Human Rights & Ethical Trade

Human Rights & Ethical Trade

Our commitment

From growers and farm workers to packers and truckers, we enforce consistent, rigorous standards to protect workers.

Our human rights due diligence is based on our commitment to the following internationally recognised frameworks:

  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  • UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
  • UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
  • UN Women’s Empowerment Principles
  • OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises
  • ILO conventions, core labour standards and recommendations on labour and social standards
  • ILO General principles and operational guidelines for fair recruitment and definition of recruitment fees and related costs

We also welcome binding regulations at the political level to ensure fair trading, such as the UK Modern Slavery Act, the German Supply Chain Due Diligence Act (Lieferkettensorgfaltspflichtengesetz) and the planned European supply chain legislation.

Our approach

We underpin our business operations with strong, long term relationships, making sure that we work with our suppliers to address the challenges facing our wider supply chains. Our core standards are outlined in our Supplier Code of Conduct, which is fundamental to the relationship between Lidl and its contracted business partners. It defines the social expectations of all global direct and indirect suppliers and forms an integral part of our commercial contracts.

No child labour

Work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development.

No discrimination

Distinction, exclusion or preference made on the basis of race, colour, gender, religion (among other characteristics), “which has the effect of nullifying or impairing equality of opportunity and treatment in employment or occupation”.

No forced labour

Situations in which persons are coerced to work through the use of violence or intimidation, or by more subtle means such as accumulated debt, retention of identity papers or threats of denunciation to immigration authorities.

Fair pay

A living income or living wage should provide for food, water, housing, education, healthcare, transportation as well as offer the opportunity to save in case of unexpected events.

Work safety

Health and safety in the workplace must be guaranteed. Contravening fundamental human rights in terms of working conditions, equipment and facilities in the workplace is prohibited. Employees must be given adequate, regular training on health and safety in the workplace.

Freedom of association

An important aspect of employee rights is the freedom to form employee representative bodies. We therefore aim to promote freedom of association to allow workers to organise themselves effectively and engage with stakeholders to better understand and overcome the barriers to freedom of association.

Further Information

Our full Code of Conduct can be downloaded here

Human rights due diligence

As part of our commitment to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), we implement human rights due diligence as part of our business operations. This means that we systematically monitor and assess human rights risks in our supply chains. Our risk assessment process is informed by greater transparency, our social compliance programme, internationally recognised assessment tools, as well as knowledge gathered through our supplier relationships and engagement with stakeholders.

Over the last year, the Lidl Group conducted a human rights review of its global supply chains, enabling us to better understand the risks facing people who work in our supply chains. More information on our approach, as well as further information on the high risk commodities and countries identified through the process, can be found within our ‘Human Rights in the Supply Chain Policy’. 

As part of our human rights due diligence approach, we are committed to conducting and publishing three human rights impact assessments (HRIAs) per year across the Lidl Group, in line with internationally recognised methodologies. So far we have conducted HRIA’s based on Kenyan tea, Spanish berries and bananas from Colombia. You can learn about all our HRIA’s here.

Gender Equality in the Supply Chain

Human rights

We know that women play a crucial role within our food supply chains and understand that women can be more vulnerable to human rights violations, violence and abuse. Discriminatory social norms such as lower literacy skills, limited access to land rights and gender-based discrimination can limit women’s empowerment and their ability to achieve the same political, economic and social status as men within agricultural supply chains.

In order to develop our approach to supporting gender equality and women’s empowerment, we implement projects and programmes in key priority supply chains. We continue to work closely with partners to promote and support resilience amongst farmers and their communities, and provide updates on the impact of our programmes through our CSR reporting.

The Lidl Group is a signatory to the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs). The WEPs are a collaborative initiative between UN Women and the UN Global Compact, and is the first global initiative which aims to promote women’s empowerment and gender equality within businesses and their wider supply chains.

Further information on the steps we are taking on this topic, can be found as part of our Gender Equality in the Supply Chain policy. 

Effective grievance mechanisms

Access to an effective grievance mechanism for employees in global supply chains is an essential part of corporate due diligence, in order to uncover human rights risks and potential rights violations. In practice this often poses a challenge, as employees with varying circumstances - e.g. language skills, access to technology, cultural differences – should all have equal access to an effective grievance mechanism.

Lidl recognises ‘effective grievance mechanisms’ as defined by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), meaning that they are legitimate, accessible, predictable, equitable, transparent, rights-compatible, a source of continuous learning and based on engagement and dialogue. Grievance mechanisms form part of our Supplier Code of Conduct and we firmly believe that when these are implemented effectively, human rights violations can be better identified and thereby remediated in a meaningful way.

Lidl has therefore set itself the goal of piloting grievance mechanisms in various supply chains, in order to identify scalable and effective approaches. As a first step, we have started to pilot grievance mechanisms in three high risk supply chains:

Working towards Living Wages

Human rights

Under The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for themselves and their family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection. Within global food supply chains legal minimum wages are often insufficient, below what is needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and too low to ensure the basic needs of farmers and employees are met.

Lidl is committed to taking an action-orientated approach to working towards achieving living incomes and living wages within our global supply chains, thereby closing existing income and wage gaps. We are committed to publishing wage gaps in order to measure our progress and show our accountability.

We have implemented programs in four high-risk supply chains aimed at working towards living wages and living incomes for workers:


Modern Day Slavery

Supply chain transparency plays a vital role in our commitment to upholding human rights. We are continually developing transparency in our supply chains, helping us better understand the complex journey that our products take to reach our shelves. We are one of the first global retailers to publicly disclose supply chain data within our food and non-food supply chains and we are committed to increasing this further.


At Lidl we actively engage with a variety of stakeholders, including civil society organisations, NGOs and trade unions to develop and implement our human rights due diligence. Through this collaboration we are able to gain insights which feed into our wider risk assessment processes.

In addition to bilateral stakeholder engagement we understand that multi-stakeholder initiatives play a vital role in leveraging supply chain action to drive systemic change, enabling us to go beyond an auditing approach. Lidl actively engages in multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs) to advocate for progress, including the Roundtable for Responsible Soy, the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil and the World Banana Forum.

Through our work with stakeholders, we are able to influence and engage governments on issues relating to specific workers’ rights issues within the supply chain or specific commodities. In recent years this has included action within our seafood, soy and fruit and veg supply chains.

Responsible Recruitment

Human rights and ethical trade

We understand that the recruitment and supply of temporary, contract and seasonal labour is an area of risk within our supply chain. As part of our commitment to supporting the Dhaka Principles for Migration with Dignity, we are taking steps to ensure responsible recruitment and migration with dignity within our supply chains. In 2018 we published our Responsible Recruitment in Supply Chains policy. This policy outlines the expectations of all suppliers that use labour providers as part of their business operations and outlines our approach to ensuring that workers recruited through these mechanisms have their rights protected. 

We implement a range of policies to guide the recruitment of the colleagues we employ, both directly and indirectly through recruitment agencies, to protect them from the risk of modern-day slavery. These policies include our Anti-Harassment Policy, Grievance Procedure and Eligibility to Work procedure. We continue to engage with partners on this topic and will evolve our policies as understanding increases.


We recognise the need to support smallholder farmers to increase their resilience and prosperity. We have implemented a range of programs to support smallholder farmers within many of our key commodity supply chains.

Within the Fairtrade system it is estimated that more than 1.48 million farmers are members of small-scale producer organisations, a large majority of Fairtrade producers, producing products including coffee, cocoa and cotton. The Fairtrade Standard provides a framework for smallholder producers to build resilient and thriving organisations, generate more benefits for themselves and their communities and improve farming practices. By supporting Fairtrade producer organisations have access to training on how to strengthen their management practices and provide protection for workers. The Fairtrade Premium allows small-scale producers to drive sustainable social and economic development for their organisations, families and community. In addition, co-operatives have the flexibility to design relevant policies, including gender, to increase active and equal participation for women to access the benefits associated with Fairtrade.

Our programmes in high risk supply chains are developed and implemented in close collaboration with expert partners. Examples include improving resilience to the impacts of climate change, training towards better agricultural practices, as well as supporting women on the issue of land-rights.

Working with our non-food suppliers

We have been a member of the Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI) since 2007, committing us to improving working conditions for people employed in our non-food supply chains. As part of the membership, Lidl’s non-food suppliers are required to regularly carry out independent social audits by qualified local personnel for all non-food producers and to comply with recognised international labour standards.

Recognising that audits only present us with a snapshot in time and do not necessarily drive improvements in themselves, we work to understand the root cause of the issues and take appropriate remediating steps. Expert partners work closely with our factories to develop and implement corrective actions following an audit.

Since 2008, we have also focused on going ‘beyond compliance’ in Bangladesh, working in partnership with the German Association for International Cooperation (GIZ) to provide dedicated training programmes for production facilities to support compliance with international labour standards. Our current joint programme focuses on Bangladesh, where GIZ currently employs more than 20 people who work exclusively for Lidl and to date have delivered on-the-ground training to 80 textile manufacturers across the country. Learn more about this training program here.

We are a member of the Bangladesh Accord, which is an independent, legally-binding agreement between brands and trade unions designed to work towards a safe and healthy Bangladeshi ready-made garment industry. Learn more about this program here.

Social auditing

Human rights

As part of our due diligence approach, we have established a risk-based social auditing programme, conducting third-party independent audits to measure performance against our Supplier Code of Conduct. These provide us with an important snapshot of our supply chain performance on human rights and working conditions. Following audits commissioned at our sites, suppliers develop corrective actions to address any issues raised, which we monitor on an ongoing basis.

Although we recognise the limitations of audits in their ability to effectively improve working conditions or detect violations that are often hidden, such as forced labour, we feel they play an important role in our due diligence to gather supply chain information at a point in time. Through these independent assessments we gather information to support our wider risk analysis that informs our approach. We work collaboratively with suppliers to address areas of non-compliance, ensuring we tackle any challenging issues head-on.



Our Ethical Trade Training Resources for Suppliers document is a freely available document that signposts Lidl suppliers to training resources. A full document is available on request from

Our Lidl GB Supplier Social Compliance Guidance outlines the expectations of all our direct suppliers and provides greater transparency on our ethical trade monitoring programme.


For our Human Rights KPIs, our basis of reporting can be found below.