We have established a Human Rights Stakeholder Advisory Group comprising leading subject matter experts from the Institute for Business and Human Rights, Shift, BSR, Impactt and Oxfam. It includes representation from our Sustainable Retail Advisory Board organisations to ensure there are clear linkages between these two groups.
The Group is tasked with advising us on our human rights approach, considering the perspectives of interested stakeholders and views of potentially affected rights holders. They also reflect critically on the implementation of our human rights strategy and its effectiveness and impact.
The Group also provides advice on addressing human rights risks and supporting remedy, particularly in the design of grievance mechanisms and effective remediation. The Group plays no role in determining the handling or outcome of individual grievances.
Since its formation it has met four times to review our to human rights, customer privacy, inclusion, risk assessment and grievances. They have publicly commented on our performance as part of our reporting process. An overview of the group’s activities during 2016/17 is provided in our Human Rights Report 2017.
For M&S to be a successful and responsible business we depend on the support of stakeholders in the communities where we trade and where we and our supply chain operate. We are committed to engage with potentially and actually affected stakeholders on human rights, including in local communities where relevant. It’s hard for a company to know and show that it is respecting human rights if it is blind to how others perceive its actions and their effects.
It is critical that we identify and regularly interact with affected rights holders and expert stakeholders. These include our employees, customers, supply chain workers, contractors, artisanal and smallholder producers and local community and civil society groups. Affected individuals and groups may in turn be organised and represented by particular organisations or individuals (e.g. a community elder, trade union or local association) or have no formal structure. We employ a variety of techniques to identify these stakeholders which range from direct engagement and interaction, desktop research, third party assessments through to leveraging existing country knowledge and contacts. This includes identifying stakeholders based on their specific skills and expertise, such as civil society organisations, government agencies, and academic institutions.
We have a map of advocates for affected stakeholders we engage with by country and where we have run in depth programmes for local work/producer and community groups around factories and farms. We also map where our business and supply chain operations are likely to negatively impact on rights holders. For example, when building new stores we adopt the Considerate Constructors Scheme to ensure that we minimise any impacts (e.g. nuisance, health and safety, etc) of our work on others (e.g. Ecclesall Road in Sheffield where we achieved an industry leading score).
To be successful our approach to stakeholder identification and engagement needs to be a continual improvement process which fosters an open and candid discussion without fear of retribution. For instance, as our human rights programme evolves we plan to revisit how well our map of advocates represent our most vulnerable groups.
We group human rights stakeholders into three groups:
Directly affected stakeholders
Includes employees, customers, supply chain workers and their representatives through trade unions and community leaders
We interact directly with our people in many ways, including via line managers, our Business Involvement Groups, our European Works Council, regular ‘Your Say’ staff surveys, and confidential hotline.
We engage with customers via formal customer focus groups, customer services, our store staff and direct contact through our Chairman's Office.
In our extended supply chain, all ethical assessments include direct workers interviews and we are expanding the use of mobile technology to survey workers directly. However, our experience is that the most meaningful understanding of salient issues comes from more in-depth interactions with affected rights holders.
For example, in 2002 following a critical industry report we became aware of alleged abuses of female flower workers in Kenya. As part of an ETI delegation, we listened to the personal testimonies of 50 workers from flower farms supplying UK retail. This gave us important insights into the underlying issues of harassment and gender discrimination and the role of buyers in mitigating them.
Advocates for affected stakeholders
Representing informed proxies, such as NGOs and academics
We recognise that sometimes our ability to interact directly with stakeholders is limited, not least as rights holders may be wary of expressing their views directly with us. Intermediaries acting on the behalf of others is crucial to bridging this gap.
For example, in 2012 as a result of NGO reports highlighting that ‘Sumangali’ (exploitation of young women in the mills and textile industry, a form of bonded labour) was still in practice we became a founding member of the ETI Tamil Nadu Multi-Stakeholder Working Group. This group aims to contribute to the elimination of exploitative practices in Southern India by promoting ethical recruitment of young women into the spinning sector, textile and garment industries.
Human rights experts
Comprising broad experts or experts on a particular salient issue
In any given year we meet with dozens of expert organisations including civil society, academia, and specialist consultants.
Oxfam has been an indispensable stakeholder to M&S for a number of years. For example, in 2012, Oxfam shared with us the findings of their poverty footprint study in the horticultural sector in Kenya. This showed that despite a decade long focus on ethical trade, the communities where many workers lived were facing significant of challenges including sanitation, security and education. This ultimately led to us entering into a partnership with Emerging Leaders to implement their leadership training programme at scale within our supply base.
Supply chain training
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 and are delivered through a variety of formats including e-learning, presentations, workshops, global supplier conferences, 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.
For example, in 2012 we developed and implemented a Fire Safety programme in our factories in Bangladesh with Worldwide Responsible Accreditation Production (WRAP). The programme is unique to M&S due to its fire champion module which takes workers right through from how fires start, the context and risks within the workplace, to how to effectively evacuate the workplace, the importance of safe practices and how they play a part in reducing the risk of fire in the workplace and their homes. To date 130,000 workers have received training through the M&S Fire Safety training programme and by December 2015 all of our garment factories had a worker fire champion in place.
We established 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 since 2012. Find out more about our Global Communities Programme.
First International Human Rights Conference, Delhi
At the end of January 2018, we held our first ever international human rights conference in Delhi, India with over 250 attendees from our retail partners, M&S international retail and sourcing offices as well as logistics, IT, facilities, Food and Clothing & Home suppliers. The conference was also attended by many of our collaborators too including Coca-Cola, BT, Ethical Trading Initiative, Freedom Fund, Ethical Tea Partnership, Traidcraft, Fairtrade, Unseen and representatives from Indian, UK and Australian Governments.
The conference aimed to provide information and practical tools for suppliers on addressing the complexities of human rights within business, as well as sharing experiences and insights from the wider business community. We also launched our M&S Forced Labour Toolkit for International Suppliers and Partners at the conference.
A highlights video of the conference can be viewed below:.
Human Rights and Modern Slavery Conference
In February 2017, we brought together 150 suppliers from our UK Property, Logistics, IT, Retail and Clothing and Home supply base for our flagship Modern Slavery and Human Rights Conference, held in London. This event set out to help improve our suppliers understanding and management of modern slavery risk in their operations and wider supply chain. External speakers included Unseen, Stronger Together, the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority and the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre.
|Employees and direct suppliers|
All M&S employees who have a personal grievance (e.g. a complaint relating to their conditions of employment, how they have been treated at work and / or their personal circumstances) can raise them in line with the M&S Employee Grievance Policy in the UK which meets the requirements of the ACAS Statutory Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures or equivalent local arrangements if based outside of the UK.
Employee grievances may include concerns around terms and conditions of employment, health and safety, work relations, bulling and harassment, new working practices, working environment, organisational changes and discrimination. Several of which may also be considered human rights breaches if significant enough. Staff independent of the grievance will investigate and seek to resolve the grievance and ensure all issues and concerns are also assessed on their possible human rights impacts
Additionally, we have obligations under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998. Anyone concerned about any form of malpractice, improper action or wrongdoing by M&S, its employees, contractors/suppliers or franchises is strongly encouraged to report the matter. We have a Whistleblowing Procedure to facilitate the reporting of such concerns and applies globally. The process applies to all employees, contractors/agency workers working on our premises, consultants, suppliers and other relevant stakeholders.
In most instances, we hope that individuals would feel they can raise concerns with their line manager. However, if they feel that this is not possible they can be raised via an independent and external facility. This facility is managed by Safecall and reporting can be done by phone (if you are an employee) or online in multiple languages via Safecall’s secure web reporting facility: https://www.safecall.co.uk/report. Individuals can also write to the M&S Group Secretary directly if they prefer.
Once concerns have been reported either via the phone or online to Safecall, a unique case number is generated which allows for confidential dialogue to take place between the parties (e.g. should there be any further questions to ask). This includes situations where the party wishes to remain anonymous. It also enables feedback to be provided (e.g. progress status).
All issues and concerns raised via this mechanism are reviewed by the M&S Investigation Team (part of the Corporate Governance team) who will either investigate themselves or pass it onto the relevant individual or team within the business to investigate. This includes situations which either does or could relate to human rights.
All concerns will be taken seriously, fully investigated and appropriate action taken. All investigations conducted are also reported to our Audit Committee which is a committee of the M&S Board that deals with internal control and risk identification even where no wrongdoing has been found.
All our suppliers are covered by our Global Sourcing Principles which require them to have their own grievance mechanisms in place. We also expect our suppliers to prohibit retaliation against workers or other stakeholders (including those that represent them) for raising concerns.
To support our suppliers to create effective mechanisms we are rolling out our workplace communications toolkit and piloting new mobile technology tools such as Labor Link.
Where local and site based mechanisms fail, an individual or organisation can raise a complaint with us. They must be either directly affected by the issue or have a mandate to represent individuals or communities directly affected.
During audits, our independent auditors leave calling cards with confidential phone numbers for workers to use to allow concerns to be raised after the audit has taken place.Concerns may also be reported via an independent and external facility. This facility is managed by Safecall and reporting can be done online in multiple languages via Safecall’s secure web reporting facility: https://www.safecall.co.uk/report.
The complaint can be submitted in the individual’s or organisation’s own language.
Once concerns have been reported online to Safecall, a unique case number is generated which allows for confidential dialogue to take place between the parties (e.g. should there be any further questions to ask). This includes situations where the party wishes to remain anonymous. It also enables feedback to be provided (e.g. progress status).
We endeavour to acknowledge receipt within 2 working days (5 working days if in a language other than English).
Our goal will always be to assess and then investigate all legitimate complaints and promote their resolution in the quickest possible timeframe. The complaint will be considered to have been resolved at an initial stage if and when the parties agree on a plan for remedial action to address the issue. Complaints vary in scale, complexity and geographical origin so it is not possible to say how long it will take to reach a resolution. The issue may be resolved in a matter of weeks or it could take months or even years. We will, however, always strive to keep all parties regularly informed (in their local language) of the steps that are being taken and the results of the process. Find out more about our grievance procedure for Clothing, Home and Food supply chains.
The OECD’s National Contact Points mechanism can be used in instances where individuals or communities feel they cannot raise a concern with us directly (see ‘Non-M&S grievance mechanisms’ below).
|External individuals and communities|
Our grievance mechanism is accessible to all external individuals or communities.Concerns may be reported via an independent and external facility. This facility is managed by Safecall and reporting can be done online in multiple languages via Safecall’s secure web reporting facility: https://www.safecall.co.uk/report.
The complaint can be submitted in the individual’s or organisation’s own language. We endeavour to acknowledge receipt within 2 working days (5 working days if in a language other than English).
Our goal will always be to assess and then investigate all legitimate complaints and promote their resolution in the quickest possible timeframe. The complaint will be considered to have been resolved at an initial stage if and when the parties agree on a plan for remedial action to address the issue. Complaints vary in scale, complexity and geographical origin so it is not possible to say how long it will take to reach a resolution. The issue may be resolved in a matter of weeks or it could take months or even years. We will, however, always strive to keep all parties regularly informed (in their local language) of the steps that are being taken and the results of the process.
Alternatively, the OECD’s National Contact Points mechanism can be used in instances where individuals or communities feel they cannot raise a concern with us directly (see ‘Non-M&S grievance mechanisms’ below).