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Our businesses rely on international supply chains that span multiple tiers and are complex to manage. We are working with our suppliers, partners and peers to drive responsible and ethical behaviour and high standards across our supply chain. We also encourage those who work with us, directly or indirectly, to adopt sustainable business practices.

We spend approximately €24 billion a year with more than 15,000 direct suppliers around the world to meet our businesses’ and customers’ needs. We recognise there are many different legal, social, ethical and environmental risks inherent within our supply chain and work with our suppliers to safely manage these risks and enhance their performance. Our efforts to ensure responsible and ethical behaviour throughout our supply chain span multiple jurisdictions and cultures and involve a vast number of individual workplaces and supplier employees.

Addressing risk in our supply chain

We have developed robust systems to ensure that our suppliers share our values and strive to meet our mandatory ethical, labour and environmental standards. We expect all our suppliers to follow our Code of Ethical Purchasing (PDF, 72 Kb) and uphold the Business Principles that are integral to our Code of Conduct.

We expect our suppliers to be accountable for managing risk in their operations and understand that we expect them to hold their own suppliers accountable to the same high standards. We want to ensure safe and fair working conditions, along with responsible management of environmental and social issues across our supply chains, through a commitment to continuous improvement shared by all our suppliers.

Our critical standards in our Code of Ethical Purchasing cover clear expectations on topics such as ensuring the safety of people working with us, no child labour, no forced labour, fair payment and working hours, fair disciplinary practices, no discrimination, anti-bribery, responsible sourcing of minerals and the protection of environment.

Our Slavery and Human Trafficking Statement provides an overview of the measures we take to address the risk of modern slavery in our businesses and our supply chain.

Slavery and Human Trafficking Statement (PDF, 812 Kb)

Our Conflict Minerals Report provides an overview of Vodafone’s due diligence framework to mitigate any risk that conflict minerals are used in our products.

Our Conflict Minerals Report (PDF, 829 Kb)

On-site audits

On-site audits provide detailed insights into how a supplier’s policies translate into action in the workplace. These involve an examination of written policies and procedures, inspections of site facilities, and discussions with factory management and employees. We work individually to conduct our own assessments and through the Joint Audit Cooperation (JAC) initiative to share audits with peer companies with whom we share a number of suppliers.

Working hours and working conditions are an important part of our supplier assessments but are often hard to assess. Increasingly, we seek feedback directly from our suppliers’ employees to help us and our suppliers identify areas for improvement. We collaborate with Elevate (formerly Good World Solutions) to use their Laborlink service to gather confidential and unbiased feedback directly. Laborlink is a simple mobile phone-based worker survey that enables employees to reply anonymously to pre-recorded questions in their local language at any time and from any location. During 2018, more than 2,500 suppliers’ employees in 10 supplier factories responded to Laborlink surveys directly to tell us about their working conditions.

Detecting and tackling modern-day slavery

This year, we continued our use of Laborlink to pilot a new way of detecting incidences of modern-day slavery. The approach identifies individuals who work for particular suppliers and then requests them to complete the survey at a time and place of their own choice. This community-based method has a greater reach and the potential to deliver deeper insights than conventional on-site audits and worker surveys.

Improving supplier performance and building capability

Engaging directly with suppliers is one of the most effective ways of improving performance in our supply chains. If we identify evidence of non-compliance through JAC audits, our own on-site assessments or worker surveys, we work with suppliers to develop corrective actions, to improve their policies and/or strengthen the processes they use to manage key risks. Ways to do this include using our monitoring processes, follow-up discussions and briefings with suppliers’ managers and executives.

Providing our suppliers with direct support

This year, as part of the JAC initiative, Vodafone and three other operators set up a Supplier Academy. The academy focuses on developing training to help suppliers assess and improve the social, ethical and environmental performance issues inherent within supply chains.

Virtual reality and digital safety

This year, we started using virtual reality to provide immersive workplace safety training for our employees and suppliers. This training focuses on the potentially fatal dangers inherent in working at height on a mobile tower, to help participants appreciate the need to use personal protective equipment and take all other required precautions. Following positive feedback, we will be expanding the scope of this virtual reality training over the next year.

Automation and job retention in our supply chain

This year, we worked with one of our key suppliers on the use of automation to improve productivity. TCL Communications (TCL), one of Vodafone’s branded device suppliers, implemented automation within the assembly and test operations that are part of the product manufacturing process. Automation of these processes reduces the need for manual and repetitive labour, and for shift work outside of typical working hours.