We aim to enhance the lives and support the local communities of the people who work for and with us. We’re committed to sourcing responsibly and we work closely with our suppliers to make sure they respect human rights, promote decent working conditions and improve sustainability across our supply base.
Our Regional Office teams require the following to be completed within four weeks of the initial set-up request:
- Supplier Ethical Data Exchange (Sedex): all sites used by suppliers of retail products must be registered on Sedex. Sedex is the largest collaborative platform for sharing ethical supply chain data. Each must be linked to the relevant M&S subsidiaries available on the system and have completed in full the Sedex Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ) modules on labour standards, health and safety, environment and business ethics.
- Ethical Audit: ethical audits are also required for each of these sites. All audits must be conducted to the 2-Pillar Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audit Methodology (SMETA) which is based on the ETI Base Code.
- Anti-Bribery requirements: suppliers are required to sign to say that they will adhere with our anti-bribery requirements.
- Financial Health Check: we also request the last 3 years financial statements.
We do not accept production from non-approved factories or sites that differ from our contracts system for each specific contract. Sites unknown or not approved by M&S is considered to be illegal sub-contracting and a breach of our Terms of Trade.
Site based ethical audits are required in the following instances:
- All of our first tier production sites (which we define as making whole/finished products carrying an M&S label or are identifiable as an M&S product) are required to have an ethical audit
- Lower tier sites contracted by the first tier supplier to make elements of production (e.g. dyeing, laundering, printing, washing, beading, embroidery) also need to be audited where an M&S label is carried or items are identifiable as an M&S product
We require audits to be done on a semi-announced basis within an audit window of 3 weeks. We do however reserve the right to conduct unannounced audits.
Audits must be undertaken by one of our approved third party audit providers and suppliers must inform them that M&S is their customer to ensure our requirements are met.
The audit must cover the entire site. For example, if the factory is part of a multi-storied building, all floors must be audited even if M&S production is only taking place on certain floors. We do not accept shared factories where different floors are occurred by different organisations.
We will also accept second party SMETA
audits undertaken by individuals who have completed the ICRA
registered 3 day auditing course and had 2 successful witnessed audits.
Every site approved for production must be re-audited annually.
Regardless all audits must be uploaded onto the Sedex
platform and must be visible to M&S within 5-10 working days of the audit taking place. This must be done by the audit company who conducted the audit.
Our Regional Compliance Managers conduct unannounced audits on approximately 25% of the supply base as part of our efforts to check the robustness of our audit programme. Each year our Regional Compliance team also shadows a number of the auditors from each of the audit companies in their region.
Factory Grading and Non-Compliance Follow-up
Based on the results of the audit, the relevant Regional Compliance team assign a rating based on the number and severity of issues raised, as follows:
- Critical – any Critical issues more than 10 Major issues
- High Risk – up to 10 Major issues or more than 10 Minor issues
- Low Risk – up to 10 Minor issues
- Minimum Standards – no non-compliances
With the exception of the following fire safety issues (which we consider as critical rather than major) we use the SMETA Non-Compliance Guidance
to assess the severity of issues:
- No locked or blocked aisles/exits preventing use
- Firefighting equipment inaccessible, insufficient, unusable or wrong type or no training on its use
- No fire alarm
- No evacuation procedures, drills or training
- No, or adequate, functioning emergency lighting
- Systematic failures in health and safety systems
We also require all sites with more than 50 workers to have in place an elected worker committee or trade union.
We have specific policies and guidelines to manage instances of child labour and illegal sub-contracting.
New sites rated as ‘Critical’ are either not approved for production and have up to 3 months to resolve the issues. Any existing sites identified as ‘Critical’ are managed in accordance with our Critical Escalation Procedure and may be disengaged if they remain critical after three follow-up reviews (typically 3 – 6 months). Sites rated as High Risk are permitted to produce on a conditional basis for a period of time (e.g. six months).
Corrective Action Plans must be uploaded onto Sedex within two weeks of the audit and all actions completed within the recommended timescales.
We actively track and follow up on our suppliers’ progress towards what they’ve agreed to address within their Corrective Action Plans as shown in Table 1 below.
Table 1: Number of sites and workers on Sedex and location of audits (M&S Clothing and Home Direct Supplier Sites) - 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020
Audited Supplier sites
Workers at supplier sites
Improvement Required per audit
The following chart (Figure 1) presents the top 5 ethical trade non-compliance issue areas identified through ethical audits. The majority of non-compliance issues identified related to ‘Health, Safety & Hygiene**’, ‘Working Hours**’ and ‘Wages and benefits**’.
Non-compliance issues related to ‘Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining**’, forced labour (‘Employment is Freely Chosen**’) and ‘Discrimination**’ were less commonly identified. In part, this reflects how difficult it is to identify these more hidden or subtle issues through ethical audits. It is for this reason that we work with suppliers through our Ethical Excellence Factories Programme our Global Community Programme
as well as through collaborative working and advocacy initiatives to improve the performance in identifying and managing ethical trade issues. Find out more about our approach to capacity building
Figure 1: Top 5 ethical non-compliance issue areas identified through audits in 2019/20
Additional requirements exist for a number of specific scenarios. We have introduced separate arrangements for new build sites, non-M&S branded and licensed products (see below).
Where the combined order value is less than £30,000 for homeware, hard goods or toys at a site or it employs less than 30 workers then an on-site audit is generally not required. Where the combined order value is less than £120,000, time spent on-site for audit is reduced to 1 day.
If a UK factory has less than 30 workers then providing it is registered on Sedex and all SAQ modules have been completed, then a visit from our Regional Office team will suffice.
Other Assessment Approaches
We are committed to ensure we use the most appropriate and effective audits. We conduct a specified number of audits using different techniques and methodologies each year which may include Forensic Auditing and Participatory methods. These may be carried out by NGOs, academic researchers or ethical consultancies and are paid for by M&S.