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Annual General Meeting
Our 2020 AGM was broadcast from Waterside House on Friday, 3 July 2020. A full playback of the meeting is now available to view on our AGM Information page.

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Coronavirus response

The impact of COVID-19 across the clothing sector is completely unprecedented and has been felt acutely by both retailers and our suppliers. We are very proud to have strong long-term relationships with our clothing suppliers; in fact, we have worked with over 70% of our supply base for over seven years.

Most importantly, we are managing our supply so that we have a viable business on the other side of this. We have worked through a plan with our suppliers which is as follows:

  • We are paying for all shipped products
  • We will pay for all made garments that have not yet been shipped
  • Whilst our previous standard payment terms (75 days) have been extended to 120 days in response to Covid-19, we are continuing to offer vendor finance and letters of credit meaning suppliers get early access to cash regardless of payment terms
  • Where production is beginning to recommence, we have taken precautionary steps to ensure suppliers are implementing safeguarding measures to protect garment workers. This includes social distancing, sanitising practices, providing adequate protective equipment and additional awareness training about the virus
  • We fully support the efforts of the Ethical Trading Initiative and our partner the International Labour Organization who are facilitating the coordination and distribution of emergency relief funds, supporting safe working where manufacturing continues and co-ordinating an industry-wide response. We endorsed the “COVID-19: Action in the Global Garment Industry” which you can read on the ILO’s website
  • We are also involved in submitting proposals to DFID to support their COVID-19 Vulnerable Supply Chains Facility (VSCF), to form partnerships that support and respond to the challenges that COVID-19 presents within DFID-priority countries and ensure the most vulnerable workers and suppliers are prepared for the anticipated economic and social shocks
  • More widely, we remain committed to our Global Sourcing Principles that outline how we work with suppliers in relation to human rights, sustainability and decent working conditions



We live in an increasingly globalised society. Many of the products we enjoy in everyday life have been sourced and produced in locations from all over the world. All companies depend on economically strong and stable communities to trade successfully. This is just as true for the communities we buy from as the communities we sell to. Retailers are increasingly scrutinised on the strength of their relationships with suppliers and their local communities as well as efforts to address poor working conditions and unfair trading practices. 

As one of the most trusted brands on the high street, we believe our role is to reassure our customers and key stakeholders that we are a fair partner. Being a fair partner covers the prices we pay to suppliers and producers of raw materials as well as the support we provide to communities where we trade. It also includes our responsibilities to ensure good working conditions throughout our supply chains and our products have been sourced and produced with integrity.

Commitments and targets
We’re only as strong as the communities in which we operate. We’re committed to paying a fair price to suppliers, supporting local communities and ensuring good working conditions in our supply chain.

We are the UK’s largest clothing retailer by value. Our clothing and home supply chain is global and multi-layered, with many different types of suppliers only some of which is directly contracted. We don’t own any farms or factories or make the products that are sold in our stores. Our reputation for quality, innovation and sustainability is built on excellent long term relationships with our suppliers.

We source our clothing and home products from around 1,000 factories and our top countries by number of supplier sites are: China, Cambodia, Vietnam, India, Turkey, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. 

In 2016, we published an interactive map which shows where our M&S clothing products are made and in 2017 we extended it to cover our homeware and beauty product manufacturers. The map highlights production countries as well as individual factory locations and profiles for sites used by our direct suppliers. Visit the interactive map here.

We will not compromise on either quality or our relationships and maintain a competitive stance on price. We only source from suppliers who meet our standards or who have given a commitment to achieve our standards within an agreed timescale. 

We are committed to supporting programmes which continually improve working and environmental conditions in global supply chains. For example, we are a signatory of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh which aims for sustainable improvements to working conditions in the Bangladesh garment industry. We have also supported the International Labour Organization’s Better Factories Cambodia programme since 2001 and have been a participant in Better Work since 2007.

As a business we support the goals of the UK’s Modern Slavery Act and have a zero tolerance approach to forced labour of any kind within our operations and supply chain. Find out more about the steps we are taking to tackle modern slavery in our own business and supply chains

Our Clothing & Home Terms and Conditions set out our minimum requirements for suppliers and factories in order to meet our commitment to customers to deliver products that are safe, legal and high quality and which have been produced with integrity.

These terms are supported by specific policies (e.g. Packaging, Ethical Trade, Non-Food Products Animal Welfare, and so on) and Guidelines (which are advisory in nature). These can be found on our Supplier Exchange – our online portal for sharing information with suppliers. Our minimum requirements are expected to be fully understood at a senior management level and communicated to all staff involved in producing our products.

All suppliers are required to commit to supporting the delivery of Plan A – our sustainability programme. This includes progressively introducing Plan A product attributes into finished products. Find out more about our approach to product standards

Our approach to supplier management focuses on:

Ensuring that our suppliers have effective management systems in place
Effective and comprehensive management systems
Our suppliers must operate with have robust quality management systems. This is key to ensuring that they are capable of complying with all legal and relevant M&S obligations.

Our Global Sourcing Principles set out the standards that we expect our suppliers to comply with and the processes and systems we expect them to implement in order to promote respect for human rights, sustainability and decent working conditions. It is our suppliers’ responsibility to achieve and maintain these standards and to enforce them within their own supply chain. Find out more about our approach to responsible sourcing. 

Suppliers must objectively measure and track a strict set of agreed KPIs (e.g. garment quality, conformity to specifications, data accuracy, compliance against Global Sourcing Principles, etc) on a six monthly basis and be proactive in identifying any trends and taking preventive action.

We expect suppliers to highlight any issues concerning quality or integrity to us as soon as possible.
Staff competencies and awareness
We expect suppliers to take a progressive attitude to employee training and ensure that staff are competent to perform their duties. This also applies where temporary staff are used. 

For example, we would expect that basic training should cover general health and safety and fire safety and induction training covering worker rights and responsibilities.

Sustainability related communications and training opportunities are promoted through our Supplier Exchange which was originally launched in 2007. This is a secure site which contains a wealth of information including news, events, case studies, policies and training material on a range of topics including ethical trade.

Responsible employment practices

We have a zero tolerance approach to forced labour of any kind within our operations and supply chain. 

As set out in our Global Sourcing Principles, we expect our suppliers to engage our workers in line with legal requirements. They are required to check that all workers have a right to work in a particular country and that they are of legal working age.

All work must also be voluntary, and not done under any threat of penalties or sanctions. Workers must not pay any deposits for work, and employers whether labour users or recruiters – must not keep original copies of identity documents.

Indentured labour is prohibited, and workers must be free to leave work at any time, with all salary owed to be paid. In May 2016, we strengthened our Global Sourcing Principles by adding a statement prohibiting the payment of direct or indirect recruitment fees to secure a job, and requiring suppliers to have adequate due diligence in place to ensure this does not happen. In the year ahead, we will seek to understand in more detail where the risk of fees is greatest, and how to better ensure removal of fees.

We have become a member of Fast Forward – a collaborative initiative to build labour standards compliance within the UK garment and general merchandise retail supply base. It includes forensic auditing methodology using a number of non-traditional analyses and approaches. It aims to drive transparency and help prevent exploitation by concentrating on six key areas: the national living wage, right to work, employment contracts, mistreatment, tax and a safe and hygienic environment.

We are a member of the Leadership Group for Responsible Recruitment and are committed to the Employer Pays Principle.

Establishing positive relationships with our suppliers
Fair prices and payment
We are committed to fair and transparent payment practices. We will not compromise on either our quality or our relationships with our suppliers and maintain a competitive stance on price. 

We have also signed up to the Prompt Payment Code. We make correct and full payment as and when due for all goods and services supplied in accordance with the contract or agreement. We will not deliberately delay or unreasonably withhold payment. Any action we take is always justifiable and proportionate (e.g. where goods are defective or have not been supplied). 

Working towards a fair living wage
Within our supply chain we ensure all workers are paid at least the minimum wage and through relationships and wage initiatives we are working towards a fair living wage. Overtime should always be compensated at a premium rate, and where piece work is used, suppliers must be able to demonstrate that the minimum wage is always met, that there is a fair test, and that rates are flexed according to conditions. 

We have assessed our clothing and home supply base to understand where the gaps between minimum wages and poverty benchmarks are highest. This has enabled us to understand that the greatest gaps are likely to be within Asia – specifically India, Bangladesh, Cambodia and Sri Lanka.

In 2010, we became the first retailer to make a commitment to implement a process to ensure our clothing suppliers are able to pay a fair living wage by which we mean which at a minimum, is sufficient to meet their own and their families’ needs including some discretionary income as detailed in SA8000 by ensuring that the cost prices we pay our suppliers are adequate.

We adopt an evidence-based approach to living wage and we refresh our research annually to ensure that we have a valid resource of data. We do this in all of our key sourcing countries. This includes academic research, benchmarking exercises of existing actual wages, cost of living, and desk based analysis of existing information and field research. We cross-check this information regularly with the real wages paid by factories in our supply base. 

Cost Price Model
We developed a Cost Price Model tool in 2010 to help our commercial teams implement a fair living wage in our clothing supply base. This model or tool breaks down the cost price of garments into the main cost components. It specifically included direct labour and indirect labour costs, social costs and average earnings per month for workers.
The tool highlights the percentage cost of the garment that is needed to cover labour which is then ‘ring-fenced’ and becomes non-negotiable. This is based on standard minute values, actual work-study minutes taken, efficiency as well as cost of living and a theoretical wage calculation. 

The cost model was created using market data on currency, world economic trends, industry benchmarks, government wage data and intelligence from reputable world financial institutions as well as data from suppliers and supply chain experts.
The cost model was used successfully to analyse our cost prices across the clothing and home business and is still available as a benchmark for the central sourcing team and the sourcing offices.  

We also regularly commission Impactt to prepare wage analysis reports for our key sourcing countries , which include wage ladders, factory wage data and worker interviews. A series of ‘Wage Ladders’ are created which include information from labour providers, government wage statistics, prevailing wages, industry norms, minimum wages, NGO and trade union opinions as well as factual information from our suppliers on actual wages paid.  

Within these Wage Ladders, Impactt use the SA 8000 methodology to calculate a theoretical living wage. This is calculated as a result of surveying a representative number of individuals living and working around a nominated factory. This also takes account of household size, number of earners, cost of essential food and fraction of average income spent on food. 

Collaborative Working
We believe that payment of living wages requires many stakeholders to take a collaborative approach involving other global brands, NGOs, academic, trade unions, industry groups and collaborative groups such as the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), International Labour Organization (ILO) and BSR. We have widely shared our learning and details of our cost model with all of these stakeholders. 

We are also aware that achieving a fair living wage can present a real challenge for factories. We have supported a number of programmes to help factories implement higher wages through productivity improvements. Examples of two such initiatives are below:

M&S Ethical Model Factory programme

We developed an Ethical Model Factory programme as a mechanism for contributing to significant wage increases through productivity improvements. The training modules developed through the programme continue to be available to our supply base in Bangladesh and India. 

Benefits for Business and Workers (BBW) ProgrammeWe were a founding partner in the development of the BBW programme. This was a collaborative project involving 8 retailers with support from the Department of International Development’s (DFID) Responsible and Accountable Garment Sector (RAGS) Challenge Fund and managed by Impactt. In Bangladesh and India, BBW trained factories on HR and productivity and as a result the factories were able to reduce working hours, reduce absenteeism and increase overall take home pay. 

16 of our factories participated in the programme – 7 in Bangladesh and 9 in India. 

Overall, in Bangladesh average monthly take-home pay increased by 7.63% (equivalent to an increase in annual pay of £3.4m across workers employed by participating factories). This was matched by a reduction in working hours which meant that hourly pay went up by 11.94%. 

In India, monthly take-home pay increased by 5.09% (equivalent to an increase in annual pay of £614,000 across the workers employed by participating factories). Again, working hours were reduced, which meant that hourly pay went up by 8%.
In 2016, we undertook a pilot project with the Fair Wages Network in 10 sites in India to evaluate the sites’ performance on the 12 Fair Wage dimensions and to build a Fair Wage matrix, and identify as far as possible the determinants and root-causes behind Fair Wage performance, and to provide some first policy recommendations for potential remediation. 

We’ve also recently launched 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 programmes that strengthen the residence of communities and security of supply.

For example, between 2012 and 2014, in partnership with Geosansar, 15,626 workers received financial literacy training over 115 training sessions across 27 factories in Bangalore, Ludhiana, Tirupur, Coimbatore, Delhi and Chennai. In total, over 31,000 bank accounts have been opened by workers and others in the communities surrounding the factories and 70% of workers now have savings. Opening bank accounts for those who were previously unbanked and processing direct transfer of salaries to bank accounts for low-income factory workers using biometrics such as fingerprints rather than documentation has had a direct, positive, wage-related impact for the worker in many ways:

  • Living wage increase through reduction of leakage and corruption associated with cash salary payments;
  • Security of cash
  • Income on their cash
  • Social inclusion
  • Becoming part of the formal economy

Worker engagement mechanisms
Effective workplace engagement is key to achieving a healthy workplace environment. It is important to start by building trust through efforts to improve information provision and consultation with workers. 

To help our suppliers in this task we piloted a Workplace Communications programme with garment suppliers in Turkey for 12 months in 2012. Based on the experience, we developed a global module of Workplace Communication and launched it with a two day training course to all of the Regional Compliance Team in Turkey in 2014. 

The Workplace Communications toolkit is still available for all our suppliers and sets out how to develop or improve the provision of, and management interaction with, trade unions, worker committees, effective communication channels and trade union relationships. To date, over 22,000 workers in our garment supply chain have received training from this workplace communication toolkit in China, Sri Lanka and Turkey. 

We’ve also partnered with Good World Solutions to facilitate anonymous direct communications with workers through their Labor Link mobile technology. As of 2015 we’d surveyed over 75,000 workers in 5 countries (China, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the UK). The survey technology has also become an important tool in helping us evaluate and assess the impact of our programmes and training we have put in place.

As part of our normal audit process (see below) our third party auditors and our own regional Ethical Trading managers leave confidential phone number cards with worker and union representatives to allow grievances to be raised after the audit has taken place if the environment does not allow this at the time. 

Checking that our clothing and home safety and integrity standards are met
Ethical Audits
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 Global Sourcing Principles set out our minimum global supplier standards on health and safety, labour standards, environment, business ethics, equality and community human rights topics such as land rights. These standards apply across our entire business. Find out more about our business wide approach to responsible sourcing. 

We have a number of policies and guidelines on ethical trade and have clear protocols in place for setting up a supplier and our system and approving a factory for production. For example, we have a robust procedure in place for managing instances of child labour if found within our supply chain. The process is managed by our specialist Regional Office teams located in the UK, Turkey, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, China, Cambodia and Vietnam. 

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.
Once approved suppliers are required to sign to confirm that they will comply with the Global Sourcing Principles.

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.

Audit Requirements
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.  

We may in certain circumstances consider accepting WRAP, ICTI, SA 8000 and Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI) audits (if, for instance, they have been conducted within the last year) and the full reports are made available to us for review. 

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



Suppliers sites

Audited Supplier sites

Workers at supplier sites

Audited Workers


Improvement Required

Improvement Required per audit











































Grand Total








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

M&S C&H Ethical Audit - Top 5 Issue Areas

Additional Requirements
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.

Quality Audits
We have a strong heritage of sourcing with integrity. Our goal is to offer our customers a high standard of product quality and safety in all our clothing and home products. 

Once a supplier / factory has been approved ethically and financially they are required to have completed a Quality Management Systems (QMS) audit prior to any business being placed.

The assessment focuses on ensuring our reputation is not put at risk by the use of suppliers who cannot manufacture consistently to the standards we expect prior to production commencing. The assessment covers:

  • Management calibre
  • Risk mitigation
  • Document control
  • Manufacture capability; and
  • Manufacture control
We routinely carry out audits of suppliers to ensure that our expectations on product quality and safety are being met. All suppliers must agree to be audited on a specified frequency by M&S or their approved third parties against brand values, policy statements, Codes of Practice and Guidelines, and commit to taking action as a result of any findings.

Any QMS Corrective Action Plan Report that is in place is reviewed by M&S every 6 months.

New Build Sites
In the event that a supplier is seeking approval to use a newly built factory a pre-production third party ethical audit is not appropriate. This is because the factory will have no records for payroll or working hours. 

In such instances we still require that the factory is registered on Sedex and has completed all the SAQ modules. The new factory must also have a temporary or full elected worker representative in place.

Our Regional Compliance Managers will undertake a one day assessment generally within the first week of production. On assumption that no critical issues are identified the factory is approved for a probationary period of three months.

After the 3 month probationary period a full third party ethical audit must be carried which will be assessed our standard Audit Policy.

Licensed Products
We are predominantly an own-brand retailer, licensed and non-M&S branded goods are a very small proportion of what we sell – around one per cent of total lines across the store. 

We hold a number of license agreements and sell a small range of licensed clothing and home products, including Disney (which includes Marvel and Star Wars) and the BBC. This means that we are responsible for the design, manufacture, marketing, distribution and sale of these products.

Both Disney and BBC require an authorisation form to be completed before production can take place – this is in addition to our standard approvals process (outlined). 

All other licensed products are managed in line with our standard approvals process.

Non-M&S Branded Products
We are predominantly an own-brand retailer, licensed and non-M&S branded goods are a very small proportion of what we sell – around one per cent of total lines across the store. 

Plan A applies to our own products, operations, customers, employees and our supply base, however it does not apply to the supply chains of branded goods. Suppliers of non-M&S branded goods are expected to have noted the requirements of our Global Sourcing Principles and to have established similar arrangements.

We require the brand to sign up to our Global Sourcing Principles and ask that they register on Sedex, disclose all factories used to produce product supplied to M&S and complete the SAQ modules (see above). We also encourage audit information to be disclosed to us. 

We have separate arrangements in place for the licensed products we sell (see above).

We maintain a compliance tracker for all non-M&S branded products.

We do not currently use traditional homeworking in our supply chain however we do have a policy to cover this if the practice should be found or needed in the future. 

If we require additional operations/processes to be done outside the factory we have a policy of using approved outsourcing units such as embroidery. These units will be visited by our regional compliance teams to ensure the working conditions and employment conditions are in line with our Global Sourcing Principles

If we were to require traditional homeworkers we would define that homework is based upon the one set out in the International Labour Organization’s Home Work Convention 1996. 

We are committed to:

  • Communicating our position on homeworking through our company, to those who supply to us, and those we supply to
  • Ensuring that the presence of homeworkers in the supply chain will not lead to the relocation of work or cancellation of orders; and
  • Working with our suppliers to achieve sustainable improvements of labour conditions for homeworkers in our supply chains
We expect our suppliers to:

  • Communicate our requirements to all their supply base, including homeworkers
  • Adopt a shared policy of acceptance of homeworking and commitment to improve homeworkers’ labour conditions where they do not meet the provisions of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) Base Code and our Global Sourcing Principles
  • Identify and be open and transparent about where homeworking occurs within their supply chain; and
  • Work with us to develop an action plan for improving labour conditions for homeworkers where they are found to be below those set out in the ETI Base Code

Sandblasting is a finishing technique used to create a worn look by blasting crystalline silica – a compound found in sand – onto the material under high pressure. Abrasive blasting operations can create high levels of dust and noise. Abrasive material and the surface being blasted may contain toxic materials (e.g. silica) which can be harmful to workers.

Research in late 2010 into the medical effects of sandblasting on workers lungs showed that without full protective breathing apparatus and proper safeguards, workers were contracting silicosis by breathing in the silica – this is an irreversible condition that leads to respiratory problems or lung failure. Efforts to enforce the use of breathing equipment have not been effective and therefore the industry has concluded that monitoring is not a guarantee and therefore a ban of the process is the only way to ensure the health and safety standards for these workers that our codes of conduct require.

In early 2011 we therefore formally prohibited the use of this technique in the manufacture of our clothing and home products and communicated it to all our buying teams and suppliers. 

Responsible Factory Exit or Closure
We are committed to taking appropriate steps to safeguard the welfare of workers in our supply chain. We are mindful that any decision to shift production elsewhere or close a factory could have negative consequences particularly if such action happens quite abruptly. 

We have developed a set of Guidelines for Responsible Factory Exit and / or Closures for our suppliers. The approach to closure and disengagement of factories should be planned, with clear rules, policies and commitments based on:

  • Compliance – with national laws, international labour standards and the terms of any collective bargaining agreements that are in place
  • Consultation between all key internal and external stakeholders
  • Consideration of the likely impacts on workers and the local community in particular
We encourage all parties to work together to mitigate the negative consequences. For example, workers should be paid their legal entitlements including social security, pensions and severance. 

Our manufacturing and quality standards apply equally to packaging. Find out more about our approach to product standards.  

All suppliers of packaging are required to meet the requirements of our Global Sourcing Principles. We expect suppliers of packaging to uphold the same values and standards we expect of suppliers of our products. 

We do not permit subcontracting or homeworking on any packaging item unless we’ve provided written approval for this. If approval is provided sites would need to be visited by one of Regional Packaging Managers prior to production taking place. 

All manufacturers involved in the final finishing and assembly of packaging must be registered on the Supplier Ethical Data Exchange (Sedex). Each must be linked to M&S Packaging 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.

These sites are also risk assessed for ethical trade audit requirements. In practice this generally means situations where packaging carries an M&S label or is identifiable as an M&S product. Where required all audits must be conducted to the 2-Pillar Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audit Methodology (SMETA) which is based on the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) Base Code.

Building capacity and capability within our supply chain
Supplier training and support

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. We believe that worker training is a critical element in achieving an excellent workplace.

We actively encourage our supply base to take part in our training programmes and help our suppliers find the right course to meet the needs of the workers or the factory. We aimed to provide a training and education programme for 800,000 workers by 2020. Data to end March 2020 showed we have trained 1.1 million workers globally in our supply chain.

Our programme covers a range of topics including employees’ role, responsibilities and rights, basic health care, fire safety, numeracy and literacy and our Global Sourcing Principles. They are delivered by our Ethical Trading team or specialist third parties through a variety of formats including e-learning, presentations, workshops, practical assessments, webinars or case studies. 

For example, since 2012 we’ve implemented a Fire Safety programme in all 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. By December 2015 all of our garment factories had a worker fire champion in place.

We’ve also recently launched 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, in partnership with Geosansar, 15,626 workers in India received financial literacy training over 115 training sessions across 27 factories.

Capacity building programmes
We have an aspiration to be a leading major retailer on sustainability, but we can only achieve this if we spark systemic, innovative change within our supply base. We appreciate that it can be challenging for our suppliers to meet our requirements. We also know that it can be difficult for many suppliers to see what this brings in terms of direct benefits to them. We need to understand and be sensitive to these issues. Capacity building is absolutely essential to making this happen.

Whilst ongoing monitoring of compliance is of course necessary and useful, it is not the be all and end all. For instance, solely focusing on individual non-compliances can result in underlying issues being missed. In addition, this approach may not identify emerging issues or support the development of a continuous improvement culture within our supply base. 

We therefore complement our existing activities by going ‘beyond compliance’ and defining areas of continuous improvement with our suppliers. We do this by providing a range of capacity building tools and incentives to align our respective goals and objectives. This includes capacity in terms of resources, technical skills, knowledge, as well as research and development. 

Our Global Communities Programme has been created to develop more resilient and efficient business models by empowering people in our supply chain.

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

We’re working with a large number of organisations to support our supplier management activities. We were founding members of the Supplier Ethical Data Exchange (Sedex), which aims to drive improvements and convergence in responsible sourcing practices. Operationally we’re supported by a number of organisations including the Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP), GIZ (the German Government Development Agency), and Fast Forward, to name but a few.

We support a number of programmes that help improve working conditions in our supply base, in partnership with organisations such as Geosansar, Better Factories Cambodia, ILO Better Work, Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, Fair Wage Network, and the Better Cotton Initiative

Throughout this website, we explain how they, and our many other partners, are helping us address specific issues of relevance to supplier management.