menu back search store finder

Supplier Management

We live in an increasingly globalised society. Many of the products we enjoy in everyday life have been sourced and produced in locations from all over the world. All companies depend on economically strong and stable communities to trade successfully. This is just as true for the communities we buy from as the communities we sell to. Retailers are increasingly scrutinised on the strength of their relationships with suppliers and their local communities as well as efforts to continually improve working conditions and promote fair trading practices.

As one of the most trusted brands on the high street, we believe our role is to reassure our customers and key stakeholders that we are a fair partner. Being a fair partner covers the prices we pay to suppliers and producers of raw materials as well as the support we provide to communities where we trade. It also includes our responsibilities to ensure good working conditions throughout our supply chains and to source our products with integrity. 

Commitments and targets
We’re only as strong as the communities in which we trade. We’re committed to paying a fair price to suppliers, supporting local communities and making sure everyone working in our supply chains enjoys good working conditions. 

Approach
We are a food specialist, not a supermarket. Our products are made exclusively for M&S and this unique position means they are not comparable with the rest of the market. However, we don’t own any farms or factories or make the products that are sold in our stores. Our reputation for quality, innovation and sustainability is built on excellent long term relationships with our suppliers. 

Our food supply chain is very complex. We directly contract with around 400 suppliers who produce our products at over 800 sites located in 44 countries – 90% of which are in Europe. Raw materials and commodities are sourced from more than 70 countries. We estimate that our suppliers source raw materials from around 30,000 farms. At the same time, the nature of our portfolio means that production volumes are not always constant, especially within agriculture, where large variations – both predictable and unpredictable – are driven by seasonality and variations in customer demand. We also renew around 30% of our product ranges each year. 

We've published an interactive map which shows where our M&S food and household products are made. The map highlights production countries as well as individual factory locations and profiles for sites used by our direct suppliers. Visit the interactive map here.

We will not compromise on quality and maintain a competitive stance on price. We only source from suppliers who meet our standards or who have given a commitment to achieve our standards within an agreed timescale. 

Against this backdrop, our priority is to develop a supply base which is fit for the future, aligned, utilised and efficient, which drives innovative products, profitability and allows everyone to reinvest. We have embarked on a number of projects to restructure our supply base aimed at improving our efficiency and our margins without compromising product quality. We’ve also reinvested this money in price and quality, and shared it with suppliers to help them create further efficiencies. 

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 Licensing Authority to remove worker exploitation from the food supply chain and have signed up to its Supplier Retail Protocol. 

As a business we are committed to respecting human rights and we support the goals of the UK’s Modern Slavery Act and have a zero tolerance approach to forced labour of any kind within our operations and supply chain. Find out more about our approach to respecting human rights.

Our Technical Terms of Trade set out our minimum technical requirements for suppliers in order to meet our commitment to customers to deliver products that are safe, legal and high quality and which have been produced with integrity. 

Our Technical Terms of Trade are supported by specific policies (e.g. Packaging, Pesticides, Non-GM, Nanotechnology, and so on), Codes of Practice (which set out our requirements in detail for a particular topic) and Guidelines (which are advisory in nature). Our suppliers can access these through Connect – our online Quality Management System – and should be read alongside our Terms of Trade. Our technical requirements are expected to be fully understood at a senior management level and communicated to all staff involved in producing our products.  

All suppliers are required to commit to supporting the delivery of Plan A – our sustainability programme. This includes progressively introducing Plan A product attributes into finished products

We also routinely carry out audits of suppliers to ensure that our expectations on food safety and integrity are being met. All suppliers must agree to be audited on a specified frequency by M&S or its approved third parties against brand values, policy statements, Codes of Practice and Guidelines, and commit to taking action as a result of any findings. 

Our approach to supplier management focuses on:

Ensuring that our suppliers have effective management systems in place

Effective and comprehensive management systems
Our suppliers must have established and comprehensive management systems in place. This is key to ensuring that they are capable of complying with all legal and relevant M&S obligations.

All production sites must also meet the requirements of PAS 96:2014 ‘Guide to protecting and defending food and drink from deliberate attack’. For example, implementing and maintaining a Threat Assessment Critical Control Point (TACCP) approach to managing brand integrity for all product ingredients.

Our Global Sourcing Principles set out the standards that we expect our suppliers to comply with and the processes and systems we expect them to implement in order to promote respect for human rights, sustainability and decent working conditions. It is our suppliers’ responsibility to achieve and maintain these standards and to enforce them within their own supply chain. Find out more about our approach to responsible sourcing. 

Suppliers must objectively measure and track a strict set of agreed KPIs (e.g. customer complaints, testing results, etc) on a monthly or quarterly basis (as agreed) and be proactive in identifying any trends and taking preventive action. 

Suppliers must have in place Business Continuity plans, an effectively trained Incident Management Team and Incident Management Procedures. We expect suppliers to highlight any issues concerning food safety, quality or integrity to us as soon as possible.

Staff competencies and awareness
We expect suppliers to take a progressive attitude to employee training and ensure that staff are competent to perform their duties. This also applies where temporary staff are used.

For example, we would expect that basic training should cover Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP), Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) approach and legal responsibilities. 

Suppliers are also required to attend our bespoke hygiene courses and Food Technical Supplier Briefings. 

Sustainability related communications and training opportunities are promoted through our Supplier Exchange which was originally launched in 2009. This is a secure site which contains a wealth of information including news, events, case studies, policies and training material on a range of topics including ethical trade.

Responsible employment practices
We have a zero tolerance approach to forced labour of any kind within our operations and supply chain. 

We have recently reissued and extended the reach of our Codes of Practice on Responsible Labour User and Responsible Employment Requirements. Our suppliers are required to have appropriate ways of working to ensure that these requirements are met.

We expect our suppliers to engage our workers in line with legal requirements. They are required to check that all workers have a right to work in a particular country and that they are of legal working age. This applies even if workers are supplied through labour providers, agents or gangmasters. For example, in the UK suppliers are also expected to ensure that labour providers have a valid license from the Gangmasters Licensing Authority

We understand that flexible working arrangements are essential in the food industry. They can also be beneficial to workers so they can balance work around other commitments. We do expect however, that our suppliers manage the flexibility of the workforce responsibly.

We have recently joined the Leadership Group for Responsible Recruitment's Steering Committee and core membership and subscribe to the Employer Pays Principle.

Continuous improvement
All our suppliers must commit to continuous improvement on GMP, hygiene, food safety, integrity, quality and sustainability. 

We’re continually innovating and setting new standards for UK food retailing. One of the tools we use to help us to do this is our Supplier Scorecard which measures the following areas: Commercial, Technical, Service, New Product Development and Innovation, Agriculture and Sustainability. This enables us to build a consistent view of our supply base to ensure we are all working together toward our mission of continually inspiring our customers.  

All direct suppliers of retail product self-assess themselves against each scorecard, confirmed in a face-to-face action planning meeting with M&S. Each scorecard is scored as follows:

Provisional Meets all current M&S minimum standards 
Bronze Basic approach or systems in place 
Silver Very good/robust systems in place 
Gold Leading standards or systems are demonstrated 
At each review meeting M&S discusses the preliminary scores for each of the measures as well as our expectations for the supplier. M&S and the supplier agree on the final score and any follow-up actions. An overall score is also calculated. 

It is acceptable for a supplier to start at Provisional or Bronze providing that a robust and agreed action plan is in place. However, we expect all suppliers to work towards achieving Silver as a minimum.

Establishing positive relationships with our suppliers

Supplier Collaboration Programme
Our close working partnership with our suppliers is critical to our success. We want to have a clearly-aligned, well-utilised and efficient supply base that delivers quality innovative products, profitably and allows everyone to reinvest. 

We’re undertaking a significant programme of work with our supply base through the Supplier Collaboration Programme. This seeks to deliver financial benefits and improved ways of working. 

Through a series of collaborative workshops and use of toolkits we work with suppliers to analyse and define opportunities by individual supplier site and design solutions for action. For example, this might be through refining ranges with suppliers or by reducing ordering, delivery and production frequency on longer life products (e.g. >10 days life). 

We’ve had great engagement from suppliers and over 40 sites have been engaged in this process so far.

By streamlining our processes, optimising volumes and consolidating factories we have generated efficiencies and savings. We have reinvested this money in price and quality, and have shared it with our suppliers to help them create further efficiencies. 

We’ve also identified a number of themes which are common across sites such as consolidation of SKU specifications and collaborative sourcing.

Groceries Supply Code of Practice
We are committed to building strong relationships with our suppliers. This is reinforced by the systems and controls we’ve put in place to comply with the Groceries (Supply Chain Practices) Market Investigation Order (the Order) and the Groceries Supply Code of Practice (GSCOP)

We have reflected the requirements of GSCOP into our Terms of Trade which govern the trading relationship between M&S and our suppliers of food and household products. 

We have appointed a Code Compliance Officer who is supported by our in-house legal department. We also provide training on the requirements of GSCOP which includes refresher programmes and training for new starters.
We believe we are in full compliance with the Order and GSCOP.

Each year we actively encourage our suppliers to participate in the independent survey carried out by YouGov on behalf of the Groceries Code Adjudicator. In the annual survey 2015 we were ranked third out of ten retailers in terms of overall GSCOP compliance. 89% of our current direct suppliers said that we either consistently or mostly followed the Code. None of these direct suppliers who responded felt we were ‘never’ compliant.

Each year we also prepare an annual compliance report which we submit to the Competition and Markets Authority and Groceries Code Adjudicator. We include a summary of our compliance report in our Annual Report.

Fair prices and payment
We are committed to fair and transparent payment practices. We will not compromise on either our quality or our relationships with our suppliers and maintain a competitive stance on price. 

We have also signed up to the Prompt Payment CodeWe make correct and full payment as and when due for all goods and services supplied in accordance with the contract or agreement. The majority of our suppliers of food and household products are on our standard terms and assuming our invoicing criteria are met payment is in the fourth week following receipt of goods. We will not deliberately delay or unreasonably withhold payment. Any action we take is always justifiable and proportionate (e.g. where goods are defective or have not been supplied).

Milk Pledge Plus
We introduced our industry-leading Milk Pledge Plus in 2000 which was created in collaboration with our dairy farmers and guarantees our pool of dedicated farmers a set price for fresh milk. This is based on independently verified cost of product indices which are reviewed every 6 months. As a result, we currently pay one of the highest prices in the UK (30.49 pence per litre as of April 2016). The premium we pay above the average farm gate prices means that we have invested an extra £22.5m into farm gate milk prices for our milk products over the past fifteen years. We have also worked closely with our dairy farmers to improve our fresh milk offer to our customers, including developing leading farm standards and animal welfare as well as producing milk with lower saturated fat than conventional milk. Find out more about our approach to sourcing dairy products.

Fairtrade
In 2005, we started to introduce ranges of Fairtrade products. Fairtrade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world. We have a wide range of Fairtrade products in our foodhalls, all of which help small-scale farmers and growers by paying them a Fairtrade price and a premium that protects against volatile market forces. We were the first major retailer to switch all our coffee and non-speciality tea to Fairtrade back in 2006. We were also the first retailer in the world to launch a Kenyan tea that’s packed by the smallholders who grow it. The farmers acquired the skills and technology to do this thanks to funding, education and expertise we provided. We also have a great selection of Fairtrade wines, chocolate, flowers, as well as biscuits and jams made with Fairtrade sugar. 

Working towards a fair living wage
Within our supply chain we ensure all workers are paid at least the minimum wage and through responsible purchasing practices, supplier partnerships and wage initiatives we are working towards a fair living wage. Overtime should always be compensated at a premium rate, and where piece work is used, suppliers must be able to demonstrate that the minimum wage is always met, that there is a fair test, and that rates are flexed according to conditions.

We have assessed our food supply base to understand where the gaps between minimum wages and poverty benchmarks are highest. This has enabled us to understand that the greatest gaps are within sub-Saharan Africa, where we will focus our further work. We have two collaborative projects in high-risk countries underway:

  • Kenyan green beans project – this is a 3 year Comic Relief funded project where we are working with Traidcraft and our supplier Finlays looking at our green bean smallholder supply chain in Kenya. The project is looking at how the value chain can work more effectively to provide a more stable income for smallholders
  • Malawi 2020 – we joined this tea revitalisation project in June 2015 in collaboration with the Ethical Tea Partnership and IDH. The project was set up following concerns that wages paid to tea workers in Malawi do not meet international poverty benchmarks
As part of our Sustainability Scorecard, suppliers are required to demonstrate that workers are fairly compensated compared to the local area, and that training and systems are in place to enable workers to progress through the pay hierarchy. Find out more about our Sustainability Scorecard.

Measuring supplier satisfaction
Supplier satisfaction is a really important measure for us to understand how well we are engaging with our suppliers. Since 2012 we’ve used the independent Advantage Report Mirror to survey a proportion of our supplier base on our performance each year.

The Advantage Report Mirror provides us with insights on how our suppliers think we’re performing against a number of areas. 

Suppliers confidentially rate our performance against 6 of our competitors and 7 performance areas including business relationships. Follow-up interviews then take place to add qualitative insights to the ratings. Suppliers are also asked to comment on the key challenges or issues they have when working with us. 

In 2015, we asked 106 suppliers to participate and 67 responded. Overall we performed favourably and were significantly above the all retailer average. And within the business relationships area we were ranked first for each of its seven practices. For example, our suppliers believe we are a good company to do business with, are collaborative and we create and sustain a climate of co-operation and trust. 

We cannot be complacent though as there’s always room for improvement. And we are currently using the results of the survey to see how we can do even better. For example, we are exploring how we can improve our invoicing system to make it easier for our suppliers to work with.

We use our annual Commercial Conference for our suppliers to feedback on progress.

Checking that our food safety and integrity standards are met

Food Safety and Integrity Audits
We have a strong heritage of sourcing with integrity. One of the reasons we weren’t affected by the horsemeat scandal of 2013 was due to the controls we place on ingredients.

We routinely carry out audits of suppliers to ensure that our expectations on food safety and integrity are being met. All suppliers must agree to be audited on a specified frequency by M&S or their approved third parties against brand values, policy statements, Codes of Practice and Guidelines, and commit to taking action as a result of any findings. 

Whilst we believe our audit standards are robust and industry-leading, we know we cannot be complacent. Over the last year, we’ve spent time consulting with our suppliers and industry experts such as Chris Elliott – the Institute for Global Food Security Director and Professor of Food Safety at Queen’s University in Belfast – on how we can improve. As a result, at the end of July 2015 we changed our audit system as part of our strategy of prioritising food safety and quality.

All suppliers of Retail Products and M&S Controlled Raw Materials (‘A List’) are subject to the following audits:

  • Food Safety Audits are announced. Compliance is checked against a number of our key Codes of Practice (e.g. our HACCP Code of Practice) and those specific to certain products or facilities (e.g. cooked meats and poultry, milk production standards, etc)
  • Integrity Audits are unannounced and we expect to be on the factory floor or in the office working within 15 minutes of arriving on site. Compliance is checked against a number of our key Codes of Practice (e.g. Segregation, Integrity, Quality, Ethical Trade, and our non-GM policy, etc)
Audits are carried out by FSIG (our approved third party audit providers), the length of which will depend on the size, scale and complexity of the product. 

New suppliers receive an initial Code of Practice Audit paid for by M&S. This checks compliance against all applicable Codes of Practice (such as site hygiene, brand integrity and fundamental food safety systems) which allows us to start production safely. This audit is done in preparation for proceeding to the next audits of Food Safety and Integrity. Follow-up and subsequent audits are charged to the supplier. 

Based on the results of the audit, suppliers are assigned a rating based on the number and type of non-conformances and how they are progressing with addressing non-conformances from previous audits. Our audit gradings are as follows:

Gold Exceeds M&S requirements 
Silver Meets M&S requirements 
Bronze Meets M&S requirements at minimum level 
Red Fails to meet M&S requirements 
Existing suppliers are audited at a frequency determined by risk assessment. This could range from every 9 months to a maximum of once every 2 years.

Where new suppliers receive a Red grading, a re-audit is generally carried out within 3 months of the original audit date. 
Audit findings and corrective actions are stored on our online Quality Management System (called Connect). The supplier must sign off all audit actions within agreed timescales.

Select Farm and Select Grower Audits
Suppliers of produce or protein also receive a ‘Select Farm’ Audit or are required to deliver a ‘Select Grower’ Audit. 

These audits focus on the specific requirements facing suppliers of protein or produce into M&S (for example, standards of animal welfare, slaughter hygiene, crop management, pesticide usage, health and safety and labour standards and packhouse standards).

As part of this process we receive details of supplying farms and intermediary processing points (e.g. locations receiving live animals on site such as slaughterhouses/abattoirs). We keep this information confidential to ensure the integrity of our supplier’s supply chain but do use this information for audit and internal purposes. 

We outline our approach to checking compliance with our protein and produce standards in more detail within the raw materials, commodities and ingredients section of this website.

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

Our Global Sourcing Principles set out our minimum global supplier standards on health and safety, labour standards, environment, business ethics, equality and community human rights topics such as land rights. These standards apply across our entire business. Find out more about our business wide approach to responsible sourcing. 

Our Code of Practice on Ethical Trading sets out our ethical audit requirements for suppliers of food and household products. We also have a number of supporting policies and guidelines on ethical trade. For example, we have a robust procedure in place for managing instances of child labour if found within our supply chain.
 
All sites used by suppliers of Retail Products and M&S Controlled Raw Materials (‘A List’) including processing and packing sites must be registered on the Supplier Ethical Data Exchange (Sedex). Sedex is the largest collaborative platform for sharing ethical supply chain data. 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. 

We also require ethical audits for each of these sites. All audits must be conducted to the 2-Pillar Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audit Methodology (SMETA) which is based on the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) Base Code

All new sites supplying into M&S must have registered on Sedex, completed the SAQ modules in full, and have had a valid audit prior to production starting.

Audit frequencies for existing sites are assigned by M&S and can range between every 2 and 4 years depending on the nature of the supplier and location.

Certain suppliers (e.g. suppliers of dairy products, wine, produce, and hardware) are risk assessed for audit requirements. For small suppliers (fewer than 30 workers) we may also chose to take an alternative approach to requiring a full audit which entails an interview with an independent specialist to identify key risks and improvement opportunities.   

We require audits to be done on a semi-announced basis within an audit window of 3 weeks or longer. We do however reserve the right to conduct unannounced audits. Audits must be undertaken by one of our approved audit providers and suppliers must inform them that M&S is their customer to ensure our requirements are met. 

We will also accept second party SMETA audits undertaken by individuals who have completed the IRCA registered 3 day auditing course and had 2 successful witnessed audits.  

We may in certain circumstances consider accepting SA 8000 and Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI) audits (if, for instance, they have been conducted within the last year) and the full reports are made available to us for review. Additional requirements also exist for suppliers of specific categories of product (e.g. Fairtrade certified items). 

Regardless all audits must be uploaded onto the Sedex platform and must be visible to M&S within 5-10 working days of the audit taking place. 

Based on the results of the audit, suppliers are assigned a rating based on the number and severity of issues raised, as follows:

Grading Minor Major Critical 
Red 10+ 10+ 1 or more 
Bronze10+ 4-9 
Silver 4-9 1-3 
Gold 0-3 
With the exception of the following fire safety issues (which we consider as critical rather than major) we use the SMETA Non-Compliance Guidance to assess the severity of issues:

  • No locked or blocked aisles/exits preventing use
  • Firefighting equipment inaccessible, insufficient, unusable or wrong type or no training on its use
  • No fire alarm
  • No evacuation procedures, drills or training
  • No, or adequate, functioning emergency lighting
  • Systematic failures in health and safety systems
We also require all sites with more than 50 workers to have in place an elected worker committee or trade union.

Tracking of Ethical Non-compliance Issues

We actively track and follow up on our suppliers’ progress towards what they’ve agreed to address within their Corrective Action Plans as shown in Tables 1 and 2 below.

Table 1: Number of sites and workers on Sedex and location of audits (M&S Food Director Suppliers and 'A List' Sites) - 1 April 2015 to 31 March 2016
Continent SitesAudited sites Workers total Audited workers Number of audits Number of non-compliance issues Average number of non-compliance issues identified per audit 
Africa 10 5,325 1,821 14 
Asia 21 13 30,171 6,473 13 68 5.2 
Europe 800 266 225,831 94,344 274 1,327 4.8 
North America 18 7,094 829 26 8.6 
Oceania 27,205
South America 16,668 3,493 14 4.6 
Total 863 287 312,294 106,960295 1,449 
Table 1 footnotes: 
  • All direct M&S food suppliers and a subsection of our 'A List' raw material suppliers - a total of 863 sites - are required to undertake ethical audits at a set frequency, determined by risk.
  • In 2015/16, 287 sites were audited resulting in a total of 1,449 non-compliance issues being identified. The reminder of supplier sites have either been audited recently or are in the process of scheduling an audit to take place during 2016/17. 

Table 2: Status of non-compliance issues identified in ethical audits by issue area (M&S Food Direct Suppliers & 'A List' Sites) - 1 April 2015 to 31 March 2016

Issue area Total non-compliance issues Corrective actions completed (Non-verified) Corrective actions completed (Verified) Incomplete corrective actions1 Incomplete actions which are overdue Actions closed on time or not yet overdue 
Health, Safety & Hygiene** 728 136 402 190 269 259 
Working Hours** 204 54 46 104 131 73 
Regular Employment 172 4354 76 97 75 
Wages** 156 41 39 76 100 56 
Other Issue Areas (e.g. Management Systems, Environmental Issues) 112 26 44 42 52 60 
Accommodation 19 12 
Discipline / Grievance 17 10 12 
Discrimination** 13 10 
Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining** 12 10 
Employment is Freely Chosen** 
Children & Young Workers 
Total 1,449 314 620 516 676 573 
1 Includes issues still in the window for completion (i.e. not overdue) as well as overdue issues

Table 2 footnotes: 
  • Of the 1,449 non-compliance issues raised during 2015/16, 64% have been completed, of which 43% have been formally verified by an independent third party. 
  • It should be noted that the issue areas represent a broad range of non-compliance issues. For example, none of the non-compliance issues identified in connection with 'Children & Young Workers' related to actual instances of child labour instead they related to the quality of policies or management systems in place. 
The following chart (Figure 1) presents the top 5 ethical trade non-compliance issue areas identified through ethical audits. The majority of non-compliance issues identified related to 'Health, Safety & Hygiene', 'Working Hours', 'Regular Employment' (e.g. contracts not being correctly in place) and 'Wages'. Find out more about our approach to tackling salient human rights issues.

Non-compliance issues related to forced labour ('Employment is Freely Chosen'), 'Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining' and 'Discrimination' were less commonly identified. In part, this reflects how difficult it is to identify these more hidden or subtle issues through ethical audits. It is for this reason that we work with suppliers through our Foods Sustainability Scorecard, our Global Community Programme, as well as through collaborative working and advocacy initiatives to improve their performance in identifying and managing ethical trade issues. Find out more about our approach to capacity building.

Figure 1: Top 5 ethical non-compliance issue areas identified through audits in 2015/16
M&S Ethical Audit - Top 5 Issue Areas
The second chart (Figure 2) provides a breakdown of the Health, Safety & Hygiene non-compliance issues identified through ethical audits. Fire safety and health and safety management accounted for over 50% of non-compliance issues identified during 2015/16.

Figure 2: Breakdown of Health, Safety & Hygiene non-compliance issues identified through audits in 2015/16
M&S Ethical Audit - H&S

Agent Audits
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.

Find out more about our approach to household products and packaging and hardware

Packaging
All suppliers are required to ensure that packaging used in both the finished product and for any food contact packaging has been sourced from a manufacturer audited and approved to the BRC Global Standards Packaging Standard (A or B Grade). We require this audit to be carried out by one of BRC Global Standards 4 or 5 star rated certification bodies.

Building capability within our supply chain

Supplier training and support
We’re committed to working with our suppliers to help them develop the necessary skills and competencies to meet our requirements by offering a range of training and development opportunities. 

Our training programmes cover a range of topics including integrity, pest control, allergen awareness, listeria investigation, and foreign body prevention. They are delivered through a variety of formats including e-learning, presentations, workshops, practical assessments, webinars or case studies. 

We have designed training programmes to educate suppliers about local laws, their rights at work, and our Global Sourcing Principles

We’ve launched a series of initiatives in partnership with educational colleges to provide the core skills needed to ensure the food industry’s future success. For example, in 2012 we launched the M&S Farming for the Future Education Programme in collaboration with our suppliers which aims to address the shortage of talented young people entering the agricultural industry. Find out more about our Farming for the Future Programme.

We have an extensive programme in place to help our suppliers successfully implement our Sustainability Scorecard (see below). For example, during 2015/16 we held 4 physical meetings for each of the three elements of the Sustainability Scorecard (Lean, Environment and Ethical) to bring relevant practitioners together to network and share best practice. Our global conferences have reached over 1,000 suppliers and recognised leading practice through awards and 'Supplier Exchange' website has been populated with case studies and toolkits. We make funding available to pilot new initiatives to see if they can be successfully scaled. We also have a quarterly newsletter and hold regular webinars. 

We’ve also recently launched our Global Community Programme to benefit people in key regions of the world where we source our products, including the UK, Asia and Africa. The programme’s key aim is to develop resilience and efficiency by empowering people in our supply chain. For example, the Emerging Leaders programme has provided leadership skills training for more than 20,000 people in our supply chains in Kenya and South Africa. Find out more about our Global Communities Programme.

Capacity building programmes
We have an aspiration to be a leading major retailer on sustainability, but we can only achieve this if we spark systemic, innovative change within our supply base. We appreciate that it can be challenging for our suppliers to meet our requirements. We also know that it can be difficult for many suppliers to see what this brings in terms of direct benefits to them. We need to understand and be sensitive to these issues. Capacity building is absolutely essential to making this happen.

Whilst ongoing monitoring of compliance is of course necessary and useful, it is not the be all and end all. For instance, solely focusing on individual non-compliances can result in underlying issues being missed. In addition, this approach may not identify emerging issues or support the development of a continuous improvement culture within our supply base. 

We therefore complement our existing activities by going ‘beyond compliance’ and defining areas of continuous improvement with our suppliers. We do this by providing a range of capacity building tools and incentives to align our respective goals and objectives. This includes capacity in terms of resources, technical skills, knowledge, as well as research and development. 

For example, our Farming for the Future programme has been developed to help farmers identify risk factors, develop learning and share best practice to improve the profitability and sustainability of their businesses and supply chains. 

First introduced in 2010, the Sustainability element of our Supplier Scorecard is a 'beyond audit' tool designed to reflect where a supplier is on their journey towards sustainability. The Sustainability Scorecard is underpinned by a self-assessment framework comprising three elements: Environment, Ethical and Lean Manufacturing (or waste elimination) which detail the building blocks to enable change in performance. Suppliers are scored from Provision through to Bronze, Silver and Gold. We expect all sites used by our direct suppliers to be working towards Silver as a minimum. Silver sites will have a well-established staff survey with high response rates and positivity scores, have no critical issues or outstanding major issues as a result of ethical audits and an effective training matrix in place for all workers. Sites achieving Silver or Gold are validated by independent industry experts. Silver is not easily achieved and represents performance above the norm in the industry - which is why products produced at a Silver or Gold site also quality for a Plan A product attribute. In 2015, 32% of products by volume came from sites that had achieved Silver. Find out more about our approach to product sustainability. 

Our Global Communities Programme has been created to develop more resilient and efficient business models by empowering people in our supply chain.

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 supplier management activities. We were founding members of the Supplier Ethical Data Exchange (Sedex), which aims to drive improvements and convergence in responsible sourcing practices. Operationally we’re supported by a number of organisations including the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, the Groceries Code Adjudicator, FSIG, SAI Global, and BRC Global Standards, to name but a few. 

We support a number of programmes that help improve working conditions in our supply base, in partnership with organisations such as Emerging Leaders and Fairtrade Foundation

Throughout this website, we explain how they, and our many other partners, are helping us address specific issues of relevance to supplier management. 

Key documents

Find out about our approach to responsible sourcing


View

Find out more about our approach to respecting human rights


View

Find out more about our supply base


View