Information on how to: establish and communicate social responsibility expectations through supply chains


Set and communicate expectations with all members of company supply chains

establish and communicate expectations


  • Communicate expectations to suppliers via a Supplier Expectation Letter and a Supplier Code of Conduct, including provisions for health, safety, and humane working and living conditions for workers.

  • Ensure suppliers are signatory to company Supplier Expectations Letter and Supplier Code of Conduct.




  • Review all terms of Expectations Letters and Codes of Conduct to ensure understanding of company requirements.

  • Develop own Code of Conduct in line with best practices and highest expectations of upstream operations.

  • Establish contracts with workers.


supporting guidance

Once a social commitment is crafted, companies should ensure the commitment is communicated to all supply chain actors, employees, stakeholders, and the public through appropriate channels. Senior executives also play an important role in embedding social responsibility into company culture by upholding, executing, and being accountable to the commitment.


As a first step, a company should review, update, and communicate its policies to ensure supply chain actors agree to uphold company social responsibility commitments. If suppliers’ policies do not adequately address social responsibility, the company should work collaboratively with suppliers to communicate their expectations and develop a system, including through restructuring of contracts and purchasing agreements, to ensure those expectations are met.

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Framework for implementing a communication strategy

(Walk Free Foundation)


This tool offers a framework for companies to use when communicating the code of conduct on forced labor and modern slavery to staff, suppliers and other stakeholders. It outlines how companies can engage and expected deliverables of the communication strategy

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Approaches to supplier management: Supplier engagement and management

(Walk Free Foundation)


This tool offers companies different supplier engagement approaches according to the strategic importance of the supplier.

Supplier Code of Conduct and Supplier Expectations Letter:

A Supplier Code of Conduct and Supplier Expectations Letter are both tools for companies to communicate their expectations regarding social responsibility within their supply chains. 


Supplier Code of Conduct

  • A Supplier Code of Conduct should establish the non-negotiable minimum social responsibility expectations that a company has for its suppliers.
  • Every supplier should be required to acknowledge the expectations laid out in the Supplier Code of Conduct and their ability to either meet or work towards meeting those expectations.

  • Companies should work with suppliers that cannot immediately meet their expectations by making a time-bound improvement plan that strives for continual progress.


Supplier Expectations Letter

  • A Supplier Expectations Letter can take multiple forms, such as:

    • 1) a one to two-page letter that suppliers must sign and return as acknowledged receipt of the traceability expectations in the Supplier Code of Conduct or; 

    • 2) a stand-alone version of a company’s social responsibility expectations of suppliers.

  • It should be sent to all suppliers that the company does business with and have a clear date that each supplier must return with acknowledgement of receipt.

  • Companies should create a plan to follow up with suppliers that do not return a signed copy of the Supplier Expectations Letter, and a firm timeline where a supplier will have consequences if the letter is not signed and returned.

A Supplier Expectation Letter and Supplier Code of Conduct should reference the following components:


  • Forced labor and human trafficking

  • Humane treatment

  • Worker health and safety

  • Workplace equality

  • Wages, benefits, and deposits

  • Working hours

  • Legal recruitment practices

  • Recruitment fees and transportation expenses

  • Document retention

  • Contracts

  • Grievance procedures

  • Freedom of movement and personal freedom

  • Rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining

  • Employee awareness and training

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Sample Codes of Conduct and other tools for communicating supply chain expectations:

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Additional resources for communicating expectations:

Establishing contracts for workers

  • Contracts are an important tool for executing the Supplier Code of Conduct in practice. While contracts are not common practice across the industry, it is encouraged that workers are provided a written contract of employment specifying how their rights will be protected. Contracts should cover the conditions of employment and work, should be written in the worker’s native language, and should be presented to workers before departure from the home country.

  • Contracts are expected to meet labor standards established by national law, and hold companies and suppliers accountable to protecting workers’ rights as outlined by international bodies such as the ILO.

  • The contract should incorporate a commitment to comply with the Supplier Code of Conduct, and specify all activities that the supplier is required to undertake to achieve compliance with that code, such as verification activities, audits, worker voice mechanisms, etc.

  • Additionally, suppliers with stable supplier relationships may additionally stipulate in contracts that suppliers are required to train and ensure the social compliance of their subcontractors, providing support to subcontractors as needed through Corrective Action Plans.

  • Contracts should cover conditions of employment, including but not limited to:

    • Working hours

    • Living conditions

    • Wages, overtime pay, and holidays

    • Benefits

    • Health and safety conditions

  • The contract should prohibit the use of any substitutions by the employer and stipulate a worker’s right to terminate employment upon giving required notice.

  • It is critical that documents are explained to workers if they are unable to read.

STEP 2: 
Demonstrate and verify Compliance


  • Verify suppliers are meeting supplier expectations.




  • Verify subcontractors are complying with expectations contained within Expectations Letters and Codes of Conduct.

  • Provide data upstream as requested to demonstrate compliance.