menu back search store finder

Ethical Trading

We listen actively and act thoughtfully. We will create a deeper connection with our suppliers and their respective communities through open dialogue. 

Our business has a large impact on the economic well-being of the communities in which we, and our suppliers work,through employment, training, and exposure to international markets and standards.  This relationship has to be actively managed to ensure that workers’ and communities’ rights are at the heart of this partnership.  To source responsibly and ethically, businesses must have comprehensive ethical trade programmes to protect workers’ rights. Our approach involves a Code of Conduct based on the International Labour Organisations’ (ILO) conventions, a monitoring programme to ensure adherence to the Code and an extensive supplier engagement strategy to drive best practice,and prevent this exploitation. 

In many countries, a job working in a factory or farm producing product for the international market is a sought-after position.  In some countries, however, workers face significant challenges to safe and productive work.  We don’t believe that this should mean that we move our business away from these locations but instead work to improve conditions where issues have been identified. This needs to be done by identifying countries and regions of greatest risk, as well as ensuring adherence to our monitoring and audit programme.  Where issues are identified we set clear expectations and timelines for suppliers to work towards. 

Workplaces change dynamically all the time in terms of production volumes and personnel changes which can have significant impact for the individuals working in those locations. So ethical trade programmes and policies must be in place so if and when issues arise,responsible brands like M&S have a mechanism to work with suppliers to address them.

 Our policies

As a multinational retailer, we work in a vast number of countries and across a range of products and commodities which makes our supply chain extremely complex.  We, however, believe that business has a responsibility to ensure workers’ rights are at the forefront of decision making.  We work with our suppliers to ensure at a very minimum,that they meet international labour standards. We have around 3,000 General Merchandise and Food product, raw material and service suppliers around the world. We label all M&S General Merchandise products with its country of origin. We also have local buying offices with Regional Compliance Managers in Turkey, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and China. 

In 1999, we joined the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) and also developed a set of principles in partnership with our suppliers. These principles set down 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.   

In 2014 we strengthened these to include human rights, gender equality, community, fairness and small farmers.

Download Global Sourcing Principles PDF

Download ETI base code PDF

We were also founder members of SEDEX (Supplier Ethical Data Exchange) in 2004 which is working to reduce audit fatigue within the Global Supply Chain.   We require all product suppliers to:

·        Be signed up to the M&S Global Sourcing Principles

·        Have a valid ethical audit in place

·        Be registered on SEDEX

 Results are reported in detail to the ETI and summarised in our annual Plan A Report.

We are committed to responsible sourcing throughout our supply chain and we work with suppliers, and particularly our key suppliers with whom we have greater ability to drive change, to drive up standards across our supply base.  Ethical trade is embedded in Plan A,our sustainability plan, which is the foundation of How We Do Business and is constantly reinforced internally and externally as it is “The Right Thing to do.”  Our approach to ethical governance is broadly built around four key elements:

·        Monitoring supplier performance to identify issues;

·        Addressing problems where they arise;

·        Building capability to avoid issues before they happen; and

·        Working with others to tackle complex and systemic problems that we cannot tackle on our own 

We work on the principle of continuous improvement with our suppliers, moving away from a solely compliance-focused approach to one that is focused on improved outcomes for workers and striving towards open dialogue so that our suppliers do not feel the need to hide anything. We will develop more effective methods of monitoring that place workers at the heart of the process and ensure access to grievance processes,including via mobile phone hotlines and surveys. With our key suppliers, where we have significant influence, we will ensure workers experience improvements and assess the impact of our interventions, moving towards public reporting of progress and challenges. We will align our sourcing strategies and purchasing practices with these aims to encourage our suppliers to create safe and positive working environments.  We have placed worker training at the heart of what we do, training over 500,000 workers in skills such as workplace communications, health and safety and worker rights and continue to drive this agenda forward. 

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. We firmly believe that the most sustainable way to drive improvements is to work collaboratively with all other like minded retailers and brands and hence we have been active members of the ETI, SEDEX, Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), Business in the Community (BiTC), the Global Social Compliance Programme (GSCP), International Labour Organisation (ILO) Better Work, to name a few.  We also hold‘Supplier Exchanges’ to provide a collaborative forum for suppliers to come together and work with us to raise issues and provide solutions 

In all countries we source from, we work with key suppliers, and where relevant, national governments, multilateral platforms and NGOs to ensure that workers’ rights are respected and policies are in place to create a safe working environment and to work towards a fair wage for workers supplying to M&S. We will also use our influence with national governments and multilateral platforms to ensure that workers’ rights are at the forefront of trade negotiations and a progressive agenda is in place to continue to improve the protection and standards for workers.