The UK government body overseeing the behaviour of the country’s large supermarket chains has set out a new compliance strategy.

The Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA), Christine Tacon, told the organisation’s annual conference in London yesterday (24 June) that her aim is to drive effective top-to-bottom compliance risk management by the retailers she regulates. 

However, it has led to concerns that the changes are effectively ushering in self-regulation.

Tacon, who confirmed she will step down in 2020 after seven years in the role, said that in her final year she is committed to working with each of the 12 large retailers to ensure all their practices, systems and behaviours are designed and structured to meet their obligations under the Groceries Supply Code of Practice (GSCOP).

She told conference delegates: “I am introducing a common factors approach to guide their compliance risk management activity.

“However they are set up, I want to see the retailers build for themselves a whole-organisation approach to code compliance. This puts their compliance management thinking into their overall governance structures, their legal and audit functions, as well as their internal systems and processes into their training and their communication with suppliers.

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“This is the best way to make sure that breaches of the code don’t happen and if they do, that they are quickly picked up and put right. It means retailers doing the right thing not only because that is what is required of them, but because it makes good business sense.”

Tacon set out her vision after her organisation’s annual survey revealed continuing improvement in retailer behaviour. For the second year running only four out of ten suppliers reported having experienced an issue at any point in the year.

Last year’s top concern for suppliers – delay in payments – fell from 19% to 13% in a period when the retailers’ response to the issue was under formal monitoring by the GCA. Forecasting is now the issue most reported by suppliers, and that, too, has continued to decline.

However, some concerns have been expressed about the direction in which the GCA is heading in terms of regulation.

Trade justice organisation Tradecraft in Depth tweeted: “We must oppose moving back to the failed model of industry self-regulation.”