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: https://www.safecall.co.uk/report. 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)