human Rights, the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, UN and ILO standards, occupational and social matters based on the principles of the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) 4 core labour standards, provisions for environmental protection and corporate ethics, in particular anti-corruption and anti-bribery, antitrust and competition laws as well as data protection. The 3 main principles of the Consumer Goods Forum Resolution on Forced Labour are also decisive for us. Furthermore, all of our own brand contracts and framework contracts for brand suppliers contain a social standards clause that gives us legal means to enforce our requirements.

Systematic audits and clear principles

In order to contribute to ensuring socially acceptable working conditions within our procurement channels and to prevent potential infringements, the application of social standard systems is a key part of the purchasing process as set out in our social compliance policy. We require our producers to be audited in accordance with the supply chain management standard set out by the amfori Business Social Compliance Initiative (amfori BSCI), the Sedex audit according to SMETA or an equivalent social standards system. This follows a clear risk assessment approach and therefore applies to all producers in amfori BSCI defined risk countries or producers which we consider risky with regards to potential Human Rights violations assessed e.g. by the Sedex Risk Assessment Radar in which METRO SOURCING International (MSI) and METRO Food Sourcing (MFS) have imported goods manufactured. Our social compliance process also applies to all other producers who manufacture own brands or own imports for our sales lines. 

A list of risk countries is collected by amfori BSCI* and its classification as a risk country is based e.g. on the criteria:

  • Experience of local purchasing companies
  • United Nations’ human development index and
  • Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index

Assessing risks e.g. by the Sedex Risk Assessment Radar targets at the rights of the rights holders workers and local communities with a special view on vulnerable groups such as women, children and young workers, migrants or seasonal and temporary workers. Risk assessments typically cover fundamental labour rights like forced and child labour, discrimination and freedom of association as well as working conditions like living wages or health and safety topics.

For many years now, we have been working on this process with our non-food producers. Since 1 June 2019, the same process was established analogously for all food and near-food producers in the own-brand sector. Effective 1 January 2019, non-food producers who fail the audit can only be commissioned as METRO contracting parties if they achieve an acceptable audit result (A, B or C for the amfori BSCI assessment or an audit that is acknowledged as equivalent).  Until further notice, all food/near-food suppliers with amfori BSCI D (and in exceptional cases also E) audit results (and corresponding equivalents of other standards recognised by METRO) can also be commissioned by METRO. This procedure realistically reflects the challenging way of re-integrating suppliers into the process and gradually working towards ensuring socially acceptable (working) conditions.

After conducting an audit, the assessed party – in collaboration with involved other parties – starts working on the areas of improvement from their audit reports and start mitigating the same. Follow up sessions, e.g. desk research or follow up audits (full or partially) track the development of the assessed party. Such corrective action (plans) are generally available for any audit report regardless of the audit result. Hence, from our FY 2020/21 reported audited producers all 675 non-food and 60 food-/near-food producers have recommendations at hand to mitigate their improvement areas. 

Since 2013 METRO is also signatory of a multi-stakeholder initiative, the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh in order to contribute to the health and safety of particularly the textile industry workers in Bangladesh. Amongst other activities, the initiative runs independent safety inspections, remediation programs and offers safety training programs. Compared to the Accord producers average on closing the findings from Accord-audits during the year 2020, METROs producers average progress rate of 96% is slightly higher.

Standards and certificates

In addition to the amfori BSCI scheme (including Small Producer Assessment SPA), METRO accepts other standards and certificates as confirmation that social standards are met.

  • ETI (Ethical Trading Initiative), provided it is conducted in line with the SMETA guidelines (Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audit)
  • SA8000 (Social Accountability)
  • ICTI (International Council of Toy Industries)
  • ICS (Initiative Clause Sociale)
  • RBA (Responsible Business Association (formerly EICC, Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition)
  • FLA (Fair Labor Association)

Furthermore, as a first step, METRO accepts the following food-relevant standards/certifications to ensure compliance with social standards.

  • ASC (Aquaculture Stewardship Council)
  • BAP (Best Aquaculture Practices)
  • RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil)
  • Global G.A.P. GRASP
  • RTRS (Roundtable for responsible Soy)
  • Fair Trade
  • Rainforest Alliance / UTZ
  • Fair for Life
  • Any CGF SSCI benchmarked scheme

amfori BSCI Code of Conduct

To state our position, we signed the BSCI Code of Conduct which comprises eleven principles. We stand up for implementation and compliance with these principles:

  • Rights of freedom of association and collective bargaining are upheld
  • There is no discrimination
  • Fair remuneration that is sufficient to provide workers and their families with a decent living and as a minimum provide for statutory minimum wages and/or industry-standard wages
  • Working hours comply with ILO and national legislation
  • The workplace is safe and healthy
  • Child labour is prohibited
  • There is special protection for young workers
  • No forms of precarious employment are used
  • There is no forced labour or disciplinary action
  • The environment is respected and 
  • Ethical business behaviour is in place, in particular there are guidelines to prevent bribery and corruption

Deal-breaker process

Part of our process is our so-called deal-breaker process that specifically assesses the aspects of child labour, forced labour, occupational safety (in particular fire prevention) and unethical behaviour. The deal-breaker process ensures that suppliers and their producers who identify a deal-breaker develop short-term and long-term solutions to remedy the critical findings. To make sure our suppliers and producers comply with these requirements, orders which are already in production may be completed, but new orders or follow-up orders will be stalled until the findings of the deal-breaker process have been rectified.

Training sessions

In order to contribute not only to claiming and imposing, but to actually improving social demands on suppliers, we introduced training sessions on Human Rights Due Diligence and with special emphasis on the topic of forced labour. The objective is to train employees to identify potential and/or actual Human Rights incidents, to respond appropriately and to prevent them. 

Our import companies METRO SOURCING International and METRO Food Sourcing as well as our local entity METRO Turkey have been working with our local producers for years accompanying them through training sessions designed to help them understand and comply with social standards.