In June 2021 Ethical Consumer searched the M&S website for a cotton sourcing policy. The document 'Responsible Cotton Sourcing Policy dated November 2020 was viewed.
According to Anti-Slavery international (ASI) website viewed by Ethical Consumer in June 2021, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan were two of the world’s largest exporters of cotton, and every year their governments forcibly mobilised over one million citizens to grow and harvest cotton. M&S stated "M&S requires that no cotton should be knowingly sourced from Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan & Xinjiang regions". This was considered a positive policy.
According to the 2020 Sustainable Cotton Ranking published by Pesticide Action Network UK, Solidaridad and WWF, conventional cotton production involved the overuse and misuse of pesticides and synthetic fertilisers, which has significant impacts on ecosystems, and the health of farmers and their communities. Due to these impacts in cotton production worldwide this issue is covered by the Pollution & Toxics rating.
According to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA), a non-profit pro biotech organisation, “Biotech cotton was planted to 25.7 million hectares, covering 79% of the global area of cotton in 2019.” Due to the prevalence of GM cotton in cotton supply chains and the lack of any evidence that the company avoided it, it was assumed that some of the company's cotton products contained some GM material.
M&S stated that 100% of its cotton was BCI certified, Fair Trade, organic or recycled. However, BCI cotton was not necessarily GM free. As a result the company lost half a mark under the Controversial Technology category.
Overall the company received Ethical Consumer's middle rating for its cotton sourcing policy.
corporate.marksandspencer.com (28 June 2021)