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Responsible Sourcing

Environmental risks and social inequality are making the world more complicated and unpredictable. Customers are increasingly aware of their personal impact on the world and businesses must work hard to build and maintain their trust. Growing pressure on natural resources and poor global stewardship may increase our costs, restrict our access to key raw materials and make our global supply chains more volatile. In addition, as governments and the wider public demand improvements in supply chain transparency, stewardship and accountability, legislation in this area is becoming increasingly sophisticated and challenging.

As one of the most trusted Brands on the high street, we believe our role is to reassure our customers and key stakeholders that our products are ethically and sustainably sourced. To do this, we must look beyond our operations to the wider supply chain, where the biggest impacts occur. Each year we sell around 3 billion items, produced by over 2,000 suppliers. We estimate that our suppliers source raw materials from around 20,000 farms and 100,000 smallholders, with our entire supply chain involving around 2 million people. We also use non-merchandise goods and services worth several billion pounds every year, to support our operations - from equipment for new stores to cleaning, security and catering.

Commitments and targets
We aim to enhance the lives and support the local communities of the people who work for and with us. We’re committed to source responsibly and we work closely with our suppliers make sure they respect human rights, promote decent working conditions and improve sustainability across our supply base.

We want to be a leader on sustainable consumption and production in our sector.

Approach
We source products and commodities from more than 70 countries, so our supply chain is very complex. We introduced our ethical trading programme, including ethical audits of our supply chain, during the 1990s, and we’ve worked hard to make sure supply chain workers enjoy decent working conditions.

In many countries, jobs at factories or farms that produce for the international market are highly sought after - and we know from experience that the companies running them benefit from increased commitment and productivity when their employees are treated with respect, work in decent conditions, and earn fair rates of pay. Our customers benefit too – from better quality, better value products and peace of mind.

We have a responsibility to ensure workers’ rights are at the forefront of our decision-making and minimum standards are upheld in order to respect human rights, promote decent working conditions and improve sustainability across our supply base. This applies regardless of whether we are sourcing items to sell or use within our business. 

Our Human Rights Policy and Code of Ethics and Behaviours reinforces our commitment and responsibility to respect internationally-recognised human rights and the principles and guidance contained in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. We are also signatory to the UN Women's Empowerment Principles and UN Global CompactFind out more about our approach to respecting human rights.

We comply with the UK Groceries Supply Code of Practice (GSCOP), dealing with our suppliers fairly and lawfully. We also support the work of the Gangmasters & Labour Abuse Authority to remove worker exploitation from the food supply chain and have signed up to its Supplier / Retail Protocol. 

We’ve increased our transparency on responsible sourcing. In 2016, we published for the first time an interactive map featuring the locations of all our active clothing and food manufacturers and in 2017 we extended it to cover our homeware and beauty product manufacturers. We also began to disclose additional information on our approach to auditing and audit results within our Food and Household supply chain and Clothing and Home supply chain. . 

Our approach to responsible sourcing focuses on:

Establishing and maintaining clear minimum global supplier standards appropriate to the industries and countries manufacturing and supplying our goods and services
Global Sourcing Principles
It is our suppliers’ responsibility to achieve and maintain the requirements of our Global Sourcing Principles and to enforce them within their own supply chain. They must be able to demonstrate that they are doing so.

We aim to achieve our objectives by developing clear and agreed standards with our suppliers, supported by regular visits and a policy of continual improvement. We apply strict sanctions when our standards are not met, or where there is no commitment to improve standards.

We are committed to working with our suppliers in an open, constructive and transparent manner and we require our suppliers to do the same.

In 1999, we joined the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) and developed a set of principles in partnership with our suppliers. These principles were based on the ETI Base Code and established our requirements for suppliers to comply with all relevant local and national laws, particularly on working hours and conditions, living wages, health and safety, rates of pay, terms of employment and minimum age of employment.

We reviewed and updated our Global Sourcing Principles in 2014 to reinforce our expectations on the environment, cover gender equality and a wider range of community human rights issues such as land rights and small holders. To reflect our revised approach to human rights and to incorporate the requirements of the UK Modern Slavery Act we made further revisions in May 2016.

In updating our principles we have drawn from the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the UN Human Right to Water and Sanitation, the UN Women's Empowerment Principles, and the Children's Rights and Business Principles as well as a number of internationally recognised codes including the ETI Base Code and the Global Social Compliance Programme Reference Code. In doing so, we have attempted to ensure our requirements are aligned with internationally recognised standards in order to help promote comparability between the standards of different buying companies and reduce the level of compliance burden on suppliers.

These principles are a contractual requirement and where relevant are reinforced in our standard terms. They set out what is required and expected from our contracted suppliers – those with whom we have a direct contract for goods and services – to ensure their workplaces and ways of working meet acceptable standards.

It is the supplier’s responsibility to achieve and maintain these standards and to enforce them within their own supply chain. As our business relationship develops, we expect our suppliers to raise their standard and continually improve working conditions and their environmental performance, taking account of international best practice.

Suppliers must agree with us in advance the production site or workplaces to be used and no subcontracting of our orders from these agreed locations is allowed. All products we sell must also be labelled with their country of origin.

Monitoring supplier performance to ensure they meet acceptable standards and are continually improving
Monitoring and assurance
We undertake due-diligence assessments currently from an ethical trade and responsible sourcing perspective and these are being extended to encompass human rights impacts of our business and set ambitious targets to mitigate negative impacts and improve performance.

Our suppliers must comply with the standards set out in our Global Sourcing Principles and where appropriate specific technical sourcing standards and aspire to adopting higher standards or more stringent processes.

It is our suppliers’ responsibility to enforce our requirements within their own supply chain. They must be aware of vulnerable groups like women, smallholders, homeworkers and subcontractors, and have adequate monitoring in place to ensure the rights of these groups are upheld.

We work on the principle of continuous improvement and in close partnership with our suppliers, moving away from a solely compliance-based approach to one that is focussed on improved outcomes for workers and with open dialogue.

We are determined to do everything we can to bring fair sourcing principles to all stages of our supply chain. However, it is simply not possible for us to monitor or control the working conditions of each individual who contributes to what ultimately becomes a product we sell or use. We will not under any circumstances accept production from non-approved sites or goods supplied from sites that differ from our contracts system for each specific contract.

We use the Supplier Ethical Data Exchange (Sedex) system to monitor our suppliers’ progress towards our requirements. All product suppliers are required to be registered on Sedex. We are in the process of extending this requirement to our major non-merchandise suppliers. We currently have over 3,000 suppliers registered on the Sedex.

Sedex registered suppliers are required to have up-to-date assessments on the platform and audits are carried out according to the Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audit (SMETA) best practice guidance.

Our specialist Regional Office teams located in the UK, Turkey, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, China, Cambodia and Vietnam support our local buying offices to monitor social compliance and encourage good practice. Sites are audited by independent specialist third parties at a frequency determined by risk. For the majority of suppliers this is on an annual basis. In addition, M&S personnel will be visiting each site on a regular basis

We work with a number of collaborative partners and multi-stakeholder initiatives and as part of the work together we travel to manufacturing locations and for some we produce annual reports. We submit an annual report to the ETI Board setting out the steps we have taken during the year to tackle working conditions in our supply chain.

We summarise the results of our social compliance activities in our annual Plan A Report. In May 2016, as part of our commitment to improved transparency we began to disclose additional information on our approach to auditing and audit results.


Grievances and complaints
As part of our Global Sourcing Principles we state that suppliers must provide a grievance mechanism for workers (and their organisations, where they exist) to raise workplace concerns. This grievance mechanism must involve an appropriate level of management and address concerns promptly, using an understandable and transparent process that provides timely feedback to those concerned, without any retribution. The mechanism must also allow for anonymous complaints to be raised and addressed. The existence and scope of this mechanism must be clearly communicated to all workers and their representatives, and all workers must have equal access.

We encourage the use of supplier grievance mechanisms as a first resort to settle complaints because workers and their representatives are ideally placed to raise these issues with management and potentially solve a dispute as it is occurring. Localised solutions tend to be most attuned to local culture, the concerns of those whose rights are impacted, and opportunities for sustainable solutions.

External investigation of complaints by us alone, in collaboration with other brands / retailers or via multi-stakeholder initiatives are an important and necessary back-stop to these processes but should be used after all local mechanisms have been tried first.

Helping to build capacity and capability within our supply chains so that our suppliers can implement and maintain high standards
Worker training
We have placed worker training at the core of what we do. For example, we've trained 890,000 workers in our Clothing & Home supply chain since 2010 in skills such as workplace communications, health and safety and worker rights, health and nutrition, leadership development, supervisor training, financial literacy and workplace communication

We also hold ‘Supplier Exchange’ meetings with our suppliers to provide a collaborative forum for suppliers to come together and work with us to raise issues and provide solutions. We also have a Supplier Exchange website where policies, standards, training programmes and general information is available for all suppliers at any time.
Global Community Programme
We launched our Global Community Programme with a clear vision of driving growth and increased efficiency, through partnerships along our supply chain, to tackle some of the systemic issues both inside suppliers and outside in their communities. Our ambition is to become a more resilient business by empowering people in our supply chains to build more resilient local communities.

For example, we decided to work with Emerging Leaders an NGO that provided leadership training to around 20,000 supply chain workers in Kenya, east Africa and South Africa. The training takes participates on an incredible journey to a new mind-set and empowers them to take others on the same journey as leaders in their communities. Many tell us that the programme has led to improved productivity, better retention of high quality, motivated employees and less dependency on casual labour.

Another example is where we developed HealthWorks with Project Hope and the Reproductive Health Association of Cambodia (RHAC) to address simple root causes of absenteeism, and fatigue and increase health and nutritional awareness in 7 factories in Cambodia. We trained over 14,000 workers and upskilled the medical professionals on site to help improve employee health as well as workplace productivity.

Find out more in our Global Community Programme Report.
Working with others to find innovative solutions to complex and systemic issues that we can't tackle alone
Driving convergence in responsible sourcing practices
We firmly believe that the most sustainable way to drive improvement is to work collaboratively with all other like minded retailers and brands.

We were a founding member of Sedex which was established in 2004 as a mechanism to drive improvements and convergence in responsible sourcing practices. We are also represented on the Sedex Board. Through our work with Sedex we’ve shared best practice on data, assessments, training of auditors and audit quality.

We are active members of a number of other multi-stakeholder initiatives including the ETI, Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), Business in the Community (BITC), the Global Social Compliance Programme (GSCP), and the International Labour Organization’s (ILO)Better Work programme, to name but a few.

Each year we are involved in a wide range of projects with different suppliers and stakeholders to increase and share our understanding on root causes and solutions which contribute to improving working conditions in our supply base.
Public policy advocacy
In every country we source from, we work with key suppliers, and where relevant national governments, multilateral platforms and civil society, to ensure workers’ rights are respected and policies are in place to crease a safe working environment and to work towards a fair wage for workers who supply to us.

We’ve developed a bilateral relationship with the Department for International Development (DFID) to facilitate dialogue at various levels, including policy dialogue, knowledge sharing and exploratory discussions to identify areas of potential collaboration.

We’re active members of the British Retail Consortium (BRC) Labour Working Group and work collaboratively with key stakeholders like the ETI on consultations on new legislation and on collective response to key issues. For example, we were one of five retailers who helped sponsor the ‘Stronger Together’ initiative. This initiative - developed by the Association of Labour Providers (ALP), the Gangmasters & Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) and Migrant Help - aims to give UK employers the knowledge and resource they need to recognise signs of exploitation and tackle it in the food and agriculture industries.
All the relevant areas of our business are responsible for ensuring that appropriate processes and controls are in place to implement our Global Sourcing Principles. To support them, we’ve developed sourcing strategies and standards that facilitate the delivery of industry obligations or particular Plan A commitments that go beyond our minimum standards. For example, our Clothing and Home and Food and Household business units have established industry leading programmes covering manufacturing and farming excellence. You can read more about these on this website.

Working with others
Listening, learning, responding and working in partnership is an important part of how we do business.

We’re working with a large number of organisations to support our responsible sourcing activities. We’ve been actively involved with the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) since 1999, and were founding members of the Supplier Ethical Data Exchange (Sedex), which aims to drive improvements and convergence in responsible sourcing practices. We’re working closely with Global Social Compliance Programme (GSCP), Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), and the International Labour Organization’s Better Work programme, to promote responsible business practices. We’ve also worked with a number of specialist organisations, including Ergon Associates, Shift and Impactt to help us improve our standards and approach to monitoring and assurance.

Through our Global Community Programme we support a number of programmes that help to improve working conditions in our supply base, in partnership with organisations such as the Better Cotton Initiative, Emerging Leaders, Cool Earth, and Project Hope.

Find out more about our approach to respecting human rights


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Find out more about our supply base


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