PLC | Sustainability

Supplier Audit Programme case study

Supplier Audit Programme case study

The Tesco Standards & Audit Team ensure all Tesco direct suppliers undergo technical audits as part of monitoring compliance with Tesco’s standards on areas such as product safety, quality, legality and brand reputation.

Prior to COVID-19, the team reviewed how these audits were being delivered with the aim of using technology to manage time and resources more effectively. When the pandemic reduced the ability of the team to do on-site audits, the review meant they were well placed to implement a system that could deal with the impact of Covid.

After a short pilot study, Tesco launched an augmented reality remote application, ‘Tesco Remote Assurance’, to conduct audits using remote expert video assistance, which live streamed, translated live speech and enabled content to be captured, forming a digital record.

The application, which can be used on a smartphone, was transformational – enabling Tesco to seamlessly complete supplier visits and audits, remotely, across more than 70 countries, despite unprecedented challenges presented by Covid restrictions.

Despite the need for a swift rollout, the team carried out strict due diligence checks, including controls from a software security and GDPR perspective and significant engagement activities, guidance and support for auditors, suppliers and colleagues for this brand-new concept.

Through the application of this technology, Tesco replicated an equivalent audit programme remotely, observing and assessing manufacturing sites and activities, while complying with restrictions, providing cost and time savings, maintaining due diligence practices during the pandemic, and reducing carbon footprint.

This innovative use of technology was a first of its kind in the food industry. Since its launch Tesco has registered interest from the UK Food Standards Agency and their Australian counterparts. Clare Rapa-Marley, Head of Supplier Standards and Audits for Tesco was also invited to speak on this topic in June 2022 at the World Trade Organisation, and the United Nations Food Safety Forum in Vienna in October 2022, attended by global food regulators, certification scheme owners, food safety service providers and academia.

Following the success of Tesco Remote Assurance, the audit function now balances both physical and remote supplier audits and continues to find innovative uses to improve audit provision in the industry.