More than 25 major British retail companies have signed up to the Better Retail Better World initiative, pledging to support a number of long-term commitments to sustainability and better working conditions within their supply chains.

Boots, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, The Co-operative Group, John Lewis and Asda are among the retailers agreeing to share knowledge and best practice, as well as publically disclosing their progress on meeting sustainable development targets.

A key commitment involves committing to eliminating supply chain recruitment fees and unethical recruitment practices leading to forced and/or bonded labour among workers. Addressing inequality and promoting decent work and economic growth are also among the “stretch targets” set for 2020 and 2030.

Sustainability and environmental goals include reducing waste and carbon emissions, fighting deforestation and following responsible sourcing practices. The initiative was launched by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and has the backing of the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF). Chief Executive of the WWF Tanya Steele said that the independent conservation organisation was proud to support the Better Retail Better World industry goals, describing them as an excellent source of information and guidance on meeting wider sustainable development goals.

BRC Chairman Richard Pennycook described the initiative as part of a “growing movement for change”, saying it was time that the retail industry showed what it could do for the common good. He said that the businesses involved were taking collective action to shape a better, more sustainable and more prosperous world while also setting a good example in terms of positive approaches to food packaging, waste and the supply chain.

The retail minister Andrew Griffiths MP said that the government had already taken steps to create a stronger, fairer society through its industrial strategy and its good work plan. He said that it was encouraging to see retailers come together to fulfil these ambitions via the initiative.

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