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Household Products

Retailers face continual scrutiny on the efficiency and safety of their supply chain, provenance of raw materials, and their approach to responsible sourcing in order to minimise reputational risks. 

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 safe and sourced with integrity. To do this, we must look beyond our operations to the wider supply chain, where the biggest impacts occur. 

Our customers are also increasingly concerned about their health and want more information about the household products they come into contact with. 

Commitments and targets
We are committed to protecting our brand integrity and maintaining customer trust by ensuring that our products are safe, legal, high quality and accurately reflect any claims or statements that are made. 

We want to lead our sector in sustainable production and consumption, offering our customers the good value, high quality products and services that they expect from us while respecting our planetary boundaries and need for social equity. We recognise how important animal health is to sustainability and strive to uphold the highest welfare standards.
 
Approach
Our M&S high quality household products play an essential role in enhancing our customers’ daily lives. We offer everything from bathroom and kitchen products (e.g. wipes, scouring pads, kitchen brushes, aluminium foil, etc), soaps and handwashes, bleaches and detergents, through to fragrances and scented candles, toilet tissue and refuse bags. 

Nothing is more important to us than product safety. Our Technical Terms of Trade set out our minimum requirements for suppliers of household products. 

Our Technical Terms of Trade are supported by specific policies and Codes of Practice (which set out our requirements in detail for a particular topic) and Guidelines (which are advisory in nature). These can be found on Connect – our online Quality Management System – and should be read alongside our Terms of Trade. Find out more about our approach to supplier management and product standards

Over the years we’ve achieved a number of significant successes including some industry firsts. For example, we were the first retailer in the household products category to be certified Cruelty Free by Cruelty Free International. We were also the first retailer to have all our M&S chemical-based cleaning products confirmed as meeting the requirements of the AISE Charter for Sustainable Cleaning

Around 65% of household products sold (by volume) in 2015/16 had at least one Plan A product attribute. Find out more about our approach to product sustainability.

Our approach to household products focuses on:

Ensuring the safety and integrity of household products

Quality and safety management
Our customers expect our products to be of high quality. Product quality is therefore of paramount importance to us. 

Our household products are sourced directly or through agents (or intermediaries). Suppliers are required to input product specification data into FIND (our Food Innovation Database). FIND forms a searchable database of all product information including ingredients and their countries of origin. Suppliers are not permitted to deviate from the agreed specification.

We do not permit our household products to contain genetically modified (GM) ingredients or derivatives in line with our Non-GM Foods Policy. Our definition of ingredients and derivatives covers any substance, including additives, used in the manufacture or preparation of a product which is still present in the finished product, even if in altered form. 

Commodity-driven deforestation
Avoiding forest loss and degradation is important in reducing carbon emissions, preserving biodiversity and other ecosystems services, and securing food, fibre, fuel and building materials for local communities.

The demand for timber is expected to triple by 2050, putting increasing pressure on vulnerable forests. We’ve committed to source wood sustainably and remove commodity-driven deforestation from our supply chain by 2020. Forest risk commodities of particular relevance to our household products are wood-derived products and palm oil. Find out more about our approach to protecting forests.

Sustainable wood
We are committed to ensure that by 2020, all our wood comes from the most sustainable sources. Together with forestry, sustainability, and industry experts, we’ve developed a clear policy to ensure wood is consistently sourced across our business.

All our suppliers are required to comply with our Global Sourcing Principles and our Wood Policy. All of our household paper products are Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified.

Palm oil
Palm oil is the leading vegetable oil in terms of production volume and it’s used in many everyday products. Palm oil’s versatility, high yields, and low production costs, have led to deforestation as more land has been converted for its cultivation. It can be found in food and household products like soaps and detergents.

Palm oil and palm kernel oil are complex commodities. In cleaning and personal care products they are likely to exist in the form of derivatives such as olein and stearin. These derivatives are very difficult to trace and challenging to source sustainably. 

We require our suppliers to disclose the existence of palm oil and any of its derivatives when inputting product specification data into FIND. This forms a searchable database of all product information including ingredients and countries of origin. 

All the volume that is disclosed in our household products meets the Roundtable Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) standard with over 90% being physically certified. Find out more about our approach to palm oil.

Animal testing and welfare
We are committed to upholding the highest standards of animal welfare.

For household products this includes a commitment not to test or ask suppliers or other third parties to test our products on animals – this extends to the ingredients used within these products. And since 1 January 2006 we have not sold any products or products containing ingredients which have been tested on animals. 

In 2006, we were the first retailer to have all its household products (and ingredients of) certified Cruelty Free by Cruelty Free International. Their ‘Leaping Bunny’ logo is included on pack in demonstration that the items are free from animal testing. 

Checking compliance with our standards
Our household products are sourced direct from suppliers or through agents.

Where we source through an agent we carry out Agent Audits to ensure that their management of and compliance with our requirements is evident for their relevant supplying sites and that they have the appropriate competencies.

Agents are audited by FSIG (our approved audit provider) to a defined protocol that covers their responsibilities with regard to the application of our relevant policies, Codes of Practice and Guidelines at the sites they source finished products from. For example, looking at an agent’s process for checking the validity of any claims that are made about the product such as FSC, recycled content, etc.

Where we do source direct from a factory, FSIG carries out the audit at factory level. 

Regardless of how we source, all sites involved in the final finishing and assembly of household products must be registered on the Supplier Ethical Data Exchange (Sedex). Each must be linked to M&S Food on the system and have completed in full the Sedex Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ) modules on labour standards, health and safety, environment and business ethics.

These sites are also audited in accordance with the 2-Pillar Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audit Methodology (SMETA) which is based on the ETI Base Code.

Reducing the overall impact of household products

Reducing product footprint
We are signatories to WRAP’s Courtauld Commitment which is pushing for improved resource efficiency and reduced waste within the grocery sector which extends to household and personal care products. For example, the bags we use in our foodhalls contain 35% recycled content and our aluminium foil is made from 100% recycled material.  

We require all our suppliers to source only from companies producing M&S chemical-based cleaning products which have been independently audited to confirm that they meet the AISE Charter for Sustainable Cleaning requirements. 

The Charter is a lifecycle analysis (LCA) based framework and aims to promote and facilitate industry wide continuous improvement in sustainability practice and reporting. It stipulates a set of procedures and must apply to a minimum of 75% of the company’s production. These cover raw material selection and safety evaluation, supplier selection, packaging design, resource use, systems for product recall, and consumer and user information.

Helping our customers to live more sustainably

Chemical formulation
Chemicals are used in the production of all our cleaning and personal care products. We make every effort to ensure that the ingredients exceed our customers’ expectations, comply with existing legislation and meet our own strict standards which often go beyond the law. 

There is myriad chemicals-related legislation to which we need to adhere. For example, EU legislation on biocidal products and the EU Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of Chemicals (REACH) Regulation. 

We’ve also taken a policy stance on the concerns associated with a number of chemicals which are not currently covered by legislation. For example, we have not permitted the use of triclosan in M&S products for many years.

We review chemicals according to the four categories:

  1. No concerns - no action required
  2. Banned - either altogether or in certain uses
  3. Being replaced - a lower level of concern leading to phase out
  4. Monitoring - when no definitive evidence yet suggests a chemical should be replaced or banned but there are some concerns or scientific research which need to be monitored
We require our suppliers to fully disclose product ingredients when inputting product specification data into FIND. This forms a searchable database of all product information including ingredients and countries of origin. 

Clothes care
Back in 2007, we were one of the first companies to encourage our customers to lower washing temperatures to 300C, saving around 40% energy per wash. We even introduced labels on our clothing with 'Think Climate – Wash at 300C'. This campaign persuaded 15% of our customers to wash at lower temperatures, saving 50,000 tonnes of CO2e a year.

Our laundry range has been formulated and designed to give outstanding cleaning at 300C. Independent testing has proven our laundry products clean as well as, and in some cases better than, the leading brands. 

We’ve also taken action to use fewer chemicals and less packaging too. For example, our sachets are now sold in Doypack® bags instead of tubs. This reduced the packaging weight from 31.2g to 9.5g which means a reduction of just over 4 tonnes each year (based on average sales). 

Our concentrated laundry gels are even able to perform at 150C. Just a small amount is sufficient to clean a full wash load, meaning fewer chemicals and less packaging.

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

To develop our approach to household products, we’ve worked with many partners, including WRAP, British Association for Chemical Specialities (BACS), and the International Association for Soaps, Detergents and Maintenance Products (AISE). Operationally, we’re supported by our suppliers and expert organisation such as Cruelty Free International, Sedex, and FSIG who are helping us ensure the safety and integrity of our products. 

We’re working with many different organisations to achieve commitments and targets associated with our household products.

Key documents

Find out about our approach to protecting forests


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