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Today is Human Rights Day, the UN appointed day to recognise what Secretary General Ban Ki Moon describes as ‘our collective responsibility to promote and protect the rights and dignity of all people, everywhere.’

Good business and respect for human rights go hand-in-hand.  That’s why we believe it matters and why we take the subject seriously when it comes to the estimated two million workers in our supply chain. 

Today we have updated our Global Sourcing Principles and the update includes the incorporation of the UN’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. 

Our Global Sourcing Principles are the MINIMUM standards we expect from our suppliers, wherever they are in the world. However our Ethical Trading programme is not about minimum standards. It is about the development of best practice and we expect all our suppliers to strive to meet the highest possible standards. 

They not alone on this journey. At M&S we do all we can to support our suppliers on ethical trade. Over the past two years we’ve run several international conferences on ethical trade, 50 supplier workshops and shared many guidance documents via our supplier exchange website – a hub for sharing best practice amongst our thousands of suppliers.  

We’ve also funded programmes that have trained more than 600,000 supply chain workers in the past four years on subjects like literacy, numeracy and worker rights. 

Our sustainable factory programme, which includes a scorecard for ethical HR practices, now covers 91% of food volume and now the majority of sites regularly use employee surveys to improve working conditions and employee satisfaction. 

Last year we launched a programme called Labor Link, which uses simple mobile phone technology to collect anonymous worker feedback on topics including working conditions and health & safety, in Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka and this year it was extended to our factories in China. We have surveyed over 70,000 workers globally.

Our Global Community Programme launched in June and many of the programmes involved are focused on improving access to education and skills across our supply chain. 7,000 people in Kenya and South Africa have received Emerging Leaders training in the last 12 months enabling individuals to become ‘leaders’ in their work, personal and community lives. 

Our work with UNICEF to provide 40,000 fuel-efficient, low pollution cookstoves in Bangladesh and our work in India to provide access to bank accounts for over 20,000 factory workers to help them manage their finances for the future are two further initiatives that we are extremely proud of. 

Just as suppliers aren’t alone in this work, neither are we. We recognise that we cannot make a significant difference in the industries we work in on our own and that is why we work collaboratively with other brands, NGOs and stakeholders. For example we have recently signed a partnership agreement with DIFID for our five key sourcing countries on how we interact with the government to build capacity and to scale initiatives such as training and worker rights.   

You will be hearing more from us over the next few months about our ethical trading programme and what M&S is doing to make our supply chain amongst the best in the world.