In July 2020, Ethical Consumer viewed Marks and Spencer's corporate website and accessed a number of pages under the 'Plan A' heading (M&S's corporate responsibility programme) as well as its 'Global Sourcing Principles', 'Modern Slavery Statement 2019/20' and 'Code of Ethics and Behaviours'. On the basis of this, M&S was rated as follows:

Supply chain policy (reasonable)
Marks and Spencer 'Global Sourcing Principles', dated August 2018 was downloaded. It provided adequate clauses on the following: child labour, forced labour, freedom of association and discrimination. The clause on working hours stated that hours must not exceed 60 hours per week (including overtime) but "working hours may exceed 60 hours only in exceptional circumstances where any of the following are met: this is allowed by national law; this is allowed by a collective agreement freely negotiated with a workers’ organisation representing a significant portion of the workforce; appropriate safeguards are taken to protect the workers’ health and safety; and the employer can demonstrate that exceptional circumstances apply such as seasonal work, accidents or emergencies." As M&S was a member of the ETI and the clause matched the clause in the ETI basecode Ethical Consumer considered it adequate.
With regards to the living wage the Global Sourcing Principles states that “Suppliers should work towards paying workers a fair living wage.” M&S’s 2018 Plan A document stated "By 2025, we’ll aim for a living wage for all our direct employees as set by us and reviewed by credible stakeholders in a way that is sustainable for M&S and demonstrate how we’ve encouraged our key franchises and direct supply chains to do the same". While M&S was recognising the need to move towards payment of a living wage, it did not appear to be currently requiring suppliers to do this. Therefore it was not considered to have an adequate clause on living wage. M&S was considered to have a reasonable supply chain policy overall.

Stakeholder engagement (rudimentary)
Ethical Consumer searched the Ethical Trade Initiative website and found that M&S was listed as a member.
Ethical Consumer could find no evidence that M&S was engaged with organisations or trade unions which had a systematic input into the verification of labour standard audits. With regards to a complaints hotline Ethical Consumer did not find evidence that the company provided a hotline free of charge, anonymous and available in workers’ first language. A web page titled Human Rights outlined the company's supply chain greivance process. It stated: "During audits, our independent auditors leave calling cards with confidential phone numbers for workers to use to allow concerns to be raised after the audit has taken place.
Concerns may also be reported via an independent and external facility. This facility is managed by Safecall and reporting can be done online in multiple languages via Safecall’s secure web reporting facility: The complaint can be submitted in the individual’s or organisation’s own language. Once concerns have been reported online to Safecall, a unique case number is generated which allows for confidential dialogue to take place between the parties (e.g. should there be any further questions to ask). This includes situations where the party wishes to remain anonymous." Ethical Consumer viewed the Safecall website which also provided a free phone number as well as the online reporting mechanism. Overall, M&S was considered to have a rudimentary approach to stakeholder engagement.

Auditing and reporting (poor)
M&S had disclosed audit results for both its food & household and clothing & home supply chains. It stated the number of factories and workers audited, the locations and the number of non-compliance issues. It also published the types of non-compliance issues and number of times these had occurred. However, it did not appear to provide audit results at the factory level. The company did not appear to have published a clear schedule for its audits going forward. It did require a valid audit for all suppliers but was not clear about whether it was committed to auditing any second tier suppliers. It stated that it required suppliers to pay for their own audits. The Global Sourcing Principles document stated that Marks and Spencers would terminate contracts if suppliers failed to make improvements in response to instances of non-compliance, this indicated a remedial approach. Overall M&S was considered to have a poor approach to auditing and reporting.

Difficult issues (good)
M&S’s Human Rights 2017 report addressed many difficult issues found in supply chains such as payment of a living wage, discrimination, working hours, forced labour and freedom of association. The report provided a map which listed the most salient human rights risks per country, broken down into two categories, food and clothing & home. The report went on to highlight the key initiatives which operate in each country and on each issue.
For example for its food map, Kenya's main human rights issues were identified as low wages and child labour. It went on to highlight the Fairtrade Foundation, Tradecraft and Emerging Leaders as initiatives working in the Kenyan food industry to tackle these issues. From this M&S outlined seven key human rights issues which were salient to its supply chain; discrimination, forced labour, freedom of association, health and safety, living wage, water and sanitation, and working hours. The company went on to outline three approaches aimed at tackling these issues; tackling in work poverty, fostering inclusive society and taking the lead on modern slavery.
The Global Sourcing Principles also stated that where freedom of association is illegal suppliers must allow for alternative means. The Plan A report stated "By 2020, we’ll carry out and publish a review of the effectiveness of workers’ representation arrangements for enabling improved workers’ rights, within our Food and Clothing & Home first-tier manufacturing supply chain. We’ll develop a programme of actions and report annually on our progress."
On its Plan A webpage, the company stated that it conducted semi-announced audits which gave suppliers a notice of 3 weeks or longer, however, it reserved the right to conduct unannounced audits on its suppliers. It also stated that it risk-assessed its suppliers prior to auditing.
With regards to training its 2017 Plan A report stated it would work with its suppliers and partners to provide a training and education programme for 800,000 workers by 2020. “This will cover employees’ roles, responsibilities and rights, basic health care and where possible, numeracy and literacy”. It stated that by April 2017, it had provided training to more than 890,000 workers in our Clothing & Home supply chain, since 2010.” However, the company added that some workers may have received the training on more than one subject. This commitment had been removed from the company’s latest 2018 Plan A report.
The company had produced an interactive map which showed information on 1,762 factories that supplied its goods. The map claimed to cover over 1 million workers in 67 different territories.
Overall M&S was considered to have a good approach to difficult issues.

Overall M&S received a best rating for its Supply Chain Management and was not marked down in this category.


Marks and Spencer corporate website (6 February 2018)

In July 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed M&S's corporate website and found a international store location map. At the time of writing, M&S had stores in Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, Russia, Egypt, Libya and Turkey. The M&S family tree on the corporate database Hoovers also indicated that the company had subsidiary companies in China.

At the time of writing Ethical Consumer considered each of the aforementioned countries to be governed by an oppressive regime.

M&S lost a whole mark under Human Rights.

Reference: (12 December 2019)

Marks & Spencer was one of the brands ranked in The Fashion Transparency Index 2019, which reviews and ranks 200 of the biggest global fashion and apparel brands and retailers according to how much information they disclose about their suppliers, supply chain policies and practices, and social and environmental impact.

Fashion Revolution is a global movement calling for a fairer, safer, cleaner and more transparent clothing industry, born after the fire of the Rana Plaza building in 2013 in Bangladesh in which 1138 people died and 2500 were injured.
Since then, Fashion Revolution wants to unite people and organisations to work together to change the way clothes are sourced, produced and consumed across the whole value chain, from farmer to consumer.
The companies were selected on the basis of annual turnover over 500 million US$ including hight street, luxury, premium, sportswear, accessories, footwear and denim from across Europe, North America, South America and Asia.
Out of the 200 brands selected in 2019, 52% did not respond to the survey, 46% completed and returned the questionnaire and 2% declined the opportunity to complete the questionnaire.
The results showed that 10 brands (5%) score 0%, the average score was 53 out of 250 (21%), only 5 brands scored higher than 60%. Not a single brand scored above 70%.

The Fashion Revolution Transparency Index 2019 looked at 5 key areas: policy and commitments, governance, traceability, know / show and fix, and spotlight issues.

Marks & Spencer scored 56.20%, and was among the 15 companies scoring over 50%. Therefore it was not marked down for this in the Human Rights category by Ethical Consumer.

It scored:

Policy and Commitments: 47.5 out of 49

Governance: 12 out of 12

Traceability: 41 out of 85

Know, show and fix: 24 out of 70

Spotlight issues: 16 out of 34


Fashion Transparency Index 2019 (15 July 2019)


In July 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed the Marks and Spencer's cocoa policy on its website.

It stated that it had a goal of continuing to source 100% of its cocoa from certified sustainable sources and that it had first acheived this in 2017.

It stated:
We define verified sustainable sources as meeting any of the following standards:
UTZ certified / Rainforest Alliance
Fairtrade certified
Third party verified HORIZONS cocoa
Olam Livelihood charter"

At the time of writing Ethical Consumer accepted Fairtrade, UTZ/Rainforest Alliance or SOIL Association certified cocoa or a clear statement that cocoa not certified by these organisations was not sourced from West Africa.

Marks and Spencer lost half a mark under Workers' Rights due to not adequately addressing the well-known issues of child labour in the cocoa supply chain.


Marks and Spencer corporate website (6 February 2018)

In December 2019 Ethical Consumer searched the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre website and viewed an article titled "Charity & police break up UK's largest modern slavery ring; victims worked in farms allegedly supplying UK retailers & supermarkets" and dated July 2019.

It stated that: "Investigators found some of its 400 victims worked for as little as 50p a day, working on farms, rubbish recycling centres and poultry factories. Gang members were convicted of modern slavery offences and money laundering on 5 July 2019. According to an investigation by the Sunday Times [restricted access], UK supermarkets including Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Asda were supplied by farms where men and women controlled by the gang worked. The supermarket chains and companies involved said they did not know the workers were being exploited, and several said they only became aware of the mistreatment after being contacted by journalists"

As a result Marks and Spencer lost half a mark under Workers' Rights.


Charity & police break up UK's largest modern slavery ring (July 2019)