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The following is an extract from a message to all M&S colleagues from M&S CEO, Steve Rowe, sent on Saturday, 13 June 2020

Over the past few weeks the whole world has been horrified by the tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. It is remarkable to see protests taking place from Brazil to Indonesia, Australia to the UK, and I can only hope that the senselessness of his death is a catalyst for the world to face into the challenge of systemic racism and take meaningful action.

Of course, I am not just a commentator on this issue. As a privileged white man, and as the CEO of a business of 78,000 colleagues—with different backgrounds, beliefs and ambitions—I’ve been reflecting a lot on what has happened, and what we need to do at M&S. 

"It has been a period of intense learning for me as a leader and as an individual and I would like to thank every colleague who has got in touch with me, in particular all of the colleagues who engaged with me on the BAME Network’s yammer group, to offer their views and counsel."

—Steve Rowe, CEO

Last week we publicly and rightly acknowledged that respecting the silence of Blackout Tuesday was not good enough and that we have work to do to truly understand and tackle racism and the stymying impact it has on the life chances of black people. So—as an employer, a retailer, and a brand—we need to take urgent action. To be truly meaningful we must do this as part of a much overdue review of our approach to diversity and inclusion so that we have a clear strategy that all of us understand and can get behind.

To me, being able to say we are a truly diverse and inclusive business means:

  • As an employer, we attract, support and develop diverse talent and create an inclusive culture where everyone feels they can belong and get on. This includes looking at how and where we recruit, the partners who support us, the training we offer and, importantly, the data we track and the systems we have in place.

  • As a retailer, from the ranges we offer to the way we market them to the layout of our stores, inclusivity is embedded into how we do business—and customers see it, feel it and recognise our brand as a leader.

  • As a business with hundreds of shops in communities across the country (and world), we support organisations which work on community inclusion issues that our colleagues and customers care about. We use the power and platform of our brand to amplify their work and contribute to a ‘national conversation’ on issues that impact and challenge us all.

We have made some small steps forward:

  • As an employer, we have targets on female and BAME leadership representation which are currently to have 50% women and 15% BAME colleagues in senior management roles by 2022, and we are at 41% and 8%.

    Our new colleague survey has been designed so that we can look at data according to different anonymised groups to spot trends and take action. In the last year we moved from 220 to 123 in the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index and we are a Times Top 50 Employer for Women. We have signed the Race at Work charter, but we must up the pace on taking action to deliver it.

  • Last year we became the first UK retailer to introduce sunflower lanyards into all stores, which helps identify customers and colleagues with hidden disabilities. We also created our Adapted for Easy Dressing Kidswear range for children with sensory or physical disabilities.

  • To play an active role in our communities, I am pleased to tell you that we have expanded the charities that we will donate to on behalf of our customers through Sparks. What matters most to me, though, is that we were doing this as part of the long-term re-set of Sparks and in collaboration with colleagues.

    We are broadening our focus on Community & Inclusion charities and we will be supporting the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, which aims to transform the life chances of young people, and The Black Curriculum, which is working to address the lack of black British history in the UK Curriculum. As we have done with akt, another new Sparks charity that supports the LGBTQ+ community, we are kick-starting the partnerships with a direct donation.

But none of this is good enough. To make sure we make progress on addressing racism as part of an ambitious diversity and inclusion action plan, I will be putting my personal weight behind this. 

The press have been asking me how we are going to be supporting customers from Monday when we re-open Clothing and Home. 

"I’ve said that we are committed to being with our customers all the way as the country faces into a challenging and uncertain future." 

That commitment is for our colleagues too. To all of our black colleagues, and to any colleague who has faced prejudice, ignorance or injustice, I may not always get it right, but I am with you all the way in mind and in heart.

Thank you,