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Raw Materials, Commodities & Ingredients

Our global economy needs natural resources to provide raw materials (such as food ingredients, fibre and fuel) and natural systems (such as healthy, fertile soils; clean water and air; and a regulated climate) to maintain vital support services for our wellbeing and security. But, population growth and increasing consumption is putting pressure on many of earth’s natural resources. Although consumption varies a great deal from place to place, WWF estimates that if everyone in the world consumed as much as people do in the UK we would need three planets to support us.

The increasing demand for food poses great challenges to the industry. Growing pressure on diminishing resources and poor global stewardship could increase our costs, restrict our access to key raw materials and commodities and make our global supply chains more volatile. In addition, customers are increasingly choosing healthier options and demanding information and reassurance of the origin and content of their food. 

We rely on natural resources to supply all the raw materials we need to produce our high quality products, so these issues affect us directly.

Commitments and targets
We are committed to protecting our brand integrity and maintaining customer trust by ensuring that the content of our products are safe, legal, high quality and accurately reflect any claims or statements that are made. We also want to lead our sector in sustainable production and consumption.

We want to offer our customers the good value, high quality products and services they expect from M&S, while respecting planetary boundaries and the need for social equity. We recognise the integral role of animal health and welfare in sustainable food production and strive to continue progressing the highest welfare standards. 

Approach
Over 3,000 raw materials and ingredients are used in our food products. We know that global food security is threatened by population growth, changing weather patterns, water scarcity, fraud and unsustainable farming and fishing practices. Against this complicated backdrop, we face the twin challenge of ensuring:

  • Access to these ingredients at competitive prices
  • A sustainable supply of nutritious food. 
We have a strong heritage of sourcing with integrity. Over the years, we’ve taken significant steps to improve the sourcing of key raw materials in our products. For instance, one of the reasons why we weren’t affected by the horsemeat scandal of 2013 was due to the controls we place on ingredients. We cannot be complacent though and we are continually improving our approach to traceability and supply chain control to ensure it remains industry leading. Neither can we do this alone – collaboration is vital if we are to influence industry practices and deliver systemic positive change. 

Our food ingredients can be broadly classified into two groups, although we refer to them collectively as raw materials:

Primary raw materials Ingredients which are sourced from a relatively short and controlled supply chain and in most instances we know the farmer/grower or production region. Examples of primary raw materials include eggs, beef, seafood, fruit and vegetables. 
Traded commodities Globalisation has transformed the geography of food systems and many of the supporting ingredients that go into our products are sourced from the global marketplace. As a result our direct suppliers are generally several steps removed from where these ingredients originated. This means we need a different approach to providing assurances that production, processing and trade has been done to our requirements. Examples of traded commodities include wheat flour, soy, palm oil, tea, coffee, and cocoa.
Raw materials are also sourced for the packaging and hardware we use as well as for household products such as cleaning products. Find out more about our approach to food packaging and hardware and household products

Where we make a claim on pack, either directly or through the consumer information we provide, or have a brand value, we have a legal and moral obligation to ensure the content of the product accurately reflects these statements. 

The diagram and tables below set out our approach to raw materials in more detail.
 raw materials approach
Our approach to establishing raw materials specifications focuses on:
Assessing individual raw materials
We’re continually assessing our raw materials to ensure our knowledge and understanding of social and environmental impacts is evidence-based and reflects the latest scientific thinking. 

We review individual raw materials against a range of potential risk and opportunity categories including: food safety, quality, adulteration, human rights, labour standards and broader sustainability issues. 

We’ve also undertaken reviews to identify social and environmental hotspots (e.g. biodiversity, animal welfare and health) for particular ingredients. Find out more about our approach to product sustainability.
Developing specific sourcing strategies
It is not possible to have a ‘one-size fits all’ approach to raw materials. We clearly have differing levels of control and influence depending on whether it is a primary raw material or a traded commodity. 

Our approach to each is informed by the results of individual raw materials assessments. We use a number of approaches to help our suppliers move towards more sustainable solutions, including direct interventions, certification, audit, collaborative working and continuous improvement. 

We go through a process of continual review to ensure our decisions are based on the latest scientific knowledge and stakeholder views. We prioritise raw materials according to:

  • Strategic importance to our business (e.g. commercial significance, security of supply, ability to control and influence sourcing, and so on)
  • Evidence of major or critical social or environmental concerns and/or impact
  • Our ability to make a difference through direct intervention, partnership with suppliers or through industry collaboration
We've outlined our current position on 14 raw materials categories. For primary raw materials these are: beef, lamb and venisonpork, poultry, game, fish and shellfish, dairy, eggs, fruit, vegetables and salad crops  and flowers and plants and for traded commodities these are: tea and coffee, palm oil, soy and cocoa.
Supporting market transformation
Various tools and approaches are available for progressing our sustainability objectives and we know many issues cannot be addressed by any single solution or organisation.

Our ultimate goal is to make sustainable production the norm and for it to be fully integrated into global supply chains. To achieve this market transformation there needs to be a clear definition of what the objectives are and how they will be met and verified on the ground (or in the sea). For many raw materials there needs to be a system for controlling the integrity of claims through supply chains. 

Certification is a specific approach to promoting sustainable production that is differentiated primarily by multi-stakeholder governance. Collaboration is vital if we are to influence industry practices and deliver systemic positive change. We seek to find a balance between involving the broadest range of stakeholders and the need to move at pace to deal with critical sustainability impacts. 

We believe certification has a role to play, but it is not a goal in itself, it is a means to an end. Supplier capacity, market coverage, cost of implementation and complexity of supply chains are key factors which significantly affect the success of certification. For example, according to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) 18% of palm oil produced internationally is now RSPO certified (although within M&S all of our palm oil meets the RSPO standard). With soy it is much lower - according to the Roundtable on Responsible Soy (RTRS) just 2% of soy production is currently certified. 

The reality is that there are no examples yet where certification has resulted in a tipping point for market transformation. For this reason, for each raw material, we review what options are available and whether certification is the right approach for us. Under some circumstances we may prefer other approaches, from industry standards to direct intervention. 

We support market transformation in the following ways:

  • Ensuring that M&S brand standards address key sustainability impacts. For example, our Select Farm standards for livestock and aquaculture have been designed to support our suppliers to meet not only our quality and safety criteria, but also to meet our high standards on animal welfare, environmental protection and ethical trade
  • Supporting the development of industry and company standards to incorporate sustainability criteria. For example, we’re influencing the development of a number of industry standards such as Global GAP, Linking Environment and Farming (LEAF) and Red Tractor
  • Implementing strategically selected leadership programmes in collaboration with industry and expert service providers. For example, we hope our leadership role in the Consumer Goods Forum, the Retail Palm Oil Group and our presence on the RSPO Board of Governors will lead to improvements in the sustainability of palm oil
  • Sharing – publishing and promoting – the learnings from our capacity building initiatives and individual projects
  • Participating in multi-stakeholder initiatives such as the RSPO, RTRS, World Cocoa Foundation and the International Cocoa Initiative to share thinking and reflect the realities of industry level challenges and ensuring that the full supply chain is covered and considered

Find out more about our approach to capacity building.

Our suppliers are responsible for procuring and managing all raw materials including those used in packaging in accordance with current legislation and relevant M&S requirements. Depending on the results of our individual raw material assessments these include supplier management plans, raw material specifications, use of controlled raw materials, and exclusion of prohibited ingredients or companies. 

We have grouped raw materials, commodities and ingredients into three areas of control as follows:
Minimum Standards
These apply to raw materials or subsequent ingredients which require no additional controls or M&S specific interventions other than meeting our minimum standards. 

Our minimum standards on raw materials are typically set out in our Technical Terms of Trade. This sets out our policy position on a number of areas as well as our current list of prohibited ingredients. For example, we do not permit the use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) ingredients or derivatives in food products, irradiated raw materials or components, artificial favours and colours, mechanically recovered meat, or hydrogenated vegetable oils and proteins. We also have supporting policies on key topics including GMO, packaging and pesticides. 

We have a number of policies and industry-leading Codes of Practice which are raw material specific and have been developed to take account of the results of individual assessments, Good Agricultural Practice, emerging best practice as well as the latest scientific knowledge and stakeholder views. You’ll find more detail on our specific policies on this website. 

We require our suppliers to implement and maintain a Threat Assessment Critical Control Point (TACCP) approach to managing the integrity for all raw materials used in products. Each raw material must be assessed to identify threats and vulnerabilities to the end to end supply chain (e.g. farm to finished product). Suppliers need to have full visibility of the complete supply chain – back to farm, field or ocean and through to the final product. Find out more about our approach to product standards. 

All suppliers of retail products and M&S Controlled Raw Materials (see below) are subject to our audit programme. Find out more about our approach to supplier management.

Our Sustainability Scorecard also requires suppliers to have good controls over their raw materials sourcing through the Extended Enterprise toolkit of the lean framework. Our leading suppliers are running their own supplier exchanges and have developed strategies to improve how they manage raw materials. For example, Greencore Northampton have worked hard to prioritise their key suppliers and then worked on a comprehensive supply chain engagement approach that has delivered tangible results. Find out more about our Sustainability Scorecard.
Mandatory Raw Material Requirements
These are raw materials or subsequent ingredients where we’ve identified the need for requirements over and above our minimum standards. 

We stipulate ‘how’ we want that these raw materials or subsequent ingredients to be sourced. These currently include: 

  • Honey
  • Ginger and garlic
  • Olives and olive oil
  • Seeds and pulses
  • Fruit, vegetables and salad crops
  • Flowers and plants
  • Wild-caught fish / seafood 
We are responsible for setting the specification and approach to assurance where applicable. Our direct suppliers are then responsible for ensuring that sourcing meets our requirements and managing the associated assurance. They are also responsible for approving suppliers.
'A List' Raw Materials (M&S Audited)
These are raw materials that, through risk assessment, we believe pose a significant risk to our customers or to our brand which warrants our direct intervention.

We therefore maintain an M&S Audited List of suppliers for these raw materials and we manage the audit process directly. Our direct suppliers are only permitted to source these raw materials or subsequent ingredients from an M&S A List supplier. 

This could be a supplier or it could be the entire end to end supply chain. We will intervene at the point where we believe we can best mitigate or minimise the risk.

There are currently 28 groups or individual raw materials which are governed by an M&S A List as follows:

  • Fresh and frozen herbs
  • Nuts
  • Spices
  • Dried vine fruit
  • Coconut
  • Chocolate and cocoa
  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Tomato & tomato products
  • Warm water prawns
  • Cold water prawns
  • Canned tuna
  • Canned salmon
  • Fish/seafood – primary processors
  • Cheese
  • Mayonnaise
  • Egg – shell (free range)
  • Egg – liquid (free range)
  • Beef
  • Lamb
  • Pork
  • Venison 
  • Poultry
  • Poultry hatchery
  • Poultry feedmills
  • Stocks and bullions
  • Dried cured meats
  • Corned beef
Ultimately our direct suppliers are accountable for the raw materials they source and therefore they have responsibility to maintain a relationship with the A List site. 

A List sites must comply with relevant M&S policies and Codes of Practice. M&S Food Safety Audits and M&S Integrity Audits are conducted on all sites. In addition, M&S Welfare Audits are carried out on sites involved in the primary processing of meat, fish and seafood.

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

To develop our approach to raw materials, commodities and ingredients we’ve worked with many industry experts and scientists, including Food Standards Agency, Global GAP, Pesticide Action Network UK (PAN), SAI Global, FAI Farms, BRC Global Standards, Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), LEAF, Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), RSPCA, and WWF.  

Throughout this website, we explain how they, and our many other partners, are helping us address specific issues of relevance to raw materials, commodities and ingredients.

Key documents

Find out more about our approach to sourcing beef, lamb and venison


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Find out more about our approach to sourcing pork


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Find out more about our approach to sourcing poultry


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Find out more about our approach to sourcing game


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Find out more about our approach to sourcing fish and shellfish


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Find out more about our approach to sourcing dairy


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Find out more about our approach to sourcing eggs


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Find out more about our approach to sourcing produce


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Find out more about our approach to sourcing flowers and plants


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Tea

Find out more about our approach to sourcing tea


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Find out more about our approach to sourcing coffee


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Soy

Find out more about our approach to sourcing soy


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Find out more about our approach to sourcing palm oil


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Find out more about our approach to sourcing cocoa


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