Our suppliers provide the products and services that keep our business running. This year, we spent around £13.1bn with more than 1,100 direct suppliers in nearly 100 countries.

Any supplier that wants to work with us has to commit to our Sourcing With Human Dignity labour standards or equivalent – as well as other standards on climate change, environment, ethics, health and safety, and product stewardship.  

We use a risk-based approach to assess suppliers’ performance. This starts with questionnaires to understand the level of risk when a supplier first comes on board or renews their contract with us. One of the factors that determines the level of risk is where a supplier operates. This year, we’ve increased the number of countries considered high risk for human rights issues to align with the Responsible Business Alliance (RBA) risk maps.

If we assess a supplier as medium or high risk, we ask for more information and follow this up with an on-site assessment if needed. If we find a supplier is having any issues with meeting our standards, we work together to try and resolve these issues. But if they don’t show a commitment to improve, we’ll stop working with them. This year, we identified 51 medium and high risk suppliers. Covid-19 lockdowns and travel restrictions meant we carried out fewer on-site assessments than usual – 33 in total – and we conducted five remote assessments via videocall for high priority cases. We found issues around increased use of temporary labour and excessive working hours or overtime, likely as a result of impacts from Covid-19, and we worked with suppliers to help them improve.

Supplier assessments on social and environmental criteria
Supplier assessments on social and environmental criteria

  • This year, we harnessed the power of artificial intelligence to map the supply chains for all BT, EE and Plusnet branded products and identify associated human rights risks, including risks of modern slavery. The initial findings revealed nearly 1,800 supplier relationships across Tiers 2, 3 and 4. Some suppliers appeared over 20 times. Membership of the RBA gives us access to in-depth assessments of shared suppliers at all levels of our supply chain. Our updated Human Rights Policy describes how we prevent raw materials associated with the risk of funding armed conflict (known as conflict minerals) – or with other issues such as working conditions and child labour – from being used in our products. These materials include cobalt, gold, tantalum, tin and tungsten. See our Modern Slavery Statement for more on our approach and findings this year.

  • We’ve reached out to suppliers to help them through the Covid-19 crisis this year. We checked in with our most critical suppliers to anticipate any potential financial stress or difficulty meeting orders, and discuss contingency plans if needed. We support the Government’s Prompt Payment Code programme in the UK. In 2019, BT plc was suspended from the Code, but has since worked to monitor and improve supplier payments, and was subsequently reinstated. This year, we paid 95% of supplier invoices in line with the terms we’d agreed with them. We also announced we’d pay our 4,500 small business suppliers within 30 days, as part of our Small Business Support Scheme, whilst recent reforms to the Code require us to pay 95% of invoices from smaller suppliers in 30 days – we’re on target to do this by July 2021.This year, we’ve also developed a plan to collaborate with and encourage our suppliers to meet and mirror our commitment to diversity and inclusion.