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Animal welfare is a broad term covering the general health, welfare and wellbeing of animals in our diverse farming systems. It covers all the elements associated with livestock production including housing, grazing, nutrition, disease prevention and control, transport right through to humane handling and slaughter. It means providing for the animal’s physical and mental needs.

The UK is a recognised world leader in animal welfare. It drafted the first ever legislation on animal welfare nearly 200 years ago and established the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) – the world’s first animal welfare charity. In recent years animal welfare has also been rising up the global agenda, as a result of a number of factors including campaigns against the international trade of fur and skins from wild or endangered animals, tightening legislative requirements and investor concerns. Customers are also increasingly conscious of what they buy and wear.

We have always been committed to ensuring that the welfare of all animals used in the production of our products is safeguarded – this applies to food and non-food products. Our continued commitment to animal welfare has also been recognised by leading animal welfare groups such as the RSPCA and Compassion in World Farming.

Commitments and targets
We are committed to using responsibly sourced raw materials including the use of products derived from animals. It’s important that no animals are harmed in the making of our Clothing & Home products.

Our commitment to animal welfare extends to our stance on animal testing. We do not test or ask suppliers or other third parties to test household, homeware and beauty products on animals – this extends to the ingredients used within these products. And since 1 January 2006 we have not sold any products or products containing ingredients which have been tested on animals for cosmetic purposes.

Approach
Raw materials such as wool, cashmere, leather and feather and down used to make certain clothing and homeware items are derived from animals. We care greatly about the health and welfare of all the animals that feed into our supply chains. We have a strong heritage of sourcing with integrity. Over the years, we’ve taken significant steps to improve the sourcing of key raw materials in our products.

In developing our animal welfare policies and production specifications for food and non-food products we have referred to the internationally recognised ‘Five Freedoms’ recommended by the UK Farm Animal Welfare Committee as a framework and for guidance. These freedoms are: 

  1. Freedom from Hunger and Thirst - by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour
  2. Freedom from Discomfort - by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area
  3. Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease - by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment
  4. Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour - by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal's own kind
  5. Freedom from Fear and Distress - by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering

We have a dedicated team of raw materials specialists responsible for defining and implementing policies and specifications of relevance to non-food animal welfare across our business. This team has been supported by an independent animal health and welfare expert for over 20 years.

We have been widely recognised as a leader in animal welfare. We have topped the Compassion in World Farming annual Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare since 2013. Sitting alongside this, we have also been awarded a number of recognitions from RSPCA including their Alternative Fashion Award in 2005 and 2006 and their Good Business Awards each year from 2007 and 2010 for animal welfare achievements in fashion retail.

Our approach to continually improving non-food animal welfare focuses on:

Establishing and maintaining clear minimum standards

General Policy Principles

Our Non-Food Products Animal Welfare Policy reinforces our commitment to uphold animal welfare principles for all animal non-food based products we source and sell.

The following minimum standards exist across all our Clothing & Home supply chains:

  • We require complete supply chain traceability – suppliers must be able to disclose:
    • The name of the species (Common and Scientific Name)
    • The country or area from which the animals derive – ideally the farm itself
  • Animal derived products must be a by-product of the food industry (except wool and cashmere)
  • Products must not contain exotic animal skins (e.g. snakes, crocodile, reptiles) or derive from any species that are listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) or listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as ‘Vulnerable, ‘Endangered’ and ‘Critically Endangered’
  • We do not permit the use of animal fur of any kind, including both farmed fur (e.g. fox, sable, mink, chinchilla, cat, dog) and fur which may be a by-product of the food industry (e.g. rabbit) in any of our products. Fake fur, if used, must be clearly labelled as ‘faux fur’
  • Angora rabbit and mohair fibre is not permitted to be used in any product
  • Cow hides must not be sourced from India
  • Animal skins or fibres (e.g. wool, cashmere, mohair) must not be:
    • Obtained through ‘live’ skinning or boiling; or
    • A product of unnatural abortions (e.g. Astrakhan or Karakul)
  • We don’t accept feather and down from birds that have been ‘live’ plucked or force-fed (e.g. production of foie gras)
  • We don’t permit M&S household, homeware or beauty products, or their ingredients, to be tested on animals

Suppliers must also be in full compliance with policies and standards on specific materials (see below).

Pet accessories
All products produced specifically for animal use or wear must be developed in consultation with animal welfare experts such as the RSPCA.

Product design and promotion
The use of animal imagery must be sensitive to key animal welfare issues such as zoo and circus animals.

Animal Testing

We have never tested our M&S household or beauty products on animals. But we wanted to go further than this. We guarantee that none of the individual ingredients in our beauty, homeware or household products is tested on animals either, starting from a fixed cut-off date of January 2006.

In 2008, we also became the first major UK retailer to have all our household, homeware and beauty products (and ingredients of) certified Cruelty Free by Cruelty Free International. Their ‘Leaping Bunny’ logo is included on pack in demonstration that the items are free from animal testing.

Leather

It is vital that when sourcing leather we do not contribute to deforestation and we are compliant with our standards for animal welfare and chemical usage.

All leather for Clothing & Home products must be sourced in accordance with our Responsible Leather Sourcing Policy and Non-Food Products Animal Welfare Policy.

All suppliers must ensure that they have visibility of original source of leather they are supplying into M&S. We require suppliers to declare country of slaughter with the ambition of achieving traceability back to farm. Each product must have a completed ‘M&S Leather Specification’ provided during the development process.

Suppliers are required to give due regard to country risk ratings specified in our Responsible Leather Sourcing Policy as a guide to which countries have better welfare conditions. These have been informed by the Leather Working Group Animal Welfare Working Group.

Wool

All wool for Clothing & Home products must be sourced in accordance with our Responsible Wool Sourcing Policy and Non-Food Products Animal Welfare Policy.

All wool must come from farms which rear sheep to the highest welfare practices. We only source wool from sheep which have not been mulesed.

Our approach to responsible sourcing of wool is based on a risk based approach:

  • Low Risk Sources: Suppliers sourcing from low risk countries are required to provide import / export documentation proving Country of Origin and country of destination. Wool from South Africa, China and South America is considered lower risk as these sources suffer mush lower instances of blowfly and mulesing is not commonly used.
  • Australian Wool: Wool from Australia is considered to be the highest risk as the use of surgical mulesing is wide spread. Suppliers are required to provide an AWTA certificate to prove the mulesing status. We only accept wool categorised as Non Mulesed (NM) or Ceased Mulesed (CM).

If any product is found to be containing wool from non-compliant sources, we reserve the right to cancel that order or issue a Return to Manufacturer (RTM) instruction for the product.

In 2018, we launched our first ever items made with Responsible Wool Standard (RWS) certified wool that is traceable back to the Wools of New Zealand farms where it’s sourced. The range included six blazers and two waistcoats. We also added details of our wool supply chain to our interactive map.

Cashmere

All cashmere must be sourced in accordance with our Non-Food Products Animal Welfare Policy. But to go one step further, we’ve developed and implemented our own Code of Practice for Cashmere Fibre Production.

First issued in 2015, the Code was developed with an independent animal welfare consultant who has worked with M&S for over 20 years. It aims to provide clear direction to producers of cashmere what we believe to be good basic welfare practices. It is a mandatory requirement that all pure cashmere suppliers comply with this Code of Practice.

The Code is structured into six sections:

  1. Food and Water – goats must be free from hunger and thirst
  2. Health – goats must be free from pain, injury and disease
  3. Comfort – goats must be free from discomfort
  4. Management and Care – goats must be free from fear and distress 
  5. Freedom to express normal behavior – provision of sufficient space, proper facilities and company of other goats
  6. Traceability – fibre must be able to be traced back through the supply chain to originating farm

Stockpersons must be suitably qualified and experienced in appropriate standards of welfare. Goats that need to be culled from the herd or killed to prevent further suffering must be done using a humane method.

M&S cashmere fibre is sourced from around 700 farms across several provinces in China and an extremely wide geographical area. Many farms are in remote areas and are only likely to be visited during the April/May combing season when the fibre is collected by a complex network of agents and sub-agents.

Each year, our suppliers (usually the garment maker) are responsible for undertaking assessment of all farms against our Code of Practice. We have developed an assessment tool to support this process.

We supplement this process by commissioning additional spot checks to ensure consistency with our standards. Since May 2018, we’ve carried out additional audits of 21 farms and no major conformities were identified.

Find out more about our Code of Practice for Cashmere Fibre Production.

Feather and down

All feather and down for Clothing & Home products must be sourced in accordance with our Responsible Feather and Down Policy and Non-Food Products Animal Welfare Policy.

Our Responsible Feather and Down Policy begins from and includes the raising farm(s) – Raising Farms are defined as farms where birds live in preparation for meat production. The policy also extends to all downstream supply chain actors involved in M&S production – including the final garment/product manufacturer.

The following minimum standards exist across our feather and down supply chains:

  • Feather and Down – must not be obtained from the live plucking of birds or from birds used in the production of Foie Gras 
  • The Bird species and breed must be identified by the supplier and declared on the product specification
  • Force feeding is prohibited
  • All feather and down must be sourced in accordance with one of the following standards:
Checking compliance with our standards

We have put appropriate assurance arrangements in place to check that our suppliers meet our requirements.

Suppliers are required to ensure our non-food animal welfare policies and standards are met. They are required to have in place a process that monitors the provenance of animal derived raw materials, from the farm through to the finished product.

The following must be provided as a minimum:

  • The name of the species (Common and Scientific Name)
  • The country or area from which the animals derive – ideally the farm itself
  • Confirm the animal content is a by-product of the food industry where relevant

We conduct quality assurance checks and product testing to confirm that animal derived products are in accordance with our requirements.

If a supplier fails to meet the standards we will work with them to make changes to improve performance. However, if our standards continue not to be met, they will be removed from our supply.

Find out more about our approach to supplier management.

Supporting programmes that further our understanding and build capability within our supply chain

Plan A product attributes

We want every one of our products to have a Plan A attribute by 2020 – a characteristic or inherent quality or feature of a product which has a positive or lower environmental and/or social impact.

Our suppliers are required to progressively improve the sustainability credentials of our products. All should have at least one Plan A product attribute by 2020 and we have targets in place every year to increase this number.

There would be a number of circumstances where clothing and home products would be awarded an animal welfare related Plan A product attribute, such as:

  • Cruelty Free certified beauty products
  • Non-mulesed wool
  • Leather which complies with M&S’ policies and sourced from ‘Green’ rated (low risk) countries

Our list of attributes for clothing and home products can be found in the document How We Define Plan A Product Attributes, which you can download on this page. Find out more about our approach to product sustainability.

Textile Exchange

We have been an active member of the Textile Exchange since 2004. Founded, in 2002, the Textile Exchange is a global nonprofit that aims to make the textile industry more sustainable by identifying and sharing best practices.

We actively participate in all Textile Exchange forums and discussions. Textile Exchange also develop and own standards that provide traceability for materials such as organic cotton and recycled polyester. In response to increased calls for assurance that animal welfare is protected they have also developed standards on responsibly sourced wool and down.

We were a member of the Responsible Wool Standard (RWS) Advisory Group.

Leather Working Group

The Leather Working Group (LWG) was formed in April 2005 to promote sustainable and appropriate environmental stewardship practices across the leather industry. As part of this the LWG created a protocol to accurately assess the compliance and environmental stewardship practices of leather manufacturers. This includes the evaluation of energy efficiency, water usage, chemicals management, discharges, emergency plans and traceability.

The audit does not currently assess farms, animal husbandry, transportation of animals or slaughtering practices. However, the LWG has established an Animal Welfare Working Group to get a better understanding of animal welfare issues within the leather supply chain.

M&S is a founding member of the LWG and has continued to remain actively involved. We endorse and promote the use of the LWG Audit Protocol. We are also a member of the Animal Welfare Working Group.

Sustainable Fibre Alliance

The Sustainable Fibre Alliance (SFA) is a non-profit international organisation working with the extended cashmere supply chain, from herders to retailers. Their goal is to promote a global sustainability standard for cashmere production to preserve and restore grasslands, ensure animal welfare and secure livelihoods. Their aim is to ensure that internationally traded cashmere is produced using sustainable practices, resulting in a reduced environmental footprint and to secure appropriate economic returns for participants throughout the supply chain.

M&S joined the SFA in 2018 which will allow us to benefit from its network of implementing partners they have on the ground who are helping to deliver a very comprehensive cashmere standard. This will also enable us to add sustainable grassland management to the work we have already done on animal welfare. The SFA also has plans to set up farm projects in China where our supplier sources all its cashmere fibre which will hopefully enable us to collaborate with other brands.

Working with others
Listening, learning, responding and working in partnership is an important part of how we do business.

To develop our approach to animal welfare for non-food products, we’ve worked with many industry experts and scientists. We continue to work with these leading organisations (e.g. Textile Exchange, Sustainable Fibre Alliance, Leather Working Group) to further research and progress our animal welfare standards. Operationally, we’re supported by our suppliers and an independent animal health and welfare expert to implement our policies.