Supply Chain Accountability

As a retailer of thousands of products, many of our social and environmental risks as a company lie in our large, complex supply chain. We have several responsible sourcing commitments and requirements in place to minimize negative impacts and increase positive influence in our supply chain, and want to ensure the integrity of these commitments. We discuss these commitments in more detail in our Responsible Sourcing Framework and the Responsible Sourcing section of this website.

As a result, we have programs in place to hold our suppliers accountable for meeting our standards through assessments of environmental, social and human right practices, as well as working to improve the traceability of Our Brands products. We monitor our supply chain for social and environmental impacts in multiple ways including data collection and tracking, engagement with suppliers, risk management frameworks, codes of conduct, certification schemes and auditing.

Social Compliance Audits

As described in more detail in our Social Compliance Program Overview, Kroger’s Social Compliance Audits are designed to check our suppliers’ alignment with our Vendor Code of Conduct. Vendors must agree to our Vendor Code of Conduct when registering to become a supplier in our Supplier Hub. The code informs vendors that the facilities they operate and subcontract with can be subject to Social Compliance Audits.

We use an audit checklist to guide these factory visits, which are semi-announced. These audits are conducted by third-party vendors selected by Kroger. Kroger requires social compliance audits for all Our Brands (food and non-food products) and unbranded products (such as bulk produce) processed at facilities outside the United States. Kroger also requires audits for direct import national brand products where Kroger is the importer of record. Kroger may also audit U.S.-based suppliers or across whole product categories if there is a perceived risk or need. Most suppliers will require a new audit annually, however a risk-based assessment may allow for a longer period between audits.

Kroger takes seriously any violations of our Code of Conduct. Cases of suspected child labor, suspected forced labor or attempted bribery by the facility fall within the Prohibited category and these suppliers are automatically disqualified and removed from the Kroger supply chain. Facilities that accumulate any Zero Tolerance violations are automatically designated as "Not Approved," and are required to resolve issues before business with Kroger can continue. Those on Corrective Action Plans are conditionally approved and required to resolve pending corrective action items according to schedule.

Supplier Management
The Supplier Hub supports:
  • Increased customer safety,
  • Simplified work processes,
  • Standardized vendor onboarding,
  • Consistent messaging, and
  • Vendor/supplier traceability

To further improve governance, Kroger has also created a single source for all vendor information – the Supplier Hub, a centralized management system to ensure that all Kroger vendors are identifiable, accessible and regularly assessed for compliance. This system will allow Kroger to more easily collect and centrally maintain important information about our suppliers’ compliance with our commitments, such as facility audit outcomes, certifications and relevant company initiatives.

Kroger’s Supplier Hub enables a thorough identification and verification process for our external vendors and suppliers. This helps ensure that Kroger is offering safe, ethically-sourced products for our customers, while meeting the guidelines of the Foreign Supplier Verification Program under the U.S. FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act. As the Supplier Hub rolls out, each food/food contact vendor of Our Brands must be certified by one of the benchmarked audit schemes created by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) and meet Kroger’s standardized compliance requirements.

Animal Welfare Audit Requirements

As articulated in our Animal Welfare Policy, Kroger requires all beef, pork, chicken, turkey and egg suppliers to provide evidence of an annual Animal Welfare audit, as part of doing business with us. Audits are to align with our accepted animal welfare standards and are to be conducted by reputable independent commercial third-party auditing companies.

When audits fall below acceptable standards, our Regulatory Compliance Team determines improvement steps with our vendors. We engage our key suppliers regularly to communicate our requirements, to ensure they are meeting these requirement, and to partner with them on continuous improvement opportunities.

We require all suppliers of milk and other dairy products supplying our manufacturing plants and grocery assortment to participate in the National Dairy FARM Program: Farmers Assuring Responsible Management™ program. We also require that any dairy farm supplying Kroger have completed at least one FARM program audit.

Third-Party Certifications and Programs

Kroger gains additional visibility in our supply chains by leveraging third-party product certification schemes, programs and partnerships. As we discuss in the Responsible Sourcing section of this report, we have multiple programs and commitments in place to increase the environmental and social sustainability of the commodities we purchase and the products we sell.

Representative certifications, programs and partners that Kroger aligns with

Marine Stewardship Certification (MSC): This sustainable seafood certification defines our wild-caught seafood sustainability commitment.

Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP): Kroger’s farm-raised seafood commitment aligns with the Global Aquaculture Alliance’s BAP standards.

Organic: Kroger carries approximately 9,000 certified Organic products across a wide variety of categories to help minimize the environmental impacts of these products and their inputs.

Rainforest Alliance: The green frog seal assures customers the products they are purchasing have been grown and harvested using environmentally- and socially-responsible practices.

International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF): ISSF focuses on creating science-based sustainable solutions for tuna fisheries worldwide.

Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI): GSSI has developed a benchmarking tool to help purchasing companies better evaluate sustainable seafood certification schemes.

National Dairy FARM Program: Kroger aligns with the FARM Program to ensure that animal welfare requirements are met in our dairy supply chain.

Fair Trade: Fair Trade helps ensure that the farms were our products are grown use responsible practices and safe, healthy working conditions.

Product Quality and Regulatory Requirements Accountability

Kroger is committed to managing our products to ensure safety and quality. We require our suppliers to align with regulatory requirements pertaining to product safety, as well as meet Kroger’s quality, safety and performance requirements. We engage with suppliers to address any concerns. This is true for both food and non-food products.

Our Corporate Food Technology and Regulatory Compliance teams monitor for food integrity and purity, product size and specifications and regulatory compliance to ensure we provide safe, high-quality food products to our customers.

Similarly, our General Merchandise Kroger maintains a General Merchandise Regulatory Compliance and Quality Assurance program, which outlines product testing protocols and requirements, labeling requirements and chemicals reporting requirements, among other things, for general merchandise products in our stores.

Feature Story

In 2017, Kroger conducted multiple Supplier Compliance Conferences with our General Merchandise (GM) suppliers for selected product categories to provide them a comprehensive and holistic view of our GM compliance requirements, to enhance relationships with suppliers and to provide a communication platform for the key players in these relationships. Three of these trainings took place in Hong Kong and China, and included more than 60 Kroger suppliers spanning multiple categories. These represented the first supplier compliance conference in the sourcing country, and provided highly useful information on suppliers’ perspectives, interests and concerns about Kroger’s supplier requirements.