Christine Tacon speaking at the Westminster food and nutrition briefing assured her audience that the measurement of achievement by the groceries code adjudicator (GCA) is entirely about collaboration and not the fining or prosecution of retailers.
She urged suppliers to seek out the code compliance officers (CCOs) as the first point of contact after discussions with buying teams stall. The GCA came from two bills designed to protect consumers and from there being too much risk being passed from retailers to suppliers in some agreements.
Many issues that have been raised in the first year of the GCA have arisen from behaviour based on historical agreements, elements of which now contravene the code. Code officers are now reporting back that through training and development of all buying and supplier facing teams the understanding of the code is now part of the buying ethic within retailers. Any issue raised with the GCA will be investigated at the first instance with the learning shared with all retailers. If the same issue is raised again Ms Tacon is empowered to prosecute with the process structured to encourage the crucial collaboration and resolution through sharing information and good practice.
The GCA survey conducted by YouGov has thrown up some alarming figures for Ms Tacon: 58% of the 700 odd respondents feared retribution, 41% said that the GCA wouldn’t act on information supplied and only 38% of direct suppliers said they would consider raising issues with the GCA. The April 2014 survey showed that eight out of ten suppliers said they’d experienced a breach of the groceries supply code of practice but were handling it: unfortunately, this does mean that while one supplier might be dealing with it another won’t be coping at all.
Ms Tacon likened it to dealing with bullies at school: we used to tell children to fight back and now we encourage them to report bullying. The 2015 survey needs a better response rate, with something like 8,000 suppliers facing the big ten retailers still yet to respond. Reports of good practice, great years and improved collaboration in huge supply chains are just as welcome as issues being flagged in the eyes of the GCA.
Anonymity is a watchword for the team, and Ms Tacon has assured suppliers that she has a duty to protect confidentiality of those reporting issues and that greater numbers are required to doubly ensure that data remains untraceable. Trade associations have a role to play, adding value for their members and taking a supportive role, collating data from members (again increasing confidentiality).
The investigation into Tesco continues examining issues around delays in payments and payments for better positioning of goods. As the investigation started before the statutory instrument permitting the levying of fines for breach of the code, Tesco has dodged the financial penalties though we can be sure that we will hear plenty of the investigation. Woe betide those that come next though: if you think that the Tesco CCO made a veritable song and dance at the first GCA annual meeting last year, I wonder who will be next?
And a family business – is this a benefit to branding or a hindrance? This was an interesting debate I got to participate in last week at the Family Business United annual conference. Between clothing, coffee machines and Cropwell Bishop Stilton, an overwhelming yes came from those with food products because of the implied trustworthiness. For clothing it was in doubt, but a multigenerational business that had survived for five or more decades certainly gave good assurances it was agreed.
Much of the agenda was around the thorny topic of succession: not that there must be a next generation within a business but that there was a will to continue a worthwhile family business with an advisory board and an external managing director brought in to manage and deliver the future. To maintain the legacy, to continue with the business rather than the sale of an asset because the next generation didn’t have interest, preserving the opportunity for further generations: it was a heartening view.